Resumes: The Struggle is Real

How is it that as students no one ever really teaches us to write resumes?


There are so few opportunities to hone this skill as a young adult or adolescent.

I know the only reason I’ve been able to practice this skill is because my dad has always been very pro-active about equipping me with the career-oriented skills needed to be successful. Now that I’m a college student living two states away, getting his advice has become a little more tricky, so naturally I turned to the only place I knew I could get reliable and up to date information quickly, the web. With so many websites and apps available to advise people on career oriented techniques and information, it took no time at all to identify what today’s evolving economy calls for in terms of resumes.

The days of resumes with stiff, formal language and generic formatting are long gone. Future employers want to know you, not just your education and experience. Today’s resumes are all about showcasing your talents and skills and demonstrating why you’ll be advantageous to the company in question.

Here are five tips on how best to market yourself through your resume…

1. Use active language when describing your past experience or positions.

Be as descriptive as possible. Were you a cashier at a local store? Talk about the experience you gained in customer service and human resources. Don’t simply say, “assisted customers by ringing them up.” So dull. Instead say, “formed close connections with regular customers, enriching their experience at the store and overall contributing to a strong company identity by emphasizing great customer service.” This language can help a future employer see that you gained legitimate experience through this position.

2. Emphasize your relevant coursework and your outside-of-the-classroom experience.

This is something that is so frequently overlooked when creating a resume. As a college or high school student you are bound to have encountered class projects that demand real world career skills. My freshman year of college I took an entry level political science class that required the class to work on all aspects of an event and participate in all areas of citizenship. I went door-to-door with fliers, gathered signatures, worked in coalition with a local non-profit, advertised an event, and successfully executed a community service event with the help of my class. All of these skills are marketable and valuable. If you’ve ever had a class with this sort of real world application, use it to your advantage. Future employers will be impressed that you’ve taken advantage of the educational experiences you’ve had.


3. Customize, customize, customize!

There’s nothing worse than submitting a catchall resume with nothing tailored to the position you’re applying for. Only include what is relevant to the job. Look at the job description or title and then look at your composite list of experiences and pick and choose what you think they’ll want to see. You may also choose to leave out certain pieces of a job summary in order to make it more relevant to the position. My suggestion is to make one giant resume with all of your work experience, education, extracurriculars, and skills and then pick and choose and copy/paste to formulate the perfect resume for the specific position. A great tool for this is the Levo Resume app, it streamlines the resume creation process in an aesthetically pleasing way.

4. Tell a story.

Your resume should read like a narrative, i.e, I began here, got this experience, moved onto here, got that experience, etc. By the time the employer is done reading this they should be able to have a comprehensive view of you, and the direction you’re going. There’s really no trick to this, and it may seem pretty self explanatory, but by visualizing your resume as a story you may be able to have greater insight into the way you should physically format your information. Start with your most recent experience and work backwards. It should seem like a timeline on Facebook. You’re the main character and all of your experience is helping to develop you. A quick tip to jumpstart this, sit down and try to write two concise sentences that summarize your resume. Start with who you are, what experience you have, and the direction you wish to go. This will create a concise vision for you, and once you’ve worked to narrow down all you’ve done to two sentences, only the truly pertinent stuff will remain.

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5.  Be concise.

Try not to go over a page in length. This is tried and true when it comes to resumes. Recruiters and employers are frequently flooded with resumes and applications and would rather not be forced to flip the page. Great, you have a lot of experience, but do they really need to read about every last job you have had? The answer is no. As I’ve mentioned in some of the sections above, they really just want to see what is most applicable to the position they’re hiring for. I recognize that not everyone will have a lot of job experience in the specific field they’re looking for work in, but look for other ways to market yourself, perhaps through your skills and hobbies. Finally, do the 10 second scan test; do you have buzzwords for the position’s description? Does your expertise and experience give a concise perspective on what you can offer? This information should be so obvious on your resume that any person could get it in 10 seconds.

Need more help with creating an eye-catching resume or cover letter? eNotes has you covered. Check out these helpful Q&A from our experts!

What’s the difference between a cover letter and a resume?

What do I need to do to draft a cover letter and resume?

How do I write a good cover letter for a job application?

Plus more writing help available in eNotes’ Essay Lab. Ask us a question for free through our iOS app today!