by Sandy Branham, a PhD candidate in Texts & Technology and Writing Studio Assistant Coordinator
So, you have to write a résumé, but you’re not quite sure how to begin because you feel like you don’t have any experience. Well, first off, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Many undergraduate students, particularly those who have not worked or have worked very little, believe that they do not have enough experience to compose a résumé. However, I think that once you begin reflecting on your educational, extracurricular, and volunteer activities, you’ll find that you do have valuable experiences that you can highlight on your résumé to demonstrate some of your amazing skills and qualities.
This blog post focuses on how you can present your educational experiences on your résumé to make up for your lack of job experience.
Typically, the education section of a résumé will look something like this:
The typical entry for education includes the name of the university or college you attended; the degree that you earned or are pursuing; any concentrations, minors, or certificates that you earned or are pursuing; your GPA (only if it is high); and your date of graduation. In this example, the writer had not yet graduated and is indicating that her expected date of graduation is May of 2017.
At first glance, it seems that there might not be much to add here. But, there is! Take a moment to make a list of all of the classes that you’ve taken so far in your college career that might be applicable to the position you are seeking. Think here not only of classes in your major, but also of electives that might have focused on skills like communication, writing, or public speaking, skills which are relevant for most professional positions. Then, include the courses that are most relevant in a “Relevant Coursework” section, which might look something like this:
Now, with the addition of a list of relevant courses, your reader has a better understanding of your previous educational experiences. For example, we can easily see that this writer not only has significant experience with courses in the hard sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), she also has experience in social science (sociology) and in the communication of technical information.
Maybe adding a Relevant Coursework section is all you need to do to fill up the page. If so, great! You’ve got a full page of content and you’re telling the reader more about your educational background. But maybe your page is still feeling a bit empty. What now?
If you’re in a situation where you have no work experience, the first thing you want to attempt to highlight are your experiences with volunteering or in campus or community organizations. You’ll format these entries just as you would format the entries in an employment section, listing your title, the organization you volunteered for, when and where you volunteered, and including bullet points that described what you did/learned. So, an entry for volunteer experience might look like this:
But, wait! What if you don’t have any volunteer experience? Have no fear; you can highlight your skills and qualifications by presenting the work you’ve done in your classes in more detail. So, just as in your Volunteer Experience section, you can highlight either the projects you’ve completed in your classes, or you can organize this section around your skills. For example:
In the first example, our writer is organizing her information based on projects, which is a good organizational pattern to follow if you have several large projects that you can highlight in this way. In the second example, our writer is organizing her experiences based on skills; she might also have subsections in this category dedicated to leadership, time management, or organization, for example. The key here is to be using bullet points to describe the skills and qualities you developed as a result of these experiences rather than, for example, just listing the assignments you completed in a particular class.
Hopefully, this post has helped you to see how, by looking at your experiences from a different perspective, and by making the categories you include on your résumé work for you, you can fill the page and show a potential employer all of the amazing skills and qualities you have to offer!