Getting Started Resumes & Cover Letters

6 Resume Tips for Recent Graduates

Written by Kate Lopaze

School can feel like an intense bubble while you’re in it. Classes, papers, grades, and activities take up so much of your time and energy. But then graduation comes, and it’s time and put those skills and that knowledge to use for cash money and a satisfying career. That can be a tough transition, so if you’re high on potential and low on experience, don’t despair.

To get yourself ready for the post-graduation job hunt, here are 6 great resume tips for recent graduates. If you already have some experiences from internship or part time jobs, you can also check out our guide on resume best practices 2016.

1. Don’t stress about lack of experience.

You’re a new grad—no one expects you to have experience beyond an entry level. What you do have already are skills. Your resume should be heavy on the skills you’ve been developing through your academic career: for example, software training and use, presentation skills, and problem solving skills. You also likely have part-time work, student employment, or volunteer experience as well. Definitely don’t forget those, even if they’re not obviously related to your future career.

2. Think about what you need.

It can also be stressful if you feel like your education hasn’t really prepared you for the job market. I’ve been there: I was an English major at a large state university. The school focused on academics and teaching as postgrad options—both of which I’d already ruled out as careers for myself. So I sat down researching what I could do with my English degree, and what my interests were. That led to publishing, and I came up with a plan to get extra training in editing and writing while working general office jobs to get experience and pay my postgrad bills.

Thinking about what you really want, and having an action plan to get it can really help you refine your resume.

3. Don’t forget the extracurriculars.

If you have activities that have helped build skills (student government, Spanish Club, Future Accountants of America), you should take stock of those skills as well. As you get further into your career, you won’t need to lean as heavily on your school activities, but when you’re getting started those skills you picked up can help fill in for concrete experience. If you decide to use your extracurriculars in your resume, be sure to use examples of how they helped build your skills.

4. You don’t need to write a novel.

Again, no one expects recent grads to come up with a several-pages-long list of accomplishments. A clear, concise one-pager is fine.

5. Be prepared to edit.

Similar to #3, you don’t need to have one sacred resume doc that fits all. This means you should plan to do several stages of editing. The first round is to go through and figure out what’s necessary to include (skills, training, education, recent honors/awards, work experience) and what’s probably not crucial (specific classes you took, the spelling award you got in third grade, or the six months you thought you wanted to be a puppeteer—false alarm).

The second round of edits should be specific to each job you’re applying for. Include related honors and awards, any experience you have in that area, and applicable skills. Be creative…if your thankless summer job included dealing with customers of (ahem) varying degrees of politeness, emphasize in your resume that you have strong communication and public service skills.

6. Play with the format.

If you’re following the traditional resume template of education/coursework, jobs, accomplishments, and then general skills, consider switching it up. Quality is more important than format, and you want the reader to be presented with your best side up front. If you feel more comfortable leaning on your skills over your experience, frontload those.

For example, your resume could be: skills/training, education, awards, then jobs and experience. As long as your resume is a coherent snapshot of you and is written well, you’re not stuck with any particular format.

The best thing you can do for your postgrad résumé is to put in the time and effort to figure out what you already have working for you, and how to spin it. “New grad” doesn’t have to mean “blank slate.” You can totally make it mean “building a new career on a great foundation.”

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.