Tips for Putting Together an Entry-Level Resume for Your First Job
You’ve finally graduated from college or university, but the excitement is short-lived because finding a job is an onerous task, especially if you don’t have any “real” experience in the field you’re trying to enter. You also have to compete with all your peers, who have earned the exact same degree as you and are looking for similar jobs. You’ll have to work hard to land your dream job, but it will be absolutely worth it.
Maybe you’ve submitted a good, thorough resume only to hear the hiring manager say that you don’t have enough experience for the position. So, what do you do? Re-evaluate your resume and see if you can expand what you consider “experience.” There are no hard-and-fast rules here as long as you’re honest and your experience is relevant, so start thinking more creatively. If you can’t seem to nail down the perfect entry-level resume, hire our experienced resume writers to help you out.
Have a vision
Before you even begin writing your entry-level resume, you need to have a vision—an idea of where you want to go in your career. This helps you curate jobs and focus on those you’re truly interested in. Without such careful consideration, you may not understand what you really want. No, you probably won’t find the perfect job right out of college, but you can work toward that goal. If you have a vision of where you want to be in 5 or 10 years, applying for an entry-level job will be much more bearable.
When contemplating your vision, be specific. A vague description of the industry or responsibilities isn’t enough—construct a precise, concrete vision. If you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll end up somewhere, but it certainly won’t be where you want. Once you have your vision, give some thought to what it will take to get there.
Craft your professional summary
The objective statement has been replaced by the professional summary, which does more than just state what you want to accomplish. It showcases your qualifications and experience to convince the hiring manager you can handle the job (even if you don’t feel like you have much experience). Importantly, your professional summary should focus on how you can benefit the company, not how the company can benefit you.
The professional summary should not be long—just a couple of sentences. Use them to promote yourself. It’s not bragging as long as you do it professionally—don’t be arrogant! If you’re good at something, let the hiring manager know.
Here’s an example of a professional summary that can showcase a person’s exceptional qualities:
Innovative designer with a desire to produce images in a creative style. Able to communicate well with clients and coworkers to create masterpieces.
Try to avoid buzzwords as much as possible. Hiring managers are sick of these tired words, and using empty phrases won’t win you any favors. You don’t want it to look as if you’ve just copy-pasted your professional summary. Showcase your top skills and leave it at that.
Compile your skills list
For entry-level positions, your skills section is what can really carry your resume. Since you don’t have as much experience as others, your skills can help you outshine the competition. It’s imperative that you read the job description carefully and note any keywords that could be considered skills. Make a list of those and check the ones you have, then list them in your skills section. If you don’t include the right keywords, your resume won’t make it past the applicant tracking systems (ATSs) that companies use to narrow down their candidate pools.
Skills that aren’t relevant to the job don’t really belong on your resume, so avoid anything that doesn’t add value for the employer. However, certain skills are universally useful, so you should definitely include those. Even if they’re not mentioned in the job description, technical literacy, computer (programming) skills, and foreign languages will all make excellent additions to your skills section. If it helps you stand out, list it!
Dig deep for work experience
You may feel tempted to write this section off because you don’t have any relevant work experience, but don’t count yourself out just yet! Instead, think about all experience, not necessarily “work experience.” This could include clubs or activities you were part of, internships, volunteer work, or even hobbies relevant to your field. Anything is acceptable on your resume as long as you can justify the relevance.
You don’t have to get paid for your experience to count. However, don’t list random jobs that bear no relevance to the one you’re applying for. This will simply make you look unqualified and desperate.
Put together your education section
As you progress in your career, the education section on your resume will get smaller than every other section. Don’t be discouraged if it is currently longer than your work experience section—that’s normal for a recent graduate. While having limited experience is certainly a major disadvantage, the benefit of being fresh out of college is your growth potential: Employers put a lot of value on young, ambitious graduates with bright prospects.
In the education section of your entry-level resume, list your school, degree, and GPA. If your employer needs more information, they will ask for it during the interview.
Embarking on your career journey can be scary, but you have to start somewhere. That “somewhere” may be a job you don’t necessarily enjoy, but it will help you further down the road. Just give it time. Be confident in your skills and education and let your strong work ethic prove your worth.
You have the skills. You have the education. You have the experience (if you think creatively enough). You just have to figure out how to put it all together. Then you can submit your resume and start in an entry-level position that will hopefully be the first step to your dream job. Don’t forget your vision—it’s all part of the plan. You may be out of ideas or just not sure what you should include in your entry-level resume. If that’s the case, consult our resume experts to maximize your chances of success.