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What Should Go On My Resume?

When I was in high school, my parents sat me down and told me I needed to start building my resume. This instantly sent me into a panic because I had no idea where to start or how to write one. The thought of creating a resume can feel a little overwhelming but it's really not as hard to construct as you may think!

But, where do I start? What am I supposed to include in my resume? What do employers even want to see? These are some good questions I’ve tried to answer for you below!

How Do I Create A Strong Resume?

The most impressive things on your resume are going to be internships, work experience, volunteer hours, and community service. These things show that you are hardworking and motivated. When I was looking for volunteer hours, I looked for something that I was interested in doing. You are not going to enjoy volunteering if you choose to do something you know you are going to hate. Volunteering and community service opportunities can be found through your school or church. Usually, your school will have someone you can contact to help you find an internship. There are really endless opportunities for you to find these small jobs to strengthen your resume and they can be really fun!

*Pro Tip: While it’s great to be versatile and show your extensive experience, don’t include all 12 volunteer opportunities or jobs you’ve been a part of. No employer wants to flip through a 6-page resume. Identify the most important/valuable ones and include those.

It's also important for you to be involved in your school or community. Being involved in tutoring services or holding a position in a club could be a good resume builder. This shows that you are willing to be involved and that you have good leadership skills. It shows the employer that you have the drive to make the best of anything you are involved in and aren’t afraid of a little extra responsibility.

What Skills Should I Include?

When it comes to listing skills, you need to think about which ones are actually going to matter to a future employer. Making lemonade is a useful (and delicious!) skill to have but it’s not going to be relevant in your resume for a job in marketing. Some good skills to include in your resume could be—communication, positivity, or bilingualism. These are the skills that employers are going to be looking for and impressed by. To me, trying to come up with these skills made me feel like I was bragging about how great of a person I was, but isn’t that kinda the point of a resume? Keep bragging because you are a great person and employers need to see what you have to offer!

How Do I Format My Resume?

  • Keep it short and sweet! Try to make it one to two pages because employers are not going to want to read a resume that is four pages long.
  • Make it Relevant. This document should be filled with your most relevant information and accomplishments. I started my resume by adding my full name, address, phone number, and email address, so the employer could contact me.
  • Use a Pre-formatted Document. There is NO shame in using an online resume format tool. Personally, I think these are really confusing to use but they might be able to help you break things down further into sections so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. It also offers an example of what a resume should look like and act as a guide.
  • Fill in the Gaps. Other sections you need to include are education, honors and awards, community service, work experience, and skills. Once you fill these sections in, you’ll have your resume!
  • Separate with Headers. Having each section clearly and properly labeled will help employers find the information they actually care about with much ease and little confusion.

*Pro Tip: Always use a sensible type font and size. Times New Roman 12pt. font is a safe bet and will always be a classic!

To Include or Not to Include??

So, you’ve formatted your resume, great! Now, you need to start figuring out what exactly needs to go on there.

  • What to leave off- You don’t need to add the friendship bracelet-making business you started in the fourth grade. Yes, it is technically a job but employers are not going to take that seriously. You also don’t need to add your high school GPA because they really only care that you finished high school.
  • What to definitely include- Working in your school's tutoring department or on the school newspaper or yearbook committee will look really good. Your employer is going to love seeing how involved you are in the school or clubs you are a part of. Any honors societies or clubs you are a part of should also make an appearance on your resume. And of course, jobs!

*Pro Tip: Make sure to update your resume regularly, and take things off that don’t apply to the job you are going for.

Cover letters

Cover letters are just as important as your actual resume. This is what will give the employer an insight into who you are as a person. Your resume is a place for you to list all of your accomplishments, skills, and experiences while the cover letter is your introduction of yourself. This letter won’t go in your resume but it will go as a separate attachment in the email you send to the employer with your resume attached.

Here are the key components of a good cover letter:

  1. Greet politely
  2. Introduce yourself
  3. Establish your credentials
  4. Explain how you learned of this opportunity; i.e. a friend or family member
  5. Establish your purpose
    Show what you can bring to the organization

This, like the resume, needs to be short and sweet. Break it up into a couple of small paragraphs so it's not so overwhelming to the reader. If your letter is too long there’s a good chance your email will just be skipped over. And we can’t have that happening!

Cover letters and resumes were completely foreign to me when I was trying to write one in high school, but they don’t need to feel like such a daunting task. Hopefully following these steps will help you come up with a winning resume, so you can impress your future employer with all of your accomplishments!

Maggie is an editorial intern at Potential magazine and a senior English major at Birmingham Southern College. She enjoys reading and writing articles and blogs and is excited to share some of her college experiences with Potential readers.

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