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Resume Writing Tips For Recent College Graduates

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When I was fourteen, my parents sat me down and forced me to write a resume. The extremely well-written, precise, and strategically formatted document reads as follows:


OBJECTIVE: To gain employment with The Corner Record Shop.

EXPERIENCE:

  • I have a deep appreciation and passion for music
  • I have played guitar for two years
  • I have taken Algebra and Trigonometry and am proficient in interpreting data

That’s it.

To say that I look back at this winning piece of literature and cringe is an understatement. It would take me another few years before I got my first job and, thank the gods, there was no resume involved.

How To Get A Job At The Corner Record Store | Vertical Media Solutions

Those seemingly inconsequential jobs

It was as a fry cook in my school’s snack bar/deli area. My boss’s could operate the mop, the fryer, and the cash register simultaneously like some kind of octopus. There I learned the value of experiential learning, the way you can really only understand a certain job by actually living it. In her kind way, my boss showed me a work ethic that has stuck with me to this day. Really, it was no special kind of work ethic, it merely was one. Before this job, I had heard the word “professionalism” but I always thought it was some mystical sort of quality that only Marketing Managers or Accountants had access to. I didn’t realize until that point that professionalism was a state of mind, and that it was necessary in even the most inconsequential of jobs.

While I was toiling away, I was simultaneously working towards a degree in both Physics and Creative Writing. Traditionally, menial labor is the go-to joke for a lot of people who think they know the value of a humanities degree. Little did they realize that the true value of such a degree, from an employment perspective, is so much more.

Those seemingly inconsequential jobs like being a fry cook | Vertical Media Solutions

How To Apply Your Degree To Almost Anything

We often think to ourselves, as we are finishing up college, that our professional future is tethered to the degree we are about to receive. This is, I believe, the focal point and origin of the anxiety felt by most college graduates. When I told people I was studying both Writing and Physics, they would instantly presume that I would go into the science realm. But, like most other art degree seekers, I went into school with a dream of doing something within that creative field. Of all the things I gained in my studies, the interdisciplinary tools I acquired proved to be by far the most marketable and useful of traits. In my case, this refers to the way in which several arts degrees promote the habit of breaking the mold of perception, of learning how to identify our preconceived notions, and what to do about them.

When we cultivate this habit of breaking the mold, we begin to look at our professional future in a different context. If you learn how to abstract your abilities and in a sense, generalize your education, suddenly the future looks a bit less like The Hunger Games.

In my situation, I was fortunate enough to find a job that utilizes my writing ability but within an analytical context. Basically, I was able to synthesize both arms of my education, taking the logical side of physics and the creative side of writing, and I was able to succeed. Today’s recent graduates need a better understanding of how to break the mold. The person who studies Political Science is not solely good at analyzing political systems. The political scientist can identify connections within multi-dimensional situations, a useful skill in just about anything that involves mediating social interactions. Economists, and other social scientists, are extremely adept at noticing patterns of human behavior, a marketable trait in perhaps strategy development and long-term business planning. If you have even a modicum of creativity running through your blood, it’s fairly easy to see just how some of your academic skills can translate directly into wild and unexpected domains.

Let’s take a look at my first resume. Taking into account my degree and experiences in college, I would rewrite it like this:


PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

Detail-oriented, collaborative and dedicated Retail Associate with proven success interacting with customers, cooperating with senior management and presenting product information in clear, easy-to-read formats.

EXPERIENCE

  • Collaborated extensively with personnel to deliver world-class customer service at restaurant outlet.
  • Analyzed diverse factors to develop comprehensive solutions. Evaluated situational indicators and variables to tabulate and organize information into straightforward formats.
  • Interviewed several clients and conducted extensive research to creatively communicate data, emphasizing professionalism and clear presentation.

As you can see, I took out any mention of what I like to do in exchange for specific accomplishments, with a focus on relevant and factual information. No mention of my “deep appreciation for music.” Instead, I looked at how the skills I gained by completing school assignments could be translated into working in the customer-service field.

Of course, we’re not quite done yet. Next, we’re going to look at how we can craft outside, extra-curricular experience in a way that most effectively communicates the duties necessary for that specific job.

How To Apply Your Degree To Almost Anything | Vertical Media Solutions

How To Build A Strong Message Even When You Don’t Have Any “Experience”

I now look at my past resumes as I would my own child, seeing them obtain their first semblance of maturity, slowly gaining the immense relief that they’ve passed the awkward teenager stage and are now starting to actually appear smart. The journal, too, was more like a happy-accident type of kid, the one you would never tell that their existence was unexpected, loving them not in spite of it, but because of it.

I had co-founded and managed the production of a research journal for undergraduates. It was a passion between myself and the Editor-in-Chief, and we both looked at it as an extremely serious endeavor. The people who knew me back then, however, tended to look at my position of manager as a non-job. It was an extra-curricular project. Even though I devoted an immense amount of mental resources, the physical resources were, suffice it to say, extremely limited. There was no return on investment. I speak of it as if it were a job because it was a job to me.

Many people, when constructing resumes for themselves, tend to bypass their “non-job” experiences. But if we are very precise in our language, we can present these “non-jobs” in a way that shows their relevance to the job we are applying for. Regarding my own experience, I gained valuable knowledge on how to manage large groups of people effectively. I learned how to promote cooperation and ensure everyone delivered on their assignments. This is obviously a set of very valuable traits, and if I were to apply to a managerial type position, I would include this experience on my resume.

Let’s look at another “non-job.” Say you spent a summer volunteering for your hometown’s recreational department. Sure, that doesn’t seem necessarily appropriate to include on an application for a managerial role, but take a second glance. What did you do, really? Take care of kids for three hours? That’s an example of managing large groups. If you had to teach them anything in between bathroom breaks, you were developing engaging training materials to help foster expertise. And THAT sounds like something a manager would do. So don’t just write “volunteered for summer, teaching children,” speak to your duties. You’d be surprised at how transferable one management technique is to another, regardless of personnel. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t present them on a resume, so long as they are relevant to the specific job.

How To Build A Strong Message Even When You Don't Have Any Experience | Vertical Media Solutions

Taking another look at our sample resume, I would likely add in a few more points regarding my extra-curricular responsibilities and display them in a way that makes them most relevant.


PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

Detail-oriented, collaborative and dedicated Retail Associate with proven success interacting with customers, cooperating with senior management and presenting product information in clear, easy-to-read formats. Fosters a focused and professional work environment, emphasizing group cooperation and streamlined communication.

EXPERIENCE

  • Managed up to ten production personnel, promoting standardized training techniques to ensure adherence to best practices.
  • Developed marketing materials to promote projects throughout community, emphasizing visibility.
  • Collaborated extensively with personnel to deliver world-class customer service at restaurant outlet.
  • Analyzed diverse factors to develop comprehensive solutions. Evaluated situational indicators and variables to tabulate and organize information into easy-to-read formats.
  • Interviewed several clients and conducted extensive research to creatively communicate data, emphasizing professionalism and clear presentation.

See, with just a bit more attention to the language we use, we can turn a managerial position into something that is worth going on our resume for the Corner Record Shop.

You’ve Got Your Material, Now What?

So, you’ve got your shiny degree and you’ve effectively spun your volunteer job into a gorgeous display of marketable traits. The next step, probably the hardest and most paralyzing step, is actually doing something with this piece of paper in your hands. You might find that your school has specialized resume-counseling services, or career advice fairs. Those are great and fun and fantastic for loosening up a bit of that anxiety you are surely experiencing. Oftentimes, however, there are some slightly misguided educators who believe you only have and need one resume and that the most effective way of applying to jobs is to apply to as many as you possibly can, assuming you can be successful with the same sterile and formal resume for each one.

I fell into that mindset too. There were many, many long days in which I stared up at the ceiling and wondered why none of these applications were working, why I didn’t get even the simplest interview. It wasn’t until later that I realized the whole methodology behind bulky and non-personalized applications is not the way to go. The mentality of throwing a whole bunch of resources against a wall and hoping one of them would stick doesn’t have nearly as much practicality as strategically using the tools in front of you to develop specific and personalized materials for each job you are applying to.

There is nothing wrong with taking a day to research the company you might spend years at, nor is it shameful to take some time honing your resume into a set of skills that speak most impressively to that specific job. So what if it takes you a longer time? At the very least, it’s important to tweak the information on your resume so as to present yourself as someone who has already been doing the duties of that particular job. As I was saying above, if you’re applying to a job you think might be a long shot, you have to look at your past experience and use that out-of-the-box thinking to re-interpret your history.

So, different job, different resume. Let’s take a crack at a new job with our previous experience. Imagine we’re applying to be a bank teller. We’re still dealing with customers on a daily basis, but maybe there should be a bit more emphasis on organization and standardizations.


PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

Attentive, organized and methodical Bank Teller with documented experience providing daily, precise information to customers and cooperating with senior management to support adherence to best practices. Fosters a focused and professional work environment, emphasizing group cooperation and streamlined communication.

EXPERIENCE

  • Addressed up to 35 unique client inquiries per day. Developed personalized solutions to meet each customer’s needs.
  • Received and verified payments of hundreds of dollars daily. Maintained strict attention to detail when handling critical information, emphasizing customer satisfaction and security.
  • Promoted standardized training techniques among support staff. Advised and mentored associates in comprehensive techniques to deliver world-class customer service.
  • Evaluated situational indicators and variables to tabulate and organize information into easy-to-read formats.
  • Interviewed several clients and conducted extensive research to creatively communicate data, emphasizing professionalism and clear presentation.

Many jobs use precise, industry-specific terminology. With just a quick search, you can discover these buzzwords for the job you are applying for and pepper them into your resume. That way, a hiring manager will recognize that you already have knowledge of standard industry practices, as well knowledge in how to utilize them.

Of course, when you’re applying for any sort of job, there aren’t any promises. But the tendency is that successful results are directly proportional to your investment of time. Everything requires patience and dedication. People sometimes just have a hard time knowing precisely where to apply that dedication. And who knows, maybe with a little more creativity and a little more attention, my fourteen year-old self who wanted so desperately to get that record store job could have at least been the stock boy. Then again, maybe not.

How to take my career to the next level with a professional resume | Vertical Media Solutions
Whether you live in Michigan or around the country, the employment experts at Vertical Media Solutions are here to help. Our personalized resume writing process is designed to help you transform your educational experiences into a career you’ll love. Give us a call and get started today: 616-631-4300.



Resume Writing Tips For Recent College Graduates





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3 Comments
  1. Very insightful! I needed help with this topic and I’m glad I was recommended this article.

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