How To Write Your First Resume (With Sample)

No resume is easier to write than the first one — and no resume is harder to write than that first specimen.

A first resume is easy to write because there’s very little to note. You don’t yet have a work history, or much of a work history.

On the other hand, a resume can be enormously difficult to write because you not only want a job, you also want an opportunity. Unfortunately, a lot of people also want that same opportunity for the position you covet and some of them may well be better qualified than you.

A properly-written and packaged resume is a chance to break new ground, to stand out, to get ahead. Here’s how to do it.

Resume Writing: The Basic Steps

Step 1: The absolute #1 goal of any resume is to have employers get back in touch. For that reason the top of the resume should include your contact information in clear and concise language.

Step 2: You could, if you want, include your age, marital status and the number of children you have, if any. However, it is against federal law to base employment decisions on such issues as age, gender, race, religion, national origin, marital status, pregnancy, possible military deployment or disability. There are also various standards at the state, county and city levels which may prevent employers from denying you a job because of such benchmarks as sexual preference or political affiliation.

Step 3: What is your work experience to date? This may seem strange given that this is your first resume, but it’s possible that you have experience on a part-time basis, during summers or with internships. Military experience is surely an occupational pursuit and an index of accomplishment. The federal government, by law,  gives preference to veterans in certain situations.

Important: Never lie on a resume. Factual misstatements can be grounds for instant and immediate dismissal. Never claim to have a degree if it’s not true. Never claim veteran’s status if it’s not true. Always expect employers to verify every claim you make — and be prepared to prove each and every one.

Step 4: What is your educational status? As this is your first resume it makes sense to list high school, college and technical training. Future resumes will gradually drop off the older and less important references.

Step 5: What are your honors and accomplishments? Everything counts, from becoming an Eagle Scout to being in the high school band or on the football team.

Step 6: Include your references here. Important: Contact proposed referencesbefore using individual names so folks won’t be surprised when they get a call asking about you.

Good reference sources include local doctors you use, friends of the family, military advisers and college professors.

Alternatively, you may wish to simply state that “References Are Available Upon Request.” In this case, have references prepared and ready to respond to employer inquiries.

Step 7: Design your resume so that it’s easy to read. Use a spell checker repeatedly to assure that your words are properly spelled. Read your resume out loud to find typos and poor wording. Have someone else read your resume out loud. Be sure it’s easy to read and fully understandable.

When you print your resume use a paper with a heavy stock. Stationery stores sell such paper and envelopes in small quantities and at little cost. Plain white paper is fine, though an ivory color is also acceptable. Pink, yellow, blue, dark gray, puce, etc., are out.

To see how a model first resume might look, please look at this sample resume.

Electronic Resumes

No doubt people still send resumes through the postal system, but in today’s world of email and websites the odds are that many jobs will require you to send a resume electronically.

So, no problem, no fuss, no cost. Here’s how:

  • Go to OpenOffice.org
  • Download the latest edition of Open Office. It’s free, it’s powerful and it includes programs for word processing, spreadsheets, databases, etc.
  • Write your resume.
  • Save it in a “doc” format using the Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP setting. (When you press “save as” a box will come up — look at the “save as type” options.)
  • Once the resume is saved, look at the top of the screen. Just below “View” and “Insert” you will see a little icon with a touch of red. Press the icon and your resume will be saved as a PDF document.
  • To submit electronically you typically must attach your resume to email or upload it to an employer’s job page.

Why send documents in a PDF format? The formatting will be preserved and everyone can open PDF documents, so there are no software or program issues. Of course, if an employer specifies that they want resumes in a “doc” format that’s fine — you also have the resume in that format as well.

Be certain that as you update your resume that you also save it again as a PDF file with each revision.

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