4 Steps to Build the Perfect Post-College Resume: No Paid Work Experience Necessary!Sep 01, 2021
Everyone says you need “real” jobs to have a good post-college resume. But when you’re cram-studying between classes, during meals, and long after you should be asleep, how can you think of anything else besides your next cup of coffee? Luckily, your post-college resume doesn’t need to hold you back from finding a job after college—it can look great with what you accomplish in your classes and extracurriculars!
If you can convince employers that you can do the job, they don’t actually care much how you got the skills, whatever job descriptions may say. We’ll tell you how to convince them!
1. Identify your targets and what they want to see in your post-college resume.
Way too many job seekers skip this step—you don’t want to! How can you prove you’re what companies want if you don’t know what they want?
- Be specific: name at least three exact job titles you’d want.
- Search those job descriptions and read, read, read!
- Tally how often you see the most repeated phrases. Are they hard skills or soft skills? These are the keywords you’ll use to translate your experiences on your resume!
And remember, you’re trying to convince a company that you have those skills, not that you gained those skills through a specific method, like through “2–5 years of experience.” (Read here for more about why “years of experience” is a red herring.)
2. List out your experiences, and write down what you did and learned from each of them.
Rule of thumb: if you learned something from the experience, it’s fair game. So don’t discount what you learn from extracurriculars, classes, and hobbies! Everything counts when you’re launching your career.
Ask yourself, “What did I do? What did I learn?” And do so without worrying about sounding professional or concise. Instead, write down your first thoughts.
Here are some activities that you shouldn’t consider too heavily:
- Activities you weren’t that involved in: if all you did was delete emails from a club, employers probably won’t be too impressed!
- Activities you don’t remember very well.
- Activities from very long ago (unless they were very impactful or relevant experiences).
- Activities that wouldn’t be tasteful to mention: you might’ve learned leadership skills as president of the “I Hate Karen's” club, but that could still raise eyebrows depending on the company’s culture.
3. Translation time!
Compare the keywords you wrote down from step 1 with the list of experiences you have in step 2. Which of your experiences apply best?
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your experiences if you’re dealing with any of these common keywords:
- Communication: How did I improve in how I listen to others and convey my ideas?
- Collaboration or Teamwork: Did I work with other people? What did I learn about how to work with others’ working and learning styles?
- Got any group project horror stories? If you still managed to do well, that can be a great story to tell!
- Sports stories also work great here!
- Problem-Solving: What kinds of issues arose? How did I help solve them?
- Stakeholders: What kinds of experiences did you have with supporters, clients, or supervisors?
- Have you ever helped a classmate study? Had a good relationship with a professor? Raised financial support for a club?
- Relationship Management: How did you work with people impacted by your experience?
- Critical Thinking: How have I assessed situations in a way that helped me make good decisions and do good work?
Use the exact keywords you see on the job description when talking about your experiences, and make sure you’re able to tell specific stories about anything you list on your resume.
Here’s some options for how to include experiences on your resume:
- As work experience: This option is better if you invested enough time in your position to name specific start and end dates and have multiple skills to talk about.
- Under your “Education” section: Great for extracurriculars and classes!
- Under a dedicated “Projects” section: This option is better if you have multiple one-time achievements that you want to focus on.
- Under a “Skills” section: You get to clearly state what skills you’re showing off and directly list your experience as evidence to prove it.
Speaking “resume” is like speaking another language, and we know it can be daunting. Check out our resume and LinkedIn workshops for professional help on polishing up your resume to its shiniest potential!
4. Boil down your most relevant experiences into a one-line professional summary.
A one-line professional summary is incredibly handy! It can work as:
- Your LinkedIn headline.
- A header at the top of your resume.
- An opener for your cover letter.
- An answer to the question, “What kind of job are you looking for?”
- A springboard to answer the infamous “tell me about yourself.”
Note the most common threads linking them your experiences, and ask yourself these questions in light of the job you want:
- What kind of worker are you?
- How do you get the job done?
- What kind of impact do you want to have?
Here’s two examples:
- BAD: “Creative professional looking to join an ambitious team”--way too vague!
- GOOD: “Marketing professional driving increased engagement across all social media”--
specific and concise!
Need help discerning what your career summary looks like? Our coaches can help you out! Once you’ve figured out your summary and your relevant experiences, you’re on your way to a tantalizing post-college resume!
Need an extra push?
You have more experience than you think, and these steps build a foundation for a great post-college resume. But there’s still nothing like the peace of mind of having an expert analyze your resume and place the perfect keywords!
Whatever you need, Career Cram has a host of resources for you, from 30-minute resume refresh sessions, job search bootcamps, and community group coaching. But for now, we’ll get you started with a free resume template where you can plug in everything you just figured out!
Download a free resume template for your post-college resume, or contact us at our website today!
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