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Financial Education

Starting Your Career: How to Write Your First Resume

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You’ve found a listing for a job that interests you, one for which you think you’d do great. The ad says to submit your resume. But what if you don’t have a resume—and think you don’t have anything relevant to put on one?

Resumes include more than just job experience, and younger applicants, such as high school or college students, have plenty of achievements to share with prospective employers. Even if your work history is limited, a stellar background of education, volunteerism and extracurricular activities will catch the eye of any hiring manager.

Read on to learn just what employers want to see on your resume.

The High School Student

Consider including the following:

Your academic achievements. Do you have a strong grade-point average or a high class ranking? Did you make the honor roll? These demonstrate your dedication to your studies and your work ethic. What awards have you won at school? A citizenship award will speak to your strength of character. An award given by coaches demonstrates your ability to work as part of a team.

Your work experience. It’s possible you’ve never had a “real” job—one with paperwork filled out in the human resources department and a paycheck with taxes taken out—but you probably still have work experience and references who can speak to your dedication as an employee. Have you been a regular babysitter for families in your neighborhood? Have you mowed lawns or shoveled driveways as a business? Have you been a youth umpire at your local baseball league? Employers hiring teenagers are interested in successful work at these types of jobs. They prove that you followed through on your commitments to show up and work as scheduled.

Your volunteerism. Volunteering shows your dedication to your community, but it can also be linked to the job to which you’re applying. For example, volunteering at the local animal shelter will catch the eye of the hiring manager if you’re seeking a job at the local vet’s office. Volunteering as a Pop Warner assistant coach shows you can work with children—a huge benefit if you’re seeking a job as a summer camp counselor.

Extracurricular activities. Playing on a school sports team shows your commitment to seemingly never-ending practices, and if your teammates voted you as captain, it shows your leadership. So does serving in student government or holding positions such as president of clubs you’re in.

Skills. Almost every job seems to require basic computer skills, and some might require more specialized skills, such as proficiency in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or Microsoft Excel. If you’re advanced in certain computer software, add it in. Also include other skills, such as being conversational in Spanish, as well as the “soft skills,” which include traits such as being a good problem solver or a strong communicator, and the ability to offer strong customer service.

Once you organize your thoughts, type them on your resume and review your achievements; you’ll see that you make a strong job candidate.

The College Student

The same suggestions and guidelines that apply to resumes for high school students also apply for college students. But college students will have experiences that can take the resume a step farther.

Education. It’s likely you’ll be applying for a job in your field of study, and you should let prospective employers know about your coursework—and your grades—in classes in your major. If you’re pursuing a business degree, for instance, briefly summarize the business-related classes you’ve taken, such as courses in accounting, economics, finance, marketing or business law.

Experience. By this time, you might have worked in jobs that pertain to your field. Perhaps, as a business major, you work part-time in a retail store’s back office and help to count the money from the cash registers each night to make sure the amount of cash equals the day’s sales. That’s great experience if you’re applying for a job in accounting. Be sure to include how much money the daily deposit is that you’ve worked with; that can show your acumen.

Or, if you’re seeking a nursing job and have worked as a pharmacy clerk or assisted residents of a nursing home, link that experience to the prospective job. The knowledge you’ve gained about medications or patient care would be invaluable to a nurse and could put you ahead of other candidates without similar experience.

Internships. Any internships you’ve done related to your job search deserve to be highlighted. Succinctly list the duties you performed at your internship that would carry over to your future job. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the marketing office of a professional sports team, discuss what you did in your summer internship with your local minor-league baseball team. You could have written player biographies for the team website, helped on season-ticket promotions, accompanied the players on a visit to a local hospital or even dressed in the mascot costume on occasion. All of those are experiences that would interest a pro team.

For All Ages

Your resume is your introduction to prospective employers, and you want to make a good first impression. That means your resume needs to be perfect.

Seek input. Ask other people to look at your resume. Your parents, teachers, school counselors and any business people you know can be helpful in pointing out spots that you could expound upon or spots that might have too much information. A professional in the field, if you know one, would be an ideal reviewer. That professional can advise you of the pertinent facts—and the industry buzzwords—that will impact those who review the resumes.

Proofread. And proofread again. Before applying for a job, proofread your resume, and ask others to do it as well. You don’t want to distribute your resume with typos, bad formatting or spelling errors. Those won’t clinch the good first impression you’re striving to make.

Find resume samples and templates. Your school counselor or a college’s career center probably can share good resume examples that show you just how to organize your resume. There are also a variety of websites that offer free resume templates or upgraded ones for purchase. Choose a template that limits your resume to one page and also is suitable for your profession. Sites to search for templates or inspiration include Freesumes, Hloom and Monster.

Your resume is your first step toward your new job. By taking time to organize your thoughts, remember your achievements, link your experiences to the job you seek—and put them together in a professional, well-written and well-edited package—that job could be within your reach.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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