In the last issue of the Where What When, Jill Moroson, MSW, explained ways teens could look for summer jobs. An important piece of the job search process is to create and build a resume – yes, even for teens. You may ask, Why do I need a resume? I’m only 16 and have no real work experience or skills; plus, I’m only planning on getting a part-time job to make some cash. But with so few jobs open these days, a strong resume can give you an extra advantage. It’s important to set yourself apart from other job seekers and stand out. Even with less formal work experience than a professional who has been in the work force a number of years, it’s not impossible for a teen to create a resume. You may learn that you have more experience and skills than you realize.
So, where to start?
First, know what a resume is. A resume is a formal, one- or two-page document (teen resumes are usually one page) in which to sell yourself to a potential employer. Statistics say that an employer has 10 to 20 seconds to look at a resume and decide whether you will be called in for an interview or will land in the “not to call” pile with the hundreds of other job seekers’ resumes. A resume will not get you a job, but it is the tool that will get you an interview. What gets you the job? That’s another article.
Tip: A resume has to capture an employer’s attention. Think, what benefits can I bring to the job? How can I help the employer?
Next, before even putting fingers to computer keys, know what information needs to go on the resume. A resume is broken down into sections, with key information in each part. The very first section of the resume is just as important as all of the other sections. It is all your contact information: name, address, phone number, and email address. If a potential employer can’t find you, then you cannot even be in the running for the job. Make your contact information easy to read (meaning not too tiny a font).
Tip: Beware of cutesy email addresses: Get rid of, for example, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. (Would you hire these employees, if you were an employer?) Instead, use a professional sounding email, such as your initials or first name@ aol.com.
When most people prepare a resume, they start with work experience. But you first need to think of your unique skills that you can contribute to this particular job. Do you develop relationships quickly? Are you someone people like to talk to? Are you a good listener? Are you a good writer? Is your work accurate? Do you take pride in a job well done? Have you started some new project? Are you a computer whiz? Even if you are not a computer whiz, you need to list your computer skills – and surely you have them, as I have yet to meet a teen who doesn’t have computer skills. This information builds the skills section of your resume before you even get to your experience.
Tip: If a job posting lists particular skills needed and you don’t have them, do not lie. You will eventually get caught! It’s better not to list them and focus on the skills that you do have, as long as they relate to the job.
Because you have not been in the workforce, it is important to list your education before your work experience. State the name of the school, location, dates, year of graduation, and any academic honors or awards. If your GPA is impressive, you can list that as well (a 3.3 GPA is average).
Are you’re thinking, all this information goes on the resume and I haven’t even begun to discuss the “meat and potatoes,” of the resume, my work experience? Don’t worry, listing skills on a resume is important, because an employer can quickly scan your skills at the top of the resume and decide whether it’s worth his/her time to read further to the “geshmack” portion of the resume, your work experience.
The work experience section of the resume lists jobs, describing the most recent first and working backwards to previous jobs. I bet you’re thinking, what work experience? I have none! I wantthis job so I can get work experience. The answer is to not think of work experience in terms of paid work alone. Work can also be volunteer or community experience. They both count on a resume. Showing an employer that you’re passionate and consistent about volunteering for a particular organization enables him/her to see that you are a dedicated and motivated worker. Make sure you list your job title, name of the organization, city, state, and dates of work. In addition, if you can portray a specific accomplishment or achievement in your job, you have prepared a winning resume. An employer can then see that you contributed to an organization and are therefore likely contribute to this next job.
Tip:When listing work experience, it’s better to list each responsibility in bullet form, rather than in paragraph style. Bullets are easier to read; paragraphs are too long and cumbersome. Remember, your resume has to capture an employer’s attention in 10 to 20 seconds.
Any other community or organization awards, achievements, honors, or additional languages you speak (only if proficient) should also be listed.
Having references is crucial. Almost all employers ask for references. You should have at least three. They can be teachers, community leaders, clergy, past employers, or neighbors. Try to obtain a copy of the reference for your own records. That way, you will always have it and won’t have to keep calling your reference. In 2012, names of references are no longer listed on the resume but on a separate sheet of paper given to the employer upon request.
Tip: Remember to always ask your references for permission to submit their names. Request their contact information and check that it is correct. Don’t forget to thank your references for writing a glowing recommendation about you.
Finally, proofread your resume to ensure there are no typos, grammatical errors, incorrect dates, or wrong information. Don’t just rely on “spell check.” All too often, spell check will not pick up mistakes in context, because a word is spelled correctly. You need to have a living, breathing person(s) read your resume. Four, six, or eight eyes are better than two.
Tip: It is important to understand that resume language and grammar are very different than what we learn at school. Resume sentences do not start with a personal pronoun (but with active verbs) and punctuation differs as well. To learn about resume formats, check out “teen resumes” on search engines such as Google.
The job market is ever so slightly improving. Whether you’re just walking into a potential place of employment to inquire about a job or are sending an application through cyberspace, you should always be prepared for that next job opening that would be perfect for you. Having an updated resume on hand to refer to when filling out many job applications can make the job search easier and less harried. Preparing a resume will also enable you to be more focused when looking for a job. It can even enlighten you to the fact that, although you are a teen, you are an important contributor to the workforce.
Debra C. Varon, MSW, CPRW, has been in the career field for 20+ years and has prepared resumes for hundreds of clients of all ages. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Director of betterwrittenresumes! She can be reached at 410-303-8115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jill Moroson, MSW, contributed to this article. She can be reached on LinkedIn, Facebook or CareerMinders@rocketmail.com.