How to not suck at writing a first resume

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

What if you are on the hunt for a part-time job and you’ve never worked before? Plenty of places have already started putting up “seasonal hiring” signs, so the jobs are out there if you want one. The challenge, of course, is that you may feel like you don’t have much, if any, experience to put on it. You likely have a lot more to offer than you think they do! This post will look at where to find evidence of skills and experience that will help you look good to a potential employer.

One thought before we dive in: if you’re applying to places like fast-food chains and retailers, keep in mind that these are companies that routinely hire younger workers with little experience. Hiring managers in these sectors are quite accustomed to seeing resumes without a lot of professional experience. They are used to hiring for good attitude and then training for skills and experience.

Now, onto the good stuff!

What to include

You’ll divide information about you into several sections. When it’s done, the resume will likely be 1 page long, but if it goes to 2 pages, that’s fine too. Just avoid a page break in the middle of a description.

Skills

This section will mainly focus on transferable, or soft skills. You have definitely developed many of these, simply from being at school. Take a look at current or past course outlines or syllabuses. Is there a section that talks about the skills you’ll have when the course is complete? If you’ve started the course, then you’re already working on those. Another place to look is past reports cards. Have any of your teachers included positive comments around your ability to work in groups, communicate effectively, manage your time, or stay on task? Those go in your skills section.

Education

If you’re in high school, list the name of the school along with the year you started and “to present.” Online this year? No problem, you’re still attached to a school. List the school you’ve attended up until now, or the school you would have attended if you were going in person. If you’re in post-secondary, list your current institution first (again, year you started and “to present”). And then list the high school you graduated from and the year. You can also include any extra-curriculars (past is OK since not much is running this fall) from any school you’ve attended.

Bonus: if you get good grades, it doesn’t hurt to include your average. BUT, if you aren’t the best student, say nothing and most employers will honestly never notice.

Volunteering

People get really caught up in “but it was just a volunteer position!” Whether or not you got paid to perform some task is irrelevant. You did it, you gained experience and hopefully, sharpened some skill out of it. Reading buddies with the kindergarten kids when you were in Grade 8? It counts. Helping deliver groceries to your neighbours during the pandemic? It counts. Watered your grandmother’s garden for a few weeks after she broke her hip? It counts. Think about what you learned in the experience that a future employer might be able to use. (Initiative? Empathy? Working with people of all different ages? The list goes on.)

Hobbies/Interests

This section provides extra space to talk about transferable skills. Even quieter solo hobbies like art, writing or swimming show discipline, dedication, patience and a commitment to skill development. So, go ahead and include those hobbies and interests.

What not to include

First, don’t include your SIN or birth date. These pieces of data can lead to identity theft, especially if you’re posting your resume online somewhere.

Second, avoid anything that might tempt a potential employer into protected-by-human-rights territory. That means you don’t share things like your age, gender, marital status, or anything to do with a disability or illness.

Lastly, don’t include a photo.

Need some resume help? Reviews are available for $100 (and a cover letter review is included if you need it.) For more information, check out job seeker services here.

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