Most new graduates undersell their value. University career services, friends and family cite staid resume rules that stifle their message. Moreover, old-school traditionalist formats and content strategies still pervade the Internet, school halls and libraries.
As such, students on the precipice of their careers, armed with freshly minted degrees often shortchange their job search by building a lackluster, conformist and outdated resume strategy. Following are three ways to break through the resume barriers strangling your new-grad job search to create a gleaming and compelling story.
1. Treat Your Resume as a Marketing Document. Selling your value starts early in your career. In fact, if you’ve been involved in internships, active in campus fraternities, sororities, athletics or other clubs and affiliations, then, in addition to your good grades and completion of your four-year degree, you have a multiplicity of activities to sort through to articulate your value. For many, part-time (or even full-time) jobs during the school year or summer breaks also offer meaty achievements stories that should brighten your resume, grabbing the attention of your target readers.
This person was the captain of his basketball team. Instead of just simply listing his role as captain, ABC University Basketball Team, he teased out his achievements stories, as in the following example:
- Turnaround Leadership: Transformed 3-game losing streak into 4-game winning stretch by methodically identifying and implementing change through meetings with coaches and team, aligning everyone with go-forward action plan.
2. Be Targeted. You have just graduated with a marketing degree, and you are seeking an entry-level job anywhere that you can get a foot in the door. Wrong approach. You don’t want to limit yourself by asserting you will take “any job.” The more generally articulated your resume, the more limiting your resume. Your message will not resonate with anyone and will not speak to their pain points.
Instead, research companies to understand the types of jobs they are currently filling, the type of product or service they are researching, creating and delivering into the market, the type of customers they serve, and so on. Then, try to understand industry trends, issues these companies are struggling with and ways you can help ease their efforts.
Identify your own skills and training in customer service, marketing, research, communications, sales and so forth and map those to their needs. Start with career brain dump, then edit, trim, finesse and sell.
To get your juices flowing, here is an example of a targeted headline that would be a lead-in to your richly worded achievements stories:
Target—Entry-level: Public Relations, Marketing
Social Media Specialist | Communications Associate | Marketing / Advertising Assistant
~ Committed to Contributing Creativity, Organization, Communication, Influence and Social Networking Value to Bolster a Company’s Marketplace Visibility and Revenues ~
3. Be Creative While Proving You Will Provide a Return on Investment. Add flair and tighten focus by using headlines, sub-headlines, color, charts and more when designing your resume. More importantly than design, though (unless you are applying for a graphic artist or other design role) is the content. Strategize. Market. Make your resume sing—not just pretty songs but word lyrics that evoke a visceral reaction by the reader.
Pull them toward the phone to call you in for an interview. Companies want people who make them feel that if they hire you, their current problems with customer service, sales revenue, project efficiencies and so forth will be lessened and their business will be more vital and make more money. Sell the idea that you will make them more money than they will spend on hiring you. What you are doing is proving you will provide a return on their investment.
If you struggle to ferret out bottom-line impacts, remember that by saving time, speeding a process or getting a project ‘unstuck,’ you have proved you can add to a company’s bottom line. For example, as a member of a class project, you may have stepped in with a good idea that took a stalled project to completion, just under the wire. You need to tell that story; describe your problem solving process and/or your influence skills with other team members.
Here’s an example:
- Stepped up to lead stalled class project; used ABC software to reassign fragmented assignments to 5 team members, breathing new life and momentum into the initiative. Completed 3-week-lagging project on time, and received an A grade.
Final, value-add tip: if the strategies above push your resume onto a second page, so be it. While you want to keep your copy tight and focused, you do not want to sacrifice story depth and breadth at the altar of an arbitrary page-length rule. Be bold; solve problems; put in the hard work of building a convincing story that sells your value to a target audience.