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Your first resume out of school

It's common to get stuck when preparing your new resume after getting a degree. If you are just beginning your career how can you illustrate your capabilities with little hands-on experience? If you're a career-changer, how should your resume reflect that you spent a lot of time in school? We answer those questions and others, below.

Relate Your Experience to the Job You Want

First, don't sell short your academic background. If you earned a high GPA, put it on your resume. If you've taken classes or conducted research related to the job you're applying for, say so. Include that information under your "Education" heading, along with the name of your school and degrees earned or expected.

Your experience encompasses more than just jobs you've had. Have you volunteered? Been an intern? Served as a leader in a student group? These roles demonstrate that you possess traits and skills that are valuable to employers, such as ambition, discipline, and the ability to work on a team. If you're an adult student who had a part-time job while going to school, ask yourself what skills you developed to successfully juggle work and class. Organization? Time-management? Multi-tasking? On your resume, communicate how your various experiences have equipped you with skills pertinent to the job you're after.

Four Resume Tips for Recent Grads

1. One resume is not enough. Tweak your resume to emphasize the parts of your background most relevant to each prospective job. If you're applying for a sales position, devote fewer words to your job reshelving library books and write more about your past retail gig or your record-breaking sale of raffle tickets for the sorority fundraiser.

2. Communicate what you've accomplished, not just what you've done. Even a recent college graduate has accomplished a lot. Be specific and use hard numbers if you can. "Advised over 100 freshmen and sophomores during two years as a peer tutor" is a more powerful statement than "Worked at peer tutoring center during junior and senior years."

3. Consider a funtional resume. A functional resume lists your skills and job history under separate headings. The benefit is that the format puts the focus on your abilities and aptitudes rather than on what might be a sparse record of employment. But you still need to convey how your skills were acquired through specific experiences.

4. Get feedback before sending your resume out. Many schools offer resume consultations at the career services office. Advisors can offer some of the best resume tips for the profession you're targeting. And while you're there, ask about other resources that might take some of the pressure off as you make the exciting transition from college to the work force.

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Tim Mullaney currently teaches analytical and fiction writing at Washington University in St. Louis. His recognitions include the Salamander Magazine Prize and the Gival Press Short Story Award. He is a former Van Lier Fellow at the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York City.

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