What is a Resume? And Why is it Important for Students?

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A resume is a forever-evolving document that tells your story. It’s an important way to tell a potential employer about you and what you bring to the table. It outlines your unique skills, past accomplishments, and experiences, as well as the characteristics that make you stand out. In simple terms, a resume is a way of selling yourself to your future employer.

When should you start building your resume?

Nowadays, colleges are asking for a resume when applying, but there’s a difference between high school and college resumes. To answer the question, you should start gaining experience and building your resume as early as freshman year of high school so that when it’s time for you to apply for college, you have the experience you need to include in your applications.

High school resumes should show involvement in your community, connections with your teachers, different clubs, and involvement with sports or the arts.

College resumes, on the other hand, showcase your school and program of study, the different internships and organizations you are involved with, and the skills and achievements you have under your belt. You should start building your college resume, which will then develop into your professional resume starting freshman year of college.

Keep in mind your desired career path and what skills and qualities employers are looking for. Join professional organizations related to your career of interest and get internships as soon as possible to demonstrate work experience. What can you do in addition to getting outstanding grades that will make you stand out? Whatever your next step is, it’s never too early to start your resume!

When would you use a resume?

Now that you know what a resume is, let’s talk about when you would use one. The first time you might use a resume is when you are applying to college. For this, you would gather up all of the great things you have done - the teams you played on, the volunteer work you did over the weekends, the play you sang in, and that excellent camp counselor job, for example, and put them together to paint a well-rounded picture of you.

Your next chance to use a resume might be to apply for your first internship. At that point, you might add relevant classes you took and some clubs you belong to and held positions in. As you continue to add internships and relevant skills, your resume will get more and more versatile, allowing you to apply to more competitive internships. By senior year, you will have created many versions of your resume to help you find a job, or even to get you into graduate school. This resume would list your internships, clubs, awards, and skills.

Why is a resume important?

Resumes are crucial in helping you land internships and jobs. Companies usually receive 250-500 resumes for every position they look to hire, so you want to be strategic when you put your resume together...and how you spend your college years.

Let’s say you want to work at L'Oreal or Nike as a Marketing Intern. Sounds great! But, you’re going to have some stiff competition. But, head over to LinkedIn to see who they’ve hired. The easiest way to do this is to type in the name of a company in the search bar on LinkedIn, select the company, go to People, and type in Marketing Intern. Here, you’ll see anyone who’s interned there, their background, and you now have a template for what L'Oreal has looked for in the past. How can you emulate similar skills and experience?

Learning skills and building some experience to reflect on your resume takes time, which is why the sooner you start, the better. Landing an internship summer after freshman year makes it easier to land the next one and the next. You have to start somewhere so learn what skills your ideal companies like to see and start learning.

What is an effective resume and how do you build one?

Having a resume is essential, but having a well-written and effective resume is what gets you to the next step.

First, your resume needs to use relevant keywords and phrases pertaining to your career path that will not only grab the attention of recruiters and job opportunities, but also bring you to the top of ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems), or the resume content scanners that employers use. Therefore, you may have to prepare several resumes, tailoring each for different job applications. No relevant keywords and skills? No interview as you’re likely competing against others. If you’re unfamiliar with the skills listed, take some time to learn them through free resources or PathMatch Learning Tracks.

Companies look for people who can be immediately helpful with minimal training. Your resume needs to give employers an understanding of how you can quickly make an impact...or learn very quickly to do so. It should outline not only your past jobs, but also the skills that you acquired and the core responsibilities you held at those jobs.

It’s also important to emphasize your soft skills and the personality traits that make you stand out. But, it’s not enough to say that you’re determined. You will have had to show a pattern of determination through past jobs/internships. Your resume also needs to explain your goals, as in what your aspirations are within your career overall.

Another critical aspect of your resume is that it needs to be mistake-free. There can be no spelling or grammatical errors within your resume. To an employer, these mistakes would make you appear careless and unprofessional, and even just a minor one can be a dealbreaker.

What can you do to make sure you present the best resume?

The first thing you can do is utilize an ATS-optimized resume template. PathMatch offers a Resume Optimization Playbook, the tell-all guide created by a former recruiter with templates that use the font, categories, and text that ATS and recruiters are looking for, included in all of our flexible plans. These templates give you a basic outline of how your resume should look, but the specifics can look very different depending on your career choice so be certain your resume aligns with what the job or internship is looking for. Don’t be afraid to market yourself and show employers why you are the best person for this opportunity.

Proofread your resume a thousand times. At the very least, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Have your parents read over your resume, send it to your English teacher, go crazy and even have your dog read it over, just make sure it has no errors. For help with what you should include in your resume, do a quick LinkedIn search for professionals in your desired field. This will give you a better understanding of what a successful candidate looks like.

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