Tips I’ve Learned about Making a Resume

If you’re a first-generation college student, you know that there are many unique challenges placed upon us in preparation for our career ventures. In my experience, I wasn’t afforded the knowledge by my parents on how to form a basic, well-written resume that hiring managers would take notice of. It wasn’t until being scolded by my friends last spring for still using the Microsoft templates that I knew I needed to seek out a trusted mentor to show me what a resume should include and how to improve it.

Last summer that I reached out to a graduate student I worked with at my university’s student union to get better at resume writing. After following her advice, my resume went from a half-page of weak description and basic skills to a resume filled with strong keywords, detailed descriptions, and accomplishments! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin writing, editing, and re-editing your resume (yes, rewriting is apart of the process).

  1. 1. Resumes will look different according to each career field

    Not all resumes will look the same because different fields require different sections to be highlighted. For example, if you’ve seen any media related resumes, you will probably notice they actually do use colorful, but professionalized templates, sometimes adding their headshot to the top of the page and using columns to separate their background information from their actual work experience. However, a computer science resume will most likely stick to standard black and white, 10-12 pt. Times New Roman font without any special visuals.

     I would suggest speaking to a professor or advisor in your major to see what a standard resume in that field would require. LinkedIn is also a great tool for connecting with people in your desired field, so sending a polite message asking to view their resume can be extremely beneficial when it comes time to write it. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out, check out your school’s career department to see if they have resumes resources for a specific field, such as teaching or engineering.

  2. 2. Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

    This was especially important for me to learn because I was so focused on not having much experience in journalism that I believed I didn’t have the skills to get accepted into any programs. That is not the case. Even if you don’t have much experience, your college career is a part of the experience since you’re taking courses to learn more about your future line of work. Adding a section for “Relevant Courses” is great to highlight courses related to what you want to do and will show that although you may not have been hands-on in the field just yet, you have proficient knowledge to still be a suitable candidate for an internship, which is meant to provide interns the needed experience to add to their resumes.

    Also, if you worked a job not relevant to what you’re studying, but there were skills you learned that are transferrable to your career, include them in your list of experiences and be specific with what you accomplished! For example, I revamped and facilitated a training program alongside the Assistant Director of West Chester’s student union that focused on basic procedures and policies for new employees. Even though it’s not journalism-related, it shows that I’ve had experience leading a group of people and I can communicate effectively when giving hands-on training, which is a great skill for any career.  

  3. 3. You Should Include a Cover Letter with your Resume

    Woman Typing on Laptop

     The graduate student I worked with told me that one of the reasons she was getting hired was that not only did she have a well-rounded resume highlighting her work, academic and volunteer history, but she also included a cover letter—something she knew other applicants typically leave out when they’re not required in the application. If you don’t know, a cover letter is meant to address the hiring manager why you’re suitable for the job position without restating what’s on the resume. It should reference what’s on the job description and why you believe you are qualified based on what you’ve done in your academic and, possibly, professional career.

     A crucial tip to remember is that for every position you apply for, you need to tweak the cover letter to each company. Hiring managers use these to gauge your abilities to perform well in this position and why you are a qualified candidate. Additionally, as most people don’t include cover letters when it’s not required, adding one in your application helps you stand out from the list of applicants and shows the hiring managers that you are adamant in getting hired.

    Take a look at Indeed to see what a cover letter would typically look like for your field!

Resumes can be frustrating, but they take time and many, many, drafts later until you feel confident enough to send them out to employers. Whether you are first-generation or not, seek out those you can trust to help you in your preparation for career readiness!