As your year winds down, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you’re not a senior frantically e-mailing out resumes and searching for jobs. But before you know it, you’ll need a flawless resume of your own to impress potential employers when it comes time to apply for something or look for an internship. Even if you’re a sophomore or junior who has a resume, you may benefit from starting fresh and making sure you haven’t missed anything. Before you sit down in front of that blank Microsoft Word document, you need to know some resume basics.
Sharon Jones, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill, says that resumes should not be longer than a page in length. This is a must! If you are feeling stressed about even being able to fill a half a page at this point, don’t worry about it. Jones says you’ll be able to fill in the blanks with high school activities.
Start with a simple, easy to read font of at least 10 point. Laura Lane, assistant director of career services at UNC-Chapel Hill, said it is OK to reduce your margins from 1.5” or 1.0” down to 0.5”. This will let you fit more and stick to one page.
The basic sections for most resumes include your name and contact information (including email), education, honors, experience, skills, and activities. Monster has sample resumes specific to industries and even Microsoft Word can help you out. Open a new document and then under “Templates” choose “Resumes and CVs”.
If your graduation date is more than a year away, don’t mention your expected degree. Writing something like “B.A. expected May 2013” means that potential employers have to do mental math to calculate your year. Instead you should list yourself as a “first year” or “sophomore.” Jones says that this is a simple and quick way for employers to know what year you are. She also advises to write your university or college’s full name out on your resume. For example, instead of UNC-CH or UNC-Chapel Hill, you should have University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This looks formal and avoids any confusion as to whether you attend the USC in South Carolina or Southern California, for example.
If you’re not president of your sorority or the editor of the school paper as a first year or a sophomore, don’t sweat it. Jones says that employers know that as an underclassman you just got to college and are just beginning to get involved with activities. The most important thing to remember about your current activities is that they should be listed above any high school activities. Remember to explain any clubs or activities that may not be obvious. For example, Jones says that a popular club at UNC-Chapel Hill such as “Carolina Fever” (a club that encourages athletic attendance) would not be clear to someone outside your University, so make sure to include a (brief) description.
High School Activities
As long as you are still an underclassman, Jones says it is OK to list your accomplishments from high school. She says a general rule of thumb to remember is that each year of college, you should drop a year of high school from your resume. You probably were involved with a billion different things in high school, so choose wisely what to list. It is likely that most people at your university were in National Honor Society, so it’s no big deal. Instead, focus on achievements, awards and leadership positions. For example, Jones says if you planned an event for 500 people, you should list that. If you earned your Girl Scout Gold Award, were a part of an award-winning yearbook staff or were a varsity athlete for three years, you should list those as well.
You may be tempted to list your babysitting job on your resume, but be careful. Jones says for privacy reasons, you should not list personal information of the family. Instead of “Smith Family, Carrboro, N.C., 3 kids…” you should say you were a “childcare provider for three children, ages X, Y and Z.” You can also list the activities you may have organized for the children such as tutoring or field trips. Additionally, if you completed missionary work in high school, you should list this under your volunteer activities. Jones says to write this as “Volunteer, XYZ church, ABC country” and then a description of what you did such as “completed 2 week construction project and acted in skits.”
Religious or Political Activities
Be smart about listing anything that could be divisive. Lane says if you were involved in College Republicans and you’re applying for an internship with the NRA, that’s OK. If you’re a Young Democrat trying to get a job with NOW, that’s probably OK also. In those cases, being involved with a like-minded organization might boost your chances of getting a job. But she also says to consider whether you would even want to work for an organization that might not hire you because of your viewpoints. In general, with every activity that you list, think about the value it is adding to your resume and whether it is relevant to the position.
This area of your resume is a place to shine if you know another language well. Jones says an increasing number of students are bilingual and this can be a huge plus to employers. If you started speaking a language at a young age or speak a different language at home, don’t discredit yourself and say “fluent” when “bilingual” is a stronger word.
All those term papers this semester meant plenty of practice with Microsoft Word and internet searches. If you can find your way around Excel, PowerPoint or Photoshop, add those as well to your skills section. Jones says you probably have way more skills than you realize—you’ve been gaining social and new media skills from Twitter, WordPress, Blogger and even Facebook.
Still unsure of what exactly you’re resume should look like? Take a look at our sample (and yes, this all fits on one page!):
COLLEGE ADDRESS (UNTIL MAY 20xx) PERMANENT ADDRESS
100 COUNTRY CLUB RD. 25 MAIN ST.
CHAPEL HILL, NC 27514 BOSTON, MA 02101
Education University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sweet Valley High School, Charlotte, NC, 2004-08
Honors Dean’s List – 1 semester
Most Outstanding Student (in the Senior Class)
Study Abroad in French,
University of Paris, France. Summer 2009
Corporate Health Abnormal Psychology
British Literature Sports Psychology
Experience Member, ABC Sorority, University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill, 2009 – present
- Completed 15 hours of community service
- Designed event t-shirts
- Painted banners for 5K
President, French Honor Society, Sweet Valley High School,
- Presided over meetings of club with 50 members
- Organized after school tutoring
- Contacted speakers
Life Guard, Wet and Wild Swim Club, Greenville, NC
- Maintained pool and supervised activities of members
- Taught swimming lessons to children, ages 4-9
- Opened and closed pool
Sales Clerk, Abercrombie and Fitch, Charlotte, NC
- Sold teenage clothing
- Opened and closed store
- Operated cash register
- Open 25 new credit card accounts
Skills Experienced using Microsoft Office, WordPress, HTML,
fluent in French
Sharon Jones, Assistant Director, UCS at UNC- CH
Laura Lane, Assistant Director, UCS at UNC-CH
University Career Services, http://careers.unc.edu/