Post-Grad Guide– Writing Your First Resume

Sometimes it seems like you can’t go a day without reading a new article about how recent college graduates have absolutely no chance of finding a job in today’s economy. Trust me, I graduated from a liberal arts college this June with a degree in Creative Writing and no solid plans. Yet, one month and two weeks after I walked across the stage at graduation, I now have a job that uses my degree, with an employer I’m genuinely excited to be involved with.

The message here is that there’s hope for you, or any recent or future graduates you know, to find rewarding work, even in a tough economy.

So how do you go about making this happen? In this series I’ll be outlining some of the things I wish I’d known before I began my job hunt in hopes of helping other recent graduates in their own search for employment. This article deals with the seemingly simple, but often infuriatingly fraught with uncertainties, process of writing your first resume.

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Time to get writing


First of all, keep your resume to one page.

This is one of those rules that no one ever explicitly tells you, but that everyone seems to expect you to know anyway. As a recent graduate there isn’t really any reason you need a resume longer than a single page. “But,” you might protest, “I have a ton of awards and I’ve had a different job every winter and summer break!” It doesn’t matter, your future employer wants to get to know you at a glance, not sit down with a glass of wine and peruse your resume like a fascinating novel. I condensed what was initially a four page resume that lovingly detailed all of my work experience and accomplishments into a one page list of facts about myself, and got much better results that way.

In addition to a heading at the top that says your name and contact information (permanent address, phone number, and e-mail address), your resume needs these four sections:

A summary that includes the objective of the resume and your skills. Mine said, “Seeking a position in the publishing field using my administrative, copy editing, writing, event planning, and research skills. Office experience includes Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook).” Keep it to about three sentences relevant to the job, meaning that you should let your employer know up front that you have the skills that they’re looking for.

An Education section that names your college(s) and any grants/scholarships. You can format it like this, “B.A. (or whatever degree you earned), Your College, City, State, Graduation Year – Major (whatever-your-minor-was minor) under A Scholarship You Earned.”

An Experience section. If you’ve been making the most of your time as a student worker you’ll have lots to talk about. If that’s true, this is where you’ll be tempted to get wordy, but try to keep your job descriptions to three sentences maximum. Your cover letter, not your resume, is the chance to expand on this information. It should look something like this,
Job Title-beginning date-ending date
Company Name, City, State.
Very brief job description.

As an example, here’s my entry for Self Reliance Works,
Monthly Columnist – 2/11 to present
Self Reliance Works, Virtual Publication:
Monthly columnist on topics ranging from assertive communication to travel planning.

Arrange the jobs in chronological order, or, if you prefer, in order of most relevant to least relevant. If you want to leave off irrelevant positions (say, cashier at Target when you’re applying for a Copy Writer position) that’s fine, so long as doing so doesn’t leave a huge gap in your employment history. You never want a prospective employer to think you’ve just been sitting on your hands for a year or so.

Finally, list your Awards and Activities. Again, no need to go into detail, simply list scholarships you’ve been awarded, leadership positions you’ve held, and teams and clubs you’ve been a part of.

In the end you’ll have something that looks like a longer version of this (with your work experience rather than mine, obviously):


Your Name
321 Example Blvd. · A City, NY 12170
(888) 888-8888 · [email protected]

Summary: Seeking a position in the ____ field using my ____, _____, _____, and ____ skills. Office experience includes Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook).


B.A., My College, A Town, KS, 2011 – Creative Writing (History minor) under KS Writers’ Scholarship.


Monthly Columnist – 2/11 to present
Self Reliance Works, Virtual Publication:
Monthly columnist on topics ranging from assertive communication to travel planning.

Copy Editor – 1/11 to 6/11
My College News, Town, KS
Fact checker and copy editor for My College News. Collaborator on story choices and editorial policy for the paper.

Activities and Awards:
Track Team 2007-2011
Captain 2010-2011

Now that you’ve soaked all that in, I have to add that you should take this, and any resume advice, with a grain of salt. That, you see, is where the maddening part of the whole process comes in, there’s no real “right answer” in terms of resume format. Take a moment to plug “sample resumes” into a search engine and you’ll see a plethora of different formats. You’ll probably also find one article sternly warning you never to do what another says you mustalways do.

That’s the thing about the resume process, and the job hunt in general, employers are human, and they have quirks, likes, and dislikes that often conflict. Your best bet is to take advice, like the tips I’ve just given you, and use it as a guide and an example of what has worked for other people. Read up as much as you can, and then from there, research the company you’re applying to, and the person who will receive your application, as thoroughly as you can. Try to tailor your resume to them.

When you’re done writing, give it to a few different people to read over, do a final proofread, and then send it off. If you’ve worked hard to put together a comprehensive reader-friendly summary of yourself, then you’ve done what you can and it’s time to wait for that call asking you to come in for an interview.

Photo Credit


Caitlin Sahm starts her post-grad day job in marketing two days after this article will go live. She lives in upstate New York where she’s figuring out “what comes next” and having fun doing it.


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