If you're still in college, you might be more focused on your weekend plans and finals than on resumes, cover letters and job applications. However, if you wait until the last minute, you will certainly lose out on serious job opportunities that often crop up well ahead of college graduation.
In addition, a solid resume will make it easier to apply for temp jobs, summer internships, work-study positions and the eventual job of your dreams.
Consider the following five ways that you can prepare your resume for the real world...
1. Start with school.
After you have notable professional experience, that will start at the top of your resume. In the meantime, however, place your "Education" section at the top, listing the name of your college, location, expected graduation date, and any honors or distinctions. If your GPA is above a 3.0, you can list that as well, otherwise, consider just listing the average GPA for your major if that is stronger. You may also list significant coursework that relates to your major.
2. Examine your experience.
If you have some professional experience to share, great. Internships, for example, are a great addition to your resume, particularly if they are in your field of interest; share what you did and how it contributed to the organization. If, however, your experience lies more in volunteerism or student boards, you can share that experience as well. Ultimately, this section can showcase what you are capable of and how you have already made a contribution.
3. Less is usually more.
Unless you have had numerous world-class internships in addition to notable volunteer work and your college education, a one-page resume is usually more than enough for most college graduates. A resume is intended to be the highlights of your overall experience, not every single detail of it. Edit carefully to ensure that you have your greatest success stories listed while reducing excess words and details. Your resume should be easy to read with plenty of white space.
4. Incorporate keywords, metrics, and examples.
Look at job descriptions for the industry you are interested in--what keywords come up again and again? Make sure those are incorporated in your resume, which can help it get past the automatic scanners many companies use. Likewise, metrics and examples which reveal specific evidence of your capabilities can be eye-catching and appealing to hiring managers.
5. Think from the perspective of the hiring manager.
Hiring managers spend very little time reviewing resumes before they make a "keep" or "reject" decision. With that in mind, it is important to think from their perspective and ensure that your resume is appealing and a definite "yes". Have you done a final review for spelling, grammar, and punctuation? Have you made it easy to identify your major accomplishments? Have you incorporated bold headings, bullets, white space and other elements designed for easy reading? Have you followed any noted rules when applying for a specific job? Be sure to ask a friend or family member in the workforce to review your resume with a hiring manager's perspective in mind to ensure it passes the test.
Once you have a well-written resume that highlights your key skills and accomplishments as well as shows how you have contributed to work and school efforts, you can take the next steps (applying for jobs, networking and practicing for job interviews).