A resume is a personal record of your academic and professional accomplishments. You can use a resume to apply for jobs, seek admission to graduate school or attain a role as a public official. It’s important to be succinct but include vital information like your high school education on a resume. If you’re unsure about writing your resume, seek the help of a career planning professional. Start writing your resume early so that you have time to ensure that it’s the best representation of you.

Consider Personal Details

Before you begin writing your resume, take stock of your personal details. Make a list of all of the common categories and brainstorm the corresponding experiences and credentials that apply. As you start this process, you may identify weak areas that need more padding. It’s never too late to engage in a new experience that can add to your resume. Here are a few common categories that you’ll find on a resume:

  • Career Objective
  • Work Experience
  • Volunteer Activities
  • Leadership Roles
  • Education
  • Grants and Scholarships
  • Honors and Awards

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Craft a Career Objective

A career objective is an optional category on a resume. Evaluate your career field and determine if including an objective is necessary. In some cases, you can use a career objective to highlight your most valuable traits. A career objective may also box you into a particular job type. If you choose to include one, make sure that it’s short, general and emphasizes your most valuable assets.

Think About Resume Format

There are a wide variety of formats that you can use to write a resume. There isn’t one right way to do it. You may choose to write paragraphs after each category, or you can use bullet points to list your personal details. Your resume shouldn’t be more than two pages, unless you are a seasoned professional. You can begin by writing everything down and then edit your work down to one or two pages.

Resume Education Format

Your educational background serves as a credential for what you’re prepared to do in the workplace. A college degree or certificate program demonstrates a knowledge base that may be critical for the job. Similarly, don’t forget your high school education on your resume. Your resume education format should begin with your most recent academic degree. Include the name of the degree or certification, the institution where it was earned and the date of the diploma.

List Your Work Experience

Your work experience will tell a prospective employer about the types of jobs that you’ve held. List your employment in descending order. Under each job, be sure to include a couple of important personal details. For example, if you managed a budget, created a new initiative or led a team, it’s important to explain this under each role. You should also have your dates of employment listed next to the job.

Emphasize Extracurricular Involvement

A prospective employer wants to know how you’ve demonstrated your leadership skills, while in school. Extracurricular activities show that you’re able to manage your time, are interested in contributing to the institution and have participated in organized leadership initiatives. If you served as a leader in a student organization, be sure to note that after the listed activity. Be ready to elaborate about what you learned through your involvement, when you get into an interview.

Accent Unique Qualities and Talents

It’s likely that you have unique skills that may not be included in the common categories on a resume. Don’t hesitate to create a special section on your resume that speaks to these qualities. You can even create a section called: other experience. Some examples of specialized skills include:

  • Software Experience (list the programs that you know)
  • Bilingual
  • Organizational Skills
  • Problem Solver
  • Driven
  • Graphic Designer
  • Trainer and Educator
  • Assessment and Evaluation Experience
  • Customer Centered

Highlight Awards and Honors

If you’ve earned honors and awards, be sure to create a section on your resume that celebrates these accomplishments. A prospective employer will look favorably upon previous recognition in school or the workplace. Don’t be shy about your successes. It’s important for an employer to see that you’re someone who is a standout in your field. In the end, this is a reflection of the kind of employee that you can be in the future.

Detail Service and Volunteer Activities

Volunteering in your community may seem insignificant, but it shows that you’re someone who cares about helping others. Even if you just volunteered for a single project, list it under your section on service and volunteer activities. An employer is looking for personal details that say more about the kind of citizen that you aspire to be. If you organized a project or had a long-term volunteer experience, be sure to note that in this section.

Stress Things that Make You a Standout

As you write your resume, don’t undersell yourself. Think about how you can be differentiated from others. Identify the shining moments in each category and note those so that a prospective employer knows that you’re special. This may include new ideas, innovative solutions or specialized success strategies.

Insert a Section on Grants and Scholarships

When you receive a grant or scholarship, it’s a sign that you are someone that is destined for success. Include all of the financial awards that you’ve received as part of your resume education format. A prospective employer will be impressed that you took the time to apply for these opportunities and that you were selected.

Review What Might Be Missing

It’s easy to leave things out that might make a favorable impression. Reflect upon what you’ve included and consider the things that might be missing. If your resume seems too short, expand upon the work that you did in each of the categories. Similarly, if your resume goes beyond two pages, take some things out, but leave the most impressive accomplishments in each category. Always include your high school education on your resume and any other academic certificates or degrees.

Have Others Vet Your Resume

It can be difficult to catch errors in a document that you’ve written. Show your resume to several people and ask them to provide feedback. Remember, everyone has a different perspective about how a resume should look. In the end, you need to feel comfortable with the layout of your personal details. Always run your resume through a proofreading program to catch spelling and grammatical errors. Unnecessary mistakes could cost you a job with a prospective employer.

Seek Professional References

When you’re applying for a job, expect to provide professional references. In some cases, you may need to list the references on your resume. You can also create a separate document that includes your references and their contact information. Be sure to ask your references in advance and provide them with important details about the job that you’re seeking.

Spend Time on a Cover Letter

A cover letter should accompany your resume. Think of this letter as a way to introduce yourself and emphasize the most important parts of your resume. Limit your cover letter to one page and begin by explaining why you’re the best candidate for the job. Go on to mention how your professional experience is ideal for the posted job opening. Finish with your interest in speaking further about the job.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.