If you’ve recently graduated or are about to graduate from college, you’ve (hopefully) started applying to every job you can find that sound like a good fit. Leaving school might feel like starting from scratch, but in college you’ve gained a well-rounded education, a ton of management and leadership skills, and hopefully some work exposure through part-time jobs or semester-long internships. As a post-grad, it can often feel like the whole world is at your fingertips, but you have no clue where to start the career search.
To help you set yourself up well as you kick off the beginning of your career, we’re tackling the first and greatest hurdle you might face: writing your resume. We’ve previously written some resume advice such as this one about resume tips when you have no experience, this one about dealing with a gap in your resume, and this huge roundup of 40+ resume tips from hiring experts, which you can check out too, if you’d like. But if you’re really just on the lookout for beginner tips for that first post-grad resume – you can start right here.
Here’s what to keep and what you should throw away along with all those worn-down dorm room band posters:
Do: Have a professional/non-student email
If you’ve read any other “How to Write a Resume” guide you’ve most likely been warned about listing a non-professional/embarrassing email address like “email@example.com.”
Another not-so-obvious email tip is to create a new, independent email address for yourself that’s not connected to your former university. A “.edu” address is great for scoring student discounts, but it could hurt an applicant’s chances at being considered for certain entry-level positions that favor 2-5 years of prior work experience.
Don’t: Limit your special skills to foreign languages and “Proficiency in Word”
It’s 2018. Knowing how to use Microsoft Word and basic Office and Mac programs is no longer exceptional; it’s expected. Having these skills listed is only taking up space. Instead, you should highlight a few more complex and less common tech skills, like if you’re a coding wiz or have past experience designing graphics using Adobe products.
Similarly, most of us took a few years of high school/college Spanish, French or other language. Knowing how to count to 100 and order in a restaurant aren’t exactly what a hiring manager is looking for when they specify candidates be “fluent.” Unless you’re truly bilingual don’t exaggerate your ability in a foreign language, because they might actually expect you to speak it!
Do: Use specific numbers, titles, and accomplishments
The more specific you can get about what you did at your previous jobs the better. Include numbers and reference the names of the projects you were directly involved in to demonstrate to recruiters that you truly left an impact. For example, rather than put that you were responsible for “training employees and organizing fundraisers” at a restaurant gig, put “onboarded a team of 6 new waitstaff and coordinated a Red Cross charity picnic that earned over $2,000 in donations.”
Don’t: Keep anything from high school
Remember when you were crying over not having a prom date or nasty friend drama, and your parents told you that “nothing that happens in high school ends up mattering when you’re an adult”?
Well, that philosophy goes double for your resume. Basically, any part of your life before the last 2-3 years of undergrad should not exist to your potential future bosses unless it is clearly and specifically related to the role(s) you’re applying to. Luckily, people aren’t hired because they won the “Best Smile” yearbook superlative in their youth.
Do: Highlight University leadership roles and study abroad
While you can scrap your high school extracurriculars, you can make an exception if you can expand on them in writing/during an in-person interview in a way that directly connects what you did to the role at hand. For example – if you’re applying for a job in finance and once held an executive position in campus Greek Life, mention how you responsible for monitoring monthly dues and evaluating budgets for social events. If you spent a semester living with a host family in Argentina and are applying to a sales role, include how you learned to quickly adapt to different customs and feel comfortable meeting new people.
Don’t: List out your entire 4-year course load
Employers don’t need to know about the “B+” you got in Freshman Year composition. While one to two bullet points highlighting courses that you were enrolled in either at a higher than typical undergrad level, or that are specific to the role responsibilities you’re trying to pursue, are fine to add under Relevant Experience, your resume should never be mistaken for a class schedule.
Do: Put your GPA (if it’s impressive…)
The debate over whether or not to include your GPA in your resume once leaving college is a heated one. Some people are completely against it as “grades don’t matter in the real world.” However, if you’ve only just left university your degree and academic achievements are most likely the greatest professional accomplishments and you should feel proud enough to highlight them.
The best general rule I’ve heard is to keep your GPA for 2-4 years after your graduation and only if it’s a 3.5 or higher and also make sure to include any distinguishing honors you may have earned while at school.
Don’t: Write a long, generic “personal summary”
Nothing wastes more of that valuable 1-page space than starting your resume with a paragraph long objective statement/professional profile/personal summary. A hiring manager won’t be impressed by a long story about how you’re a “creative thinker” or “passionate about keeping a daily planner and always punctual.” These qualities are expected of any person looking to make a positive, professional impression, and will come off like you’re just trying to fill up space.
Do: Demonstrate a clear career objective and path
Instead of a personal summary packed with meaningless adjectives about how “ambitious” and “driven” you are, use any introductory space to expand upon your projected career path and your efforts to achieve it. If you’ve held any internships in your desired field, mention the educational experience they granted you and any other personal development courses or volunteer experience you’ve taken on that has helped expand your worldview or knowledge of the particular industry you intend to establish a career in.