Coming to the realization that it’s time to enter the real world and find a professional job can be intimidating. The question of “where do I start?” is the one that comes to most young people’s minds at this point. A vital step in launching your professional career is writing your first resume. The process can seem challenging because you have to put all of your best qualities on paper and attempt to make yourself standout from the next person. The challenge lies in doing this in a way that quickly grabs the attention of the person reviewing resumes. “You only have a few seconds to snag the employer’s attention,” writes Robin Ryan in “Winning Resumes,” (Jon Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2003). “You must sell the employer within 15 seconds of looking at your resume, or you’ll lose the job,” Ryan continues. In order to create an effective resume that makes you look more attractive than the others, there are a few proven rules that you should follow:
  1. Don’t forget the basics – The first details that your resume should include are your name, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address. After all, what good is a great resume if the employer isn’t able to contact you? Regarding of your address, be sure to list a permanent address. This is especially important for recent college graduates who may be in the process of moving. Another important thing to take into consideration is your e-mail address. Be sure that the user id portion of your address is professional. It should reflect your name for easy reference. A user id like “partygirl2010” won’t appear professional to a prospective employer. If you must, create a separate e-mail account specifically for your job search efforts.
  2. Be concise – While it’s important to include all of the information that might make you attractive to an employer, remember that they are typically short on time and don’t have time to rifle through the pages of a long-winded resume. As a rule, job seekers with limited experience should limit their resume to one page. As you progress in your career and develop experience, it can be expanded to two pages if necessary.
  3. Include an objective and summary of skills – Your objective should be concise and effectively communicate what you are looking to accomplish. The “summary of skills” should illustrate experiences, qualifications, skills and special abilities that set you apart from other candidates and meet the employer’s needs.
  4. Use one of the three basic formats – Chronological, functional or combination. The chronological format focuses on work experience and lists positions held beginning with the most recent. This type is usually used by those with experience. The functional format focuses on professional skills. Typically the most effective for first-time job seekers, the combination-style resume, blends the two by including categories for academic experience, work experience, community involvement and extracurricular activities.

  5. Be sure to list all applicable experience and skills – No matter what types of jobs you may have held in the past, most likely you have skills or experience that might apply to the jobs you are seeking. For example, if you worked as a cashier at McDonald’s, you have customer service skills. Or if you were a summer camp counselor, you managed schedules and activities for a group.
  6. Include academic and volunteer experiences when they apply – If you worked on a specific project in school that provided you with skills or experience that meet the needs of the employer, list it. Also, if you held a position with a community organization, club or association that applies, it needs to be included as well. Remember, you are trying to show the employer that you have the skills necessary to fill their needs.
  7. Be authoritative with your writing – Use strong action verbs when describing yourself and your skills. Use terms like “developed,” “executed,” or “organized” rather than words with less impact such as “did.”
  8. Proofread – Always proofread your resume to catch mistakes or typos before sending it out. Nothing says “unprofessional” to an employer more than a resume riddled with errors. Have a friend or family member proofread your resume if possible.
  9. Be honest – There’s no reason to lie about your experience or skills. It can only come back to haunt you.

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