When it comes to résumés, it’s never too early to make one, says Nicole Isenhour, a career coach in New York City who works with students. And you get it—over 60 percent of you have already made a résumé, according to a recent Student Health 101 survey. It’s a great idea to “start articulating what your strengths are in a meaningful way,” she says. Having “someone sit down and think about their skills is valuable.”
Writing down your skills and experience can help you ace an interview too—whether it’s for a part-time job, internship, or college you’re applying to. “Interviewers will often ask you to tell them about yourself. Having it written out can help you think about how to talk about your experiences in a cohesive way,” Isenhour says.
Since résumé writing is a skill you’ll need throughout your entire career, the more practice you can get now, the better—even if it seems like overkill for that babysitting job. “It’s never too early to start thinking about career development,” Isenhour says. “It will only put you at more of an advantage when you’re in college and really need those internships.”
Here’s how to get started:
1. Make a list of your experiences
This doesn’t just mean jobs you received a paycheck for—volunteer positions, internships, and involvement in school are important to include too. “A lot of things you’ve done you might not realize are valuable,” says Isenhour. Think about leadership skills you may have developed as a student club member, communication skills you may have honed as a camp counselor, and teamwork experience you may have earned volunteering with a community project.
- List your experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
- Include start dates and end dates.
2. Spotlight your achievements
Do you have a great GPA? Have you received any awards? Are you a captain of a sports team? Include all of it. “Think about leadership roles you’ve had on sports teams, honors that you’ve received for your grades, or if you were a lead on a group research project that got outstanding remarks,” Isenhour says. “All are great things to include.”
3. Avoid common résumé mistakes
The biggest résumé pitfall? Typos. Always check your spelling and grammar. No self-respecting résumé can recover from a typo. Find a detail-oriented friend, print your résumés, and proofread them bottom to top. Then do it again with someone else.
- Lay off overused buzzwords, like energetic, passionate, tenacious, value-add, expert, ninja, and guru.
- Terms like “references available upon request” are implied. Delete them to save space.
4. Pay attention to formatting
There’s no need to stress over a fancy design, but you should make sure the format of your résumé is clean and easily readable. “Having your prospective employer be able to find everything they need within 30 seconds is a little more important than making it pretty,” Isenhour says.
- Use bulleted lists instead of paragraph descriptions.
- Use an easily readable font.
- Always send your résumé as a PDF to ensure your formatting stays pristine no matter where it’s downloaded.
- Avoid shading. “It can come out as too saturated and illegible on some printers,” Isenhour explains.
Michelle Dumas, founder, Distinctive Career Services, Boston, Massachusetts.
Paul Goodrick, career advisor, The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario.
Nicole Isenhour, executive career consultant, Point Road Group, New York City.
Kara Renaud, resource coordinator and faculty liaison, career services, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario.
Darby Scism, executive director of the career center, Indiana State University, Terra Haute.
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