Entry level resume – how to highlight your education and your skills

Graduating from college is one of the proudest moments you can experience. Receiving your diploma validates all the hard work you put into your education, all the all-nighters you pulled before exams. Your graduation signifies your accomplishments as a student, and opens the door into the world of career choices, job searches, and 40-hour workweeks. All of a sudden, it hits you – how will you get a job that requires experience if you have none?

As a recent college graduate, you are entering the workforce at entry-level jobs. Your potential employers have very reasonable expectations. They expect you to have graduated from college and that your major is in line with the job you are applying for. They anticipate that you have some experience, a summer job or an internship, but they are not requiring years of professional experience. They would like to see some references – from your professors or previous supervisors – so that they can get a better idea of your personality and work ethic. Sound reasonable so far?

The best way to show your potential employer that you are a perfect candidate for the job is to create a functional resume. Functional resumes focus on your qualifications, not your career timeline. This style of the resume highlights what skills you have, rather than where and when you acquired or utilize them. In other words, instead of listing your experiences by your job titles, your resume will contained sections titled by your skills such as verbal and written communication, customer satisfaction, project management, etc. This resume style is highly recommended for and most often used by college students seeking internships or their first jobs out of college.

Begin your resume by stating your career objective. Make sure that your career goals are personal. Your objective should be specific to the position you want, and should indicate to your employer how you intend to utilize your education and how this position will help you develop your experience. Your education should be listed next. List the school you attend and its location, your graduation year, and your major. It can be helpful to include your GPA, specific courses you have taken, or any honors you have received while in school. Your professional skills should come next. This section will include sub-headings as they relate to specific qualifications you want to promote, such as communications, customer relations, managements, etc. Here, you can utilize any experience you have that relates to the sub-sections, including your part time jobs, internships, volunteer positions, community service work, or school-related activities. Only include a work experience/work history section if you have held part time jobs while in school or have had internships you’d like your employer to know about. This list should only include dates, titles, companies, and locations without listing any of your responsibilities, since you are covering them in the previous section. If you belonged to any clubs in school, include a section for activities and list only those that support your career objective. For example, if you were an editor of your school paper, and you are trying to get a job at a publishing company, make sure that you include this experience in your resume. Your last section should list references. As a new graduate, it is to your benefit to include references on your resume, and give your employer everything they need to consider you as a qualified candidate for the job. You have nothing to lose by providing this information ahead of being asked for it.

Before you start applying for jobs, take advantage of your school’s career center and have one of the mentors there review your resume and help you perfect both the content and the format. With a well-written resume, you are prepared to take the professional world by storm.

Resume writing services – pros and cons

If you have never written a resume, you may wonder if it is easier to embark on the task yourself or to hire someone else to do it for you. Resume writing services or professionals concentrate on developing and writing resumes for professionals in any industry, with any caliber of experience. These professionals are skilled in formatting your resume, knowing how to create winning statements that draw attention, and customizing your resume to the industry or field you are interested in. In addition to their writing skills, resume writing professionals are familiar with the scanning software that most companies use in order to review resumes for key words.

You should consider using a resume writing services:

– If you have never written a resume and you don’t know anyone who can assist in the process

– If you have not written a resume in years and are unsure of the appropriate format that translates well online

– If English is not your first language or if you know that you typically have problems with spelling or grammar.

A resume writer can assist by first collecting your information and understanding your career objective. If you have an existing resume, even if it is not the most up to date, you should make sure that you give that to the writer as a starting point. When you work with a professional resume writer you can expect that they can help you in composing your career objective statement, listing your responsibilities in a concise manner, and perfecting the final document. Additionally, a resume writer will be able to help you address any concerns potential employers may have about your resume, such as explaining a change of career, or gaps in your professional history.

There are truly no cons to using resume services, but there are certainly some things you should consider in order to get the best service for your money.

While some people recommend writers who are accredited or certified as professional resume writers, this is not the key to finding someone who will do a great job on your behalf. Make sure that you speak with the writer, and have him/her address any concerns or questions you have about composing your resume. They should be able to provide you with a sample of a before and an after resumes they have recently completed for a client, as well as professional references. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their writing process; ask about their background (what other writing services do they provide?), their writing and editing process, turnaround time and a detailed explanation of their fees. If you receive a draft of your resume, and you are not satisfied with the format or there are discrepancies, ask for the writer to address your concerns before accepting the final document. The costs will vary, depending on the professional’s experience. Make sure that you understand what is involved in the cost. It is also in your best interest to talk to a couple of different professionals, so that you can better idea of the cost range.

Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the writer and the terms of the agreement you have with them, before you decide to hire them to work on your resume. Trust and understanding will result in the best working relationship, therefore producing the best resume for your career objective.

Resources for resume examples

Writing a resume is a difficult task regardless of your level of experience with the process. While the content of your resume is critical to its effectiveness, the layout and the format you utilize are equally as important. To get started, you should research various resume styles and find out which best stouts your field. The biggest mistake people make when composing their resume is using a generic template provided in your text editing software, like Microsoft Word. These templates are usually outdated and very difficult to format, not to mention that they do not transfer well to online job applications. Avoid the quick-fix mentality of these resume templates, and invest some time in finding resources that will provide you with up-to-date helpful ways to compose a winning resume.

The easiest and least expensive way to find samples of resumes in your industry is to do a search on the internet. Before you get started, a word of caution: consider the sources of information before you decide to utilize any of their suggestions on your resume. You will come across web sites that promise to teach you how to write an exception cover letter in three and a half minutes. Don’t believe them. Unless you chose to hire a resume writing service, obtaining resources on resume writing should not cost you any money or obligate you to a long-term commitment. If unsure of the credibility on information you see, find another source and compare your findings.

A great online resource on resume composition is Monster.com. While they are mostly known for their job search database, they offer a variety of other information and services for those looking for employment. Under the Career Advice tab, you will find a wealth of information on your job search, salary requirements, advice by industry, and of course, information on perfecting your resume. In addition to articles about your job search and resume-related message boards, Monster’s Resume Center includes a variety of resume examples for professionals in a number of different industries. From administrative assistants to web designers, everyone can find a sample of a resume to fit their career objectives at:

http://resume.monster.com/archives/samples/

This page shows you samples of functional and chronological resumes, traditional resumes and sample cover letters. Take the time to review these samples. They are provided by a reliable source, so don’t be afraid to copy the formatting for your own resume (of course, do not copy the actual text from the resume).

If you already have a draft of your resume, and are looking to make updates or revisions, check out the Resume Makeovers for a great look at before and after resume of real professionals:

http://resume.monster.com/resume_samples/

It is important that you review these samples, even if the industry is not applicable to your line of work. They will teach you the basic dos and don’ts of resume writing – you can see why some things work and why others don’t, and be able to chose the best ways to highlight your qualifications.

Same school rules apply – do not copy someone else’s work. However, use these resources to your advantage and create the resume that presents you in the best light.

Five common cover letter mistakes

With every resume submission, you should have a cover letter that accompanies it and presents you as a positive and qualified candidate for the job. A cover letter should highlight areas of your resume which promote your professional experience, and should address any questions an employer may have about hiring you for the job. There are five common cover letter mistakes outlined below that you must avoid in order to get through the first round of resume review and move one step closer to getting the job that you want.

1. Addressing the cover letter using a generic greeting, or misspelling the name of the personal contact or the company. The address line is the most prominent part of the cover letter; it should be included even if the cover letter is sent via email. Generic greetings are not favored; they make it seem like you have a template for your cover letter and you simply send it to all employers you are interested in working for. Do the research and find out who the appropriate contact is for the cover letter. However, make sure that they name and the company name is spelled correctly. If your address line contains errors, your cover letter is likely to never make it to the hiring manager.

2. Telling the company what they can do for your career. Simply stated, employers care about your qualifications and what you can do for the company. Do not spend your time telling the company how working for them can be great for your career. While that could be true, it certainly is not what the employers want to hear. Your potential employers want to hear how you can benefit their team; they want to know what you can bring to the table that is innovative, and focused on results. Make sure that your resume lets your employer know just why you are the best candidate for the job.

3. You re-state your resume. Do not go over the information that is in your resume in your cover letter. Your cover letter is meant to entice, and provoke the employer to review your resume in great detail. Re-stating the information in your resume doesn’t address what the employers want to know, which concerns reasons why you are the best candidate for the job. Highlight certain areas of your resume but do so in the context of your career goals and how such qualifications benefit the company.

4. Starting every sentence with “I”. While your cover letter is about you, starting each sentence this way will make your employer believe that your communication skills are not up to the level of your professional background. Discuss your qualifications, your goals and what you bring to the table in terms of the company, and your professional attributes.

5. Asking the employer to call you at their convenience. The most generic closing statements in cover letters ask the employer to contact you at their convenience. If you are truly excited about the opportunity with the employer, you won’t want to wait for them to call you back whenever they feel like it. What you should do instead is let them know when you want to follow up – and then do follow up. Close your cover letter by letting your potential employer know that you will contact them, as well as the manner in which you will do so. This shows your interest, and your take-charge attitude.

What to do with gaps in your work experience

Listing your professional experiences on your resume is a difficult task. There are so many elements to consider: job titles, time frames, key responsibilities, transferable skills, etc. The process becomes even more difficult if you have gaps in your work history. Your potential employer will not have a way of knowing why there is a three and a half year gap in your professional experience just by reviewing your resume, for example. The employer may wonder if you skipped over one of the jobs you held because it doesn’t meet your career objective, or they may assume that you didn’t work at all during the time frame that is unaccounted for on your resume. Any gaps in your employment history will need to be explained in writing; thus, don’t skip any information on purpose.

There are a few general rules about resume gaps:

– Any unaccounted time that is shorter than three months doesn’t need to be explained. Having 60-90 days in between jobs is not too unusual, and often goes unnoticed within a resume. However, any gaps extending beyond three months should be addressed in your cover letter or e-mail. Whether you had personal or professional reasons for not working, the gaps in your employment history need to be explained as you don’t want to leave the employer to make their own assumptions.

– Be honest! We can’t stress this matter enough. If you are honest with your potential employer, you will not have to worry about them checking your references, doing a background check, or surprising you with questions in an interview.

– Don’t exclude months of your employment from the job listing. You are better off explaining the gaps in your resume than trying to cover them up. Honesty is really the best policy when it comes to your resume.

– If you have held jobs that are not applicable to your career objective, list them on your resume anyway. Rather than create gaps in your resume, explain why you held jobs outside of your field in your cover letter or in an email to your potential employer. Again, whether the reasons are personal or professional, explain yourself honestly and don’t leave room for assumptions on the part of your potential employer.

– Regardless of the reasons for the gaps in your professional history, it is important that the tone in your cover letter and your resume remains positive. Do not sound apologetic – life happens and you don’t need to be sorry for taking time off of work. Be positive, and show your potential employer that you never lost focus on your career.

While we all agree that life takes unexpected turns and respect that there will be circumstances that create gaps in our resumes, we can always consider the following actions in order to stay competitive within our field:

– Apply our time and experience to volunteer positions, community projects, and consulting or freelance work.

– Take a class at a community college or at the community center that improves your work-related skills and allows you to interact with people with similar professional backgrounds.

– Read about the new developments in your field. Get a subscription to a professional publication/magazine, or get the newly published books that discuss changes or improvements in your profession.

Most of all, be honest and stay positive. You can’t change your work history, so do your best to show your employer you are a perfect candidate for the job by focusing on your experience and your education, highlighting your achievements and your qualifications.

Helpful tips for emailing your resume

In order to seek out and apply for the jobs you are interested in, you will most likely post your profile and resume on a job search web site, such as monster.com or hotjobs.com. These search engines allow you to upload your resume in a Microsoft Word or text file format, or create one using their forms.

Outside of the job search web sites, e-mailing your resume as form of application has become commonplace. However, each employer or headhunter has different rules on the file they will accept via e-mail. Most companies will accept an attachment in Microsoft Word – this is why you have to be conscious of the font type and size, as well as margins you are using when composing your resume. If a company is requesting a text file, you should follow these steps to convert your Microsoft Word document into a text resume:

– Select File, Save As

– Name the file; as a best practice, use your name as the file name, and use underscores as spaces

– Under Format, select Text Only

– Select Save.

Now that you have converted your file to a text file, make sure to open it and review how the spaces, tabs, and bullet points have transferred over. You may need to do some edits in order to format the resume to fit the file type. Note that the plain text file doesn’t allow for bolding, italicizing or underlining. Make sure that all your text is left justified and that the spacing is correct.

If an employer asks that you include your resume in the body of an email, treat this as a text file when formatting. Copy and paste your whole resume in an email. Keep the font styles basic; use Arial or Times New Roman fonts and keep the size at 10 or 12 points. Adjust all the spacing and bullet points as appropriate. A good rule to follow is to keep the email simple – avoid bolding or italicizing text since you don’t really know the type of email software your recipient is using or if the accept HTML or text emails only.

If you are sending your resume as an attachment, format the body of your email as a cover letter. At the top of the email, include your name and address, as well as the address of your recipient. Typically, the address can be found either on the job listing or at the company’s web site. If you are sending the resume in the body of the email, follow the same guidelines in terms of the email content. Don’t make an assumption that including a resume in the body of an email is the only information you should include in your message to your potential employer. Even if the resume is copied into the email, you still need to let your employer know a little bit more about yourself via a cover letter. However, since you will include your address at the top of the email, feel free to start your resume with a career objective instead of including the heading with your name and address.

Much like proofing is critical in perfecting your resume, testing how your resume is displayed in a body of an email or how it opens as an attachment via another computer is important. Rally your friends or family for help, and send them sample emails with your resume included in the body of the message or as an attachment. This will provide a great opportunity for you to assure that your resume is reaching your potential employers in the format that is clean and professional.

Designing your resume to grab employer’s attention

Job hunting can be one of the most exhilarating and yet one of the most agonizing experiences in your life. While you look forward to the new chapter in your professional life, finding a way to stand out from other candidates, who are at least equally qualified for the position you want, is a difficult task.

Your resume is the first contact your potential employer has with you. A well formatted and a well-written resume can make a difference between getting the interview and getting the job, and being passed over. Most employers receive a stack of resumes of qualified candidates and scan them quickly before they decide whether or not hey want to read further. You only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. Don’t panic. Instead, focus on the design of your resume as it is the first thing your employer, whether on paper or in electronic form.

The most commonly made mistake in resume design include using templates that are already available in Microsoft Word. While these templates provide a quick, easy to follow tools to create your resume, they are outdated, and they will make your resume appear generic and uninviting. Additionally, these templates, while well formatted in Microsoft Word, will not translate well when emailed or uploaded to job search engine web sites.

Second most commonly made mistake in resume design is inclusion of graphics on the page. Your picture and/or any other graphics are not appropriate for a resume. Including anything outside of plain text will make you stand out in a way that makes the employer think you are not taking yourself seriously as a professional, and this is certainly not the first impression you want to make. You can find samples of resumes on the Internet; search for resumes by your industry to find the templates that make most sense for the job you are seeking. Than work on a blank page to replicate the look and feel of the resume you like.

The following are basic formatting rules for your resume:

– Limit the length of the resume to two pages.

– The page should have one-inch margins, top and bottom, right and left.

– Use left justification only – as a rule, do not center the content of your resume.

– The font and font size should be consistent.

– The bullet points should be basic – use circles or squares, but never any symbols that may not translate well when you email your resume to your potential employer.

– Headlines can be in all caps; the remaining text should not have special formatting.

– Do not underline any of the information in your resume. In the world of Internet driven job applications, underlining in a document implies a web link.

– The font size for headlines should not exceed 14 points; the remainder of the text in the resume should not exceed 12 points.

– Use the Tab key instead of the Space bar to create spaces between the text in your resume.

As a last formatting check point, ask your friends or your family for help in reviewing your resume. Send the resume file via email to a few of your friends – ask them to review the resume and make sure nothing seems out of place. Print out the resume on paper and review to make sure that margins are accurately set, and that the content doesn’t appear crowded on the page. Keep in mind – when it comes to your resume, sleek simple appearance, and great writing, will get you the job you are seeking.

How to write a professional summary for your resume

In today’s competitive job market, employers relay on well-written resumes to screen potential candidates. In many instances, employers look through job search web sites, such as HotJobs.com or Monster.com, to find professionals with skills, education and experience that fit their needs. These employment search web sites, along with many companies’ own online applications, require candidates to upload their resume in order to express interest in a specific opportunity. Without an opportunity to send a personal email, or a cover letter, you have to make sure that your resume expresses your personality in addition to listing your professional and educational experiences and achievements. To do so, you can include a professional profile or summary at the beginning of your resume that allows you to market yourself through a narrative. This section allows your potential employers to learn something unique about you and your career, as well as get a good feel of your communication skills.

To write an effective summary, you should first understand what information should not be communicated in your resume. While a summary provides an insight into what is unique and competitive about you, it is not a place for you to indicate any personal information that does not relate to your career. Information such as ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and affiliations, etc. should be left out of your resume. While descriptive of who you are, this information is not relevant to your potential employer in order to pre-screen your qualifications for their opportunity. Additionally, the summary should not contain your previous professional experience, unless you can clearly demonstrate how such background can be of value in your future career development. Beware of generic statements, such as “I am well organized and detail oriented.” Employers want to hear your unique voice and get a sense of your communication skills while reading the summary portion of your resume. Using generalizations about your abilities will make the employers believe that you are either a poor communicator or are using such statements to fill up space on your resume.

Your summary should be in form of a short paragraph or bulleted statements, containing only several sentences. There isn’t a sentence limit, but as a rule do not take up more than one quarter of the page. Your summary should begin by a headline that summarizes your professional title and/or your professional statement. Emphasize your title by featuring the headline in bold and larger font, as it allows your potential employer to grasp who you are quickly. For example:

Financial Planning Professional

Achieved Double-Digit Return for All Clients through Well-Balanced Financial Portfolios

It is important that this title is well crafted, as it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you.

There are three things a well-written summary should address:

– Your experiences and skills as they relate to your idea job

– What you can bring to the organization and the open position that no other candidate can

– Your professional goals.

Even though your resume summary is written by you, it should be composed in third person, in present tense. Think of it as a summary of what one of your best colleagues would say about your professional achievements. Reinforce your title, and sell only the experiences and skills that meet your career objective. If you have multiple career objectives, such as you wish to get a position in either marketing or public relations, develop separate resume summaries for each of the objectives. A summary can also contain a brief bulleted section highlighting only a few vital competitive skills that you bring to the table. An example of an effective summary would be as follows:

Successful financial planning professional with over 15 years of personal and retirement planning experience. Managed a small financial planning firm, achieving double-digit financial returns for all clients by developing personalized investment portfolios. Leader in development and professional growth of four other financial planners in the firm through effective and motivating mentoring strategies.

Key competencies include:

o Personalized portfolio development

o Financial forecasting

o Retirement portfolio management

o Development on-going professional growth strategies

Much like your overall resume, your summary should be well-written and error-free. Make sure to review your summary, and customize as necessary for the various opportunities of interest. An effective summary will help you “hook” your employer; it should sell you as a primary candidate for the job, leaving your employer with a great first impression of you.

Resume vs. Curriculum Vitae

A resume is a one- to two-page document summarizing your career objectives, professional experiences and achievements, and educational background. The heading of the resume should contain your name, address and contact information. The body of the resume should be broken into the following sections: career objective, profile/summary, professional experience, achievements, scholastics, and references. Your career objective should be brief, up to two sentences; it should give your potential employers an idea of how you wish to move forward in your professional life. A concise profile or a summary should discuss who you are and how your skills and experience best apply to the job you are interested in. The summary, as well as other parts of your resume, should not contain personal information that discloses ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, living situations, or any other personal information that is not directly related to your career. Personal profile/summary should only contain a few well-written sentences that convey what you can bring to the table in terms of the specific job. Use this section to attract the employer’s attention, but don’t go overboard in trying to be creative – stay professional. Your experience listing should include information on one to five jobs you’ve held, starting with your current or last job, and listing previous positions in chronological order. Your education should include college, graduate and post-graduate work, as well as any courses or professional certifications that are relevant to your career development. Achievements, volunteer positions, publications and interests should only be listed if they apply to your professional work experience References should be listed if requested; best practices suggest not to list generic statements about references being available upon request as this is understood.

Curricula vitae or CV is a collection of documents that describe your education and professional history, focusing on your achievements and showcasing higher level of detail than a resume. People most typically using CV as form of application are seeking positions in education, entrance into graduate and post-graduate programs, or research, and they are required to discuss their professional philosophies. While resumes are often limited to one or two pages, CV is a compilation of documents, has no length limit and extends over at least several pages (most frequently four or five pages, but can be more based on experience and achievements). A CV contains similar information as your resume, but places higher emphasis on education and scholastic accomplishments. Unlike your resume, a CV would contain information on scholarships you may have received, texts or research you have completed and published, grants you received, community and volunteer work, teaching philosophy, etc. You will begin by listing your career objective, in summary form, to showcase your commitment to your goals and actions you are willing to take to achieve them. If you are applying for a teaching position, give a brief outline of your reaching philosophy. Immediately following your goals, list your achievements, highlighting your education first. Here, you can mention your thesis project or dissertation, courses that support your career objective, publications and research (in progress or completed), certifications, studies abroad, languages, etc. Your experience should be included next, focusing on the work history that supports your career objective. This should conclude your CV.

If you are unsure which form of application to use, do the appropriate research and create a resume or CV that best fits the format commonly accepted in your industry.

Switching Jobs – How to adapt your resume to your new career choice

Changing jobs has to be one of the more difficult decisions a person can make; staying in the work environment we are used to can sometimes be easier than having to embrace uncertainty, and having to prove your professional qualifications and credibility in a new workplace. The decision for change becomes that much more difficult if the new job you want means changing your career. While you will face a challenge in trying to get the job that meets your new career objectives, writing your resume should not be one of them.

On the Internet alone, there are numerous resources for career changers. From helping you decide which career you are best suited for to providing helpful advice on how to succeed in your new job, you will find an overwhelming amount of resources to help you in your new journey. While most of the information you find will be helpful, be careful about the sources you utilize in order to put together the most persuasive resume for your new career choice.

There are really two basic elements to successfully creating a resume for a career changer: research and transferable skills. Most people put a lot of thought into changing careers. They consider their families, their living and financial situations, their competitive advantage in the new field, etc. After you convince yourself that changing careers is the right thing to do, you will have to convince your potential employers to give you the job you are seeking. To do so, you have to do your research. Demonstrate to your employer that you have an extensive knowledge of the industry, even if you don’t have the accompanying experience. Before you begin your new career, make sure that you understand what professional paths are available for you, and determine what your ultimate goal is. This will help you form the career objective for your resume. Additional, make sure to do your research on the company you are interested in, as well as their competition (if you are interested in non-profit organizations, make sure to brush up on other organizations with similar missions); if invited for an interview, you will want to appear very knowledgeable not only about their company, but about the industry as a whole. You will have to convince your potential employer that you the best person for the job, better than the candidates with experience – to do that, you have to showcase not only your enthusiasm for the opportunity, but your eagerness to learn and your knowledge about the field.

Transferable skills, those skills that can be utilized in numerous fields, are also a key to a successful career change. Consider your qualifications to date. What experience have you acquired that can be transferred across industries? Transferable skills include verbal and written communication, people management, customer relations, organization and project management, development of new processes, generation of new ideas or concepts, etc. Such skills can be adapted to all organizations, and you should utilize them to showcase your qualifications for the job you are seeking. For example, if you would like to ditch the 9-to-5 desk job for a hectic, unpredictable life of a high school teacher, let your potential employer know that your previous experience in leading by motivation makes you a perfect candidate for the job (even if that marketing project you managed has nothing to do with teaching English composition). Making a list of all your professional experiences and the qualifications needed for the job you are seeking will help you in determining which skills are transferable to your new career. Once you define your transferable skills, use a functional resume to assure most (if not all) of the qualifications needed for the new job are met in your resume.

In addition to your resume, use your cover letter or email to let your potential employer know why you are changing careers, and that your new interest is not a passing one. Make sure that your resume reflects your newfound interest in a genuine and professional manner, and you are sure to have a successful career change.