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Deborah Walker

From Pizza Guy to Professional

Three great résumé tips for new college graduates.

January 22, 2009
by Deborah Walker, CCMC

If you are struggling to find your first professional job after college here are three résumé tips to turn your career image from "Pizza Guy" to "Professional."

As a career coach, I'm often asked by new college graduates how to write a compelling résumé when they have little or no professional experience. How can you demonstrate the ability to perform in a professional capacity, such as accounting, marketing or finance, with a résumé that includes positions like pizza delivery guy, car wash attendant or quick-stop market cashier?

If you find yourself in the same dilemma, don't despair! Here are three tips to write a new college grad résumé that will capture the attention of employers and win you interviews.

  1. Highlight Your Potential

    One of the top reasons employers hire recent graduates is the opportunity to mold new hires to their own corporate culture and work philosophy. This hiring strategy motivates employers to look more for potential than for specific experience — a secret that not many graduates realize.

    No matter what jobs you have held, there are sure to be things you have done that show your potential. You will attract more employer attention if you pack your résumé full of those examples. For instance:

    • How you solved problems on the job
    • How you went beyond the call of duty to satisfy a customer
    • When you thought of a new way to do something faster
    • How you were able to help your supervisor or co-workers meet an important goal

    In a work world full of mediocre plodders, drive and ambition is hard to find. Smart companies value candidates with the potential to solve their future corporate challenges.

  2. Demonstrate Your Work Ethic

    Employers are interested in finding new talent with strong work ethic. One way to illustrate this is by showing how you juggled school life and real life. Indicate with each employment entry how many college credits you handled while employed full- or part-time. A student who has had to work during college has learned to manage time wisely, set priorities and make the best use of limited resources. These are qualities that every employer values.

    In addition, you might want to include any internship experience you have. While the experience might not have been a paid position, it can still showcase your ability to work in a professional capacity. And semester-long school projects can also be a good opportunity to demonstrate your ability to perform, work well with a group and create a finished product.

  3. Showcase Your Leadership Skills

    Employers are always looking for future leaders. You can illustrate this with extracurricular and volunteer activities you participated in during college. List positions of leadership as well as committees you helped chair. Don't forget to include how you benefited those organizations. For instance, how you:

    • Helped organize a fund or membership drive
    • Planned an annual event that drew X% more than the previous year
    • Recruited entertainment to promote an on-campus event
    • Led a campaign that resulted in a change of campus policy

    Coursework also offers opportunity to demonstrate leadership, as well as team-building ability. Be sure to include examples like:

    • When you led a team of classmates in a research project that resulted in publication
    • How you created a class presentation that led to greater insight into a complex subject

Conclusion

The time and effort you spend incorporating these three tips into your résumé will lead to better job opportunities right from the start. Don’t be like many who spend their first few years out of college fumbling from one dead-end job to another. Start your job search off right with a résumé that illustrates your potential, work ethic, and leadership, and soon you’ll be on the path to a rewarding professional career.

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Deborah Walker CCMC, is a career coach who works with recent college graduates preparing them to compete in the toughest job markets. Her clients gain top performing skills in résumé writing, interview preparation and salary negotiation.