Writing An Entry-Level Resume
Posted by Jeana Zelan on May 5, 2011
If you’re about to graduate, you may find yourself worrying that you don’t have any worthwhile experience to list on your resume. Employers are often eager to see internships, volunteering, school activities, and other non-traditional work on entry-level resumes. Don’t sell yourself short by discounting your experience.
Internships are the prize gem of the entry-level resume. If you interned while in college, list your experience prominently at the top of your resume—unless you have other, more relevant experiences to place ahead of it. Internships show that you are accustomed to a professional environment and that you've been actively exploring your career options.
Although many internships involve less-than challenging work, the key is to spin the mundane tasks to emphasize your transferable skills. For example, if you answered the phone all summer, you can say: “Assisted clients by responding to daily inquiries and directing calls.” Describing your experience this way indicates your customer service, communication, and organizational skills.
Don't hesitate to list unpaid volunteer work on your resume. It’s perfectly legitimate to list unpaid positions, so long as the titles are accurate. If a position title doesn’t suggest the nature of the work, consider adding the word “volunteer” in parentheses after it. For example, if your title was “Fundraiser,” say “Fundraiser (volunteer).”
Undergraduate extracurricular experiences can be valuable, particularly if you occupied a leadership position. If you list such activities, be sure to illustrate how your past responsibilities correspond to the skills the current job requires.
Consider the talents the following activities require:
• Athletics: teamwork skills
• Performing or fine arts: communication skills, creativity, and the ability to meet deadlines
• Philanthropic work: leadership, organizational, and self-management skills
Courses and Academic Projects
List basic academic information—your college, major, and expected date of graduation—separate from your work experience. If you've completed courses or projects that are relevant to the position, you can list them in the experience section.
For example, if you’re applying for a job with a biotech company, you may want to list lab work or independent projects you completed for science courses. On the other hand, if you’re a political science major applying for a financial services job, your classroom work may be less relevant.
Formatting Your Resume
Many students distinguish paid from unpaid work; however, there is nothing wrong with listing various types of experience under one heading. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a Web designer, you may include both a paid Web design internship and a significant design project you completed for a course under your “Work Experience” heading.
You may also include extracurricular activities and volunteer work under your experience heading, but be certain to distinguish between those that are and are not relevant to your job search. For example, if you’re a member of the film club, but only attend the free monthly movies, you should confine your description to an “Activities” or “Interests” section.
Consider dividing your experiences into “Related Experience” and “Other Experience,” or be more specific in your divisions. For example, if you have a significant number of relevant academic experiences, you may want to include a section entitled, “Related Academic Experience.”
Whatever mix of experience you have, be flexible, creative, and don’t be afraid to highlight your most impressive qualifications.