Graduates often struggle with the eternal dilemma: how to get a job without experience and how to get experience without a job? Don’t worry, in today’s talent-scarce labor market, exacerbated by the digitalization of many industries, the current generation of graduates are better positioned than their predecessors to find work. However, start by polishing your credentials and emphasizing the professional experience picked up before and during your college years.
go beyond academics
It seems difficult to boast about your credentials when you’ve only come out of school, but you have more to brag about than you think. Whether it’s the internship you’ve completed, extracurricular activities undertaken or the part-time job you’ve held every summer for the past four years, each of these experiences contributes to your readiness for your professional life. The key to leveraging these roles is to focus on the skills acquired from them and explain how they help in the jobs you apply for. Furthermore, by focusing on the keywords recruiters look for when filling a role, you can attract the attention of prospective employers.
Of course your academic achievements can also be an asset when impressing employers, especially when school work has led to application in the workplace. For example, if you contribute to research that has been published in peer-reviewed journals, it carries enormous weight. Similarly, if your school work has been used commercially — i.e., in creative projects — you have a demonstrated track record of success.
Summarizing your key achievements should be at the top of your resume. Remember, composing your CV is one of the most important tasks in getting your career started, so make sure your resume captures attention quickly. Recruiters are estimated to spend just six seconds on a resume, giving you little time to waste. That means you need a dynamic summary and introduction emphasizing the standout work you’ve performed at and outside of school. Highlight key words specific to the companies and industries you want to pursue for maximum impact. Also, be specific about how you’ve applied a skill to solve a problem and achieve your desired outcome.
showcase critical achievements
Giving examples of your problem-solving abilities can come from the work you’ve undertaken in internships, trainee programs, employment before and during college and even volunteer efforts, so consider all of your experiences as examples to share with prospective employers. Orinthia Marks, a senior career coach and resume writer with RiseSmart, says all job seekers including graduates should answer some critical questions when emphasizing their credentials. Such an exercise will help graduates to not only better write a resume summary but also anticipate the questions all employers will ask.
“Knowing which accomplishments employers care about is critical to your entire job search strategy,” she says. “An accomplishment is something that you personally did that improved a situation, solved a problem, and/or made a contribution either in value or substance. Jobseekers need to highlight contributions they’ve made that exemplify their skills as a problem solver. My advice is to really review all of your achievements and choose the ones most relevant to your field.”
Aside from emphasizing your key accomplishments, remember to provide referenceswho can confirm your contributions and achievements. Having former workers and managers who can further comment on your efforts will make you stand out even further among prospective employers.
Graduates may be starting from a clean slate in their careers, but it doesn’t mean they lack practical working knowledge or skills. Make sure to thoroughly review all of your past work and achievements and bring attention to those that will make the best impressions on employers.
three tips for polishing your credentials
- Solicit peer input
Sometimes it’s the people around you who can be your best advocate. Ask them for input about your best qualities, your deficiencies and how to make improvements. A fellow graduate, instructor or even friend can offer practical advice for enhancing your personal brand.
- Follow leading examples
We all can use a little inspiration sometimes. Look for best examples of CVs, and determine if the content and format work for you. Remember, you have a small window to flag the attention of recruiters so make sure your resume is impactful.
- Don’t forget key words
Employers want specific examples of your skills that match their needs. If you are a talented developer, specify your competencies in languages such as Ruby on Rails, AngulaJS or others.