How to Structure Your Resume When Looking for Your First Professional Job
Updated: May 19
So, you’ve worked really hard on your education and are now applying for your first professional job. Like with anything new, you’re bound to experience a learning curve with the job search process. If you’ve found yourself here, you may be wondering where to start when putting together your resume. You want to show a potential employer what you bring to the table, and that can be a challenge for anyone when limited to a single-page document. So, here are some tips to get you going on your resume.
Start with a brainstorming session.
Before you type your first word, sit down and collect your experiences to make sure you consider all of your significant accomplishments. Think outside the box and beyond the parameters of a typical resume. You may find sections where you can put these accomplishments even though it may not seem like it at first. For example, maybe you’ve been a leader at your church or written a personal blog that has a large following. It’s important to find room to point out these roles within your action points.
Choose a format that works best for your background.
When you’re first applying for professional positions, you may not have that much related experience yet. For that reason, you’ll want to select a resume format that focuses on your education, skills, and accomplishments. An employer likely won’t spend much time reviewing your resume as their time is usually limited, so you’ll want to choose a common format that is easy to read. Two options are reverse-chronological which lists all of your information in reverse time order. Another option is a functional resume which narrows in on your skill sets. If you have gaps in your work or education history, this is the best format to use.
Describe your accomplishments with the APR method.
According to The University of Arizona’s Student Engagement & Career Development, “Effective resumes use accomplishment drive bullet points to demonstrate your skills through your actions.” To achieve this, use the APR format which is: Action + Project/Problem = Result. As an exercise, consider a project you were a part of or one where you helped find a solution. Think of a few verbs to explain what actions you took in the project and describe the project or any problems. End with the result that happened and use this format as you write your bullet points.
Since this is a relatively new process for you, now is a good time to get the help of a professional.
Look for a career counselor in your area and either ask them to review your resume or help you write it from the beginning. If that’s not an option for you, then have a higher-level manager or even a professor review your resume for you and give you constructive feedback. Take their advice to heart as this may help you make the changes that will successfully land you your first job.