Once the final Oxford cap has hit the ground and the congratulatory cheers have faded into silence, it’s time to shift your attention to the job market. The first item of business: preparing a resume that can help you land your first job.

Like many fresh graduates with limited work experience, you might find yourself staring at a blank page. How do you write a resume when the jobs you’ve had so far little relevance to your dream job? What do you do if all you’ve ever done is worked as a mascot at a fast food restaurant?

College graduates in this kind of scenario tend to believe they are at a disadvantage in this competitive job market. But the truth is, by getting a college degree, you have already improved your odds by 50%. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate for college graduates is only 4%, which is less than half the national average of 8.1%.

The key is understanding the marketable skills and experiences you do have, and making sure your resume gets that across. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

Here are seven valuable tips on how to write a resume when you just graduated.

Identify your career objective

Sadly, many college graduates earn their degrees without clear career goals. This leads to a lot of confusion once they enter the job market. How do you avoid this if you’re equally unsure of your career prospects? Start by asking yourself some tough questions: What are you interested in? What skills have you picked up from your education and work experience? The answers to these questions should point you in the right direction and help you understand the kind of resume you need to build.

You can also work backgrounds. Take a look at jobs that are in high demand and see if anything catches your eye. It’s also a good idea to think long term. Are you interested in a specific industry? Look out for entry-level jobs in that field.

If, however, you do have a good idea of what you’d like to do while you’re studying, you can plan ahead and get a job before you even graduate.

Take a fresh look at your experiences

So you’ve only worked as a mascot at a fast food restaurant. Does that mean your resume is doomed? No, it means you need to find ways to make those skills and experiences relevant to the job you’re applying to.

After all, as a fast food mascot you will have:

  • Demonstrated excellent people skills by attending to customers of all ages
  • Maintained the restaurant’s family-friendly brand by creating a fun experience
  • Contributed to company promotions and special events
  • Worked alone and as part of a team

By parceling out your experiences this way (and not undermining them), you make it clear that you have customer support and communication skills, and that you’re willing to do the dirty work for the company – no matter how silly you might have to look.

Take the time to review your work experience.  Your past jobs may not seem like much to you, but every little experience counts.

Do your research

More than anything, your resume is a marketing tool. The product it’s selling? You. And like any good marketer, you will need to know the demographic you’re trying to reach.

Spotted some entry-level jobs you might be interested in? Start researching the companies to learn as much as you can about them. This will help guide the writing of your resume and can be invaluable during the interview process.

Research should cover the following areas:

  • Type of business
  • Products and services
  • History of the company
  • Organizational culture
  • Latest developments

For some tips on how to go about doing this, check out an article we recently wrote on ways to research a company that go beyond Google.

Tailor your resume to the company and job description

Use your research to tailor your resume to specific companies and job descriptions. Start by highlighting any skills and required experience.

Generally, there are three types of skills you’ll find in a job posting:

  • Must have: These are the required, “must-have” skills to do the job. Is there anything here that matches up with your past experience?
  • Transferable: These are skills that you can use across multiple jobs. Language skills would be an example.
  • Adaptive:These are the kinds of things that would make you a good person to work with.

Take note of these requirements, and the type of company you’re applying to, and then focus on the experiences, accomplishments, skills and interests that are relevant.

A good idea would be to lead off with a short introduction as your career objective. This will give the recruiter an idea of who you are and what you want to achieve with the company.  The introduction will also serve to illustrate if you are a good fit for the company’s organizational culture.

Remember, though, if you have limited experience, avoid fluff and filler. Get to the point and use action words that best describe your achievements.

It’s also a great idea to make sure achievements are quantified by facts, figures, and relevant data. If, for example, you did volunteer work to raise funds for a non-profit organization, indicate the amount generated and the inclusive period.

Capitalize on your coursework

If your degree is not connected with the job you’re applying to, emphasize any courses that may be relevant.

For example, your degree is in Economics but you’re interested in working as a line cook, you could emphasize the following:

“Coursework included elective courses in Culinary Sciences, French Cooking Techniques, Fusion Cooking, and West African Cuisine.”

The recruiter will see the relevance and understand that you are a well-rounded candidate: while you were honing your skills in the kitchen, you were also learning business fundamentals.

Establish your brand

At the header, include your personal website and social media accounts. A personal website or blog can be a powerful tool, giving the recruiter a better sense of who you are and what you can offer the company.

The same can be said about social media profiles, but make sure they all look professional. You don’t want anything you’ve shared during a party to be misconstrued by a hiring manager.

Be concise and professional

Your resume should look professional. Make it easy to read by using:

  • Common font styles: Helvetica, Calibri and Cambria
  • A font size between 12 to 14
  • Appropriate spacing
  • No more than 6 bullet points when highlighting experience, education, and skills
  • Margins at 1” all around
  • Left Aligned format (Justified is also acceptable)

Lastly, review your resume as many times as necessary to make sure it has perfect grammar and does not contain a single misspelled word.

Good luck!


About Felix Tarcomnicu

Felix Tarcomnicu is the founder of Resume OK, which helps job seekers write professional resumes to find the job of their dreams.