Starting in high school and continuing into your young adult life, the task of job-searching is an essential one for many. And one of the first steps is to create a strong resume that encapsulates your skills and experience.
Creating a resume as a high school and early college student can be daunting, especially when you lack real working experience. But don’t worry, employers who are seeking to hire from this demographic understand that you are there to learn. However, it’s still important to stand out.
In this post, I’m going to show you 7 important steps to curate your resume to stand out as a valuable candidate, even as a student. Let’s jump into the post!
1. Find a template
Finding a template can be a great starting point for creating your own professional resume. Templates offer a pre-designed format and layout, allowing you to focus on the content of your resume rather than worrying about the aesthetic.
Basic templates typically include the basic sections of a resume such as education, work experience, and skills. Advanced templates may include additional sections, such as projects or objectives. However, they’re all typically customizable so that you can add and remove your own sections.
You can find many templates online. Websites such as Canva, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs offer a wide range of templates you can easily download and customize. Additionally, many career centers and job search websites also offer templates. You can find templates on social media, especially LinkedIn, Reddit, and TikTok.
However, two conventional rules to follow are to keep it relatively simple (no fancy fonts, colorful fonts, extra images, etc) and to keep it to one page.
2. Gather information
I suggest making a Google Doc and brainstorming your information before putting them into the actual resume. Here are some main sections:
The education section of your resume is where you should list your formal education history. If you are a high school student, you can list the following:
- The name of your high school
- Your GPA (both weighted and unweighted)
- The dates attended
If you are in college, you can put the following:
- The name of your university
- The degree you are pursuing
- Your major, concentration, or field of study
- The dates attended
- Anticipated graduation date
You may also want to include any relevant coursework that is relevant to the position you are applying for, as well as activities and awards. This can demonstrate your knowledge and skills in this specific field and can help your resume stand out.
In this section, list your work experience, volunteering experience, and projects, as applicable. You can make these separate or group them all together, depending on the space you have (remember to try to keep it to one page) and how they’re related.
You can include work experience (such as side hustles and part-time jobs), volunteering jobs (as part of an organization or independent), and personal projects, as they’re relevant to the position you’re applying to.
For each activity, include the following:
- The name of the company
- Your job title
- The dates of employment
- A brief overview of your responsibilities and accomplishments
Generally, these activities should appear in reverse chronological order on your resume, i.e. whichever is most recent goes first.
You can also include additional sections dedicated to other parts of your application. For example, an “Awards” section and a “Skills” section are very common. Awards can include any relevant honors you’ve received, and skills can be hard or soft skills (such as spoken languages, programming languages, or leadership qualities).
3. Pick and choose
If you’ve applied to American colleges before, then you may have used the Common Application, where you had space for 10 activities and 5 awards, where you could elaborate in detail.
Unlike the Common Application, you’re very limited in space on your one-page resume. If you have more than ~5 relevant activities, you’re going to have to pick and choose which are the most important to you.
4. Describe your impact
For most students, your activities and experience won’t be the most impressive; it’s important to show off what you have achieved with language.
Be specific and use action verbs when describing your responsibilities and accomplishments. For example, when describing your experience as a front desk worker, instead of saying “I was responsible for managing customer service,” you could say “Managed customer service inquiries and resolved customer complaints.”
Here are some action verbs you should try to include:
Also, try to quantify your results! When talking about how much money, how many people, how much website traffic, time spent, what percentage improvement… use numbers to demonstrate the impact.
5. Write an introduction
Some people choose to write an introduction for their resume, near the top. This is optional and depends on your purpose and the company’s requirements.
If you do choose to write an introduction, it should be brief (2-4 sentences), but provide a clear overview of your qualifications, skills, and experience. It’s important to tailor your introduction to the specific job you’re applying for and to highlight your most relevant qualifications.
Employers will primarily be looking at your experience, so the introduction is like a “hook” that draws them in and gives them an idea of what they’re about to see. Make sure not to go overboard or off-topic!
6. Final details
Here are some final, minute details you should check on your resume before submitting it anymore. Mistakes in these fields could be fatal!
- Contact information. Make sure you have the right phone number, email, mail address, etc.
- Dates. Check that your graduation dates are correct, work dates are accurate, etc. If you’ve sent the information to multiple sources going to the same company, it’s crucial to make sure all the dates match up.
- Spelling. Of course, make sure you don’t have any spelling errors.
- Tense agreement. If you no longer work at a company, the activities there should be in past tense. If you currently work on a project, use present tense.
Proofread carefully before submitting your resume, and run it through an online tool like Grammarly to eliminate any other errors you might have missed.
7. Consider a cover letter
A cover letter is a written document that accompanies your resume and provides additional information about your qualifications and interest in the job. It’s a great opportunity to expand on your qualifications and highlight specific skills and experiences that make you a good fit for the position. It also allows you to express your enthusiasm for the job and showcase your personality and communication skills.
A well-written cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates by showing your personality and interest in the job, as well as your skills. It can also help you to make a connection with the hiring manager and to show that you have done your research on the company and the position.
The requirement for a cover letter is usually stated within the application. For many part-time jobs for students, it may not be required. But if you’d like to write one because it will demonstrate you more as a person, feel free to (unless the application explicitly says not to)!
There are also templates online for cover letters, but here is where you can be a bit more creative and personable. I suggest referencing the templates to get an idea of what the essential pieces of information are, then do the rest yourself.
And that’s it! You now know how to create an outstanding resume as a high school or college student. Of course, the main content of your resume depends on your own activities and passion, so go out there and try things out. You still have time, as a student, so make use of it to explore and find out where your interests lie.
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