Part II: Resume writing for high school students: How to capitalize on the skills you already have!
With summer break just around the corner, hundreds of businesses are on the lookout for interns and seasonal hires, and a lack of experience is no reason for you to miss out on all those valuable real-world skills! As renowned tennis star, Arthur Ashe, once said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”. So, don’t let the fact that you’re still in high school trick you into thinking you have nothing to offer potential employers. OVS is here to help you recognize the valuable skills you already possess, and show you how to present them in a way that will make you a hit with employers!
OVS Tip: Before you begin, be sure to check out the Canadian Government’s general guide on the do’s and don’ts of resume writing.
Choosing the Right Template
While there are hundreds of websites out there telling you that they have the absolute best resume template available, the truth is no one such template exists. Different templates work for different industries, and more importantly, different types of candidates. As someone with little to no formal experience, you’ll want to go with a resume format that leads hiring managers to focus on the skills you do have, rather than the experience you don’t.
What to Include
Unlike traditional resumes that use most of their 1- to 2-page allotment listing experience and accomplishments, your resume will have the unique ability to focus on different kinds of sections. Be sure to use these wisely to promote yourself and really showcase what you bring to the table. Here are the sections you should think about including in your custom-built resume:
- This section is absolutely crucial in a resume with no experience, so make it the first thing an employer reads (after your name and contact information). Make sure to keep it brief (no more than 4-5 lines) and always tailor what you say to the job you are applying to. Remember, this is not your cover letter, it’s a summary of what you have to offer!
- Your skills are what are going to get you the job, so make sure you’re listing the right ones. (Hint: highlight keywords from the job posting to get an idea of what skills an employer is looking for!) Be sure to throw in a mix of key hard skills (i.e. Microsoft Office, Google Suite, etc.), as well as some soft skills that you really excel at (adaptability, creativity, etc.).
- List your current high school with your anticipated graduation date (Month, Year)
- Include your GPA only if it’s high, and be sure to include the unit of reference (e.g. 3.7/4) NOTE: This information is not expected or required on a resume, so it should only be included if it will impress the recruiter.
- *Volunteer Experience
- If you have any volunteer experience (even if it’s just helping out at your parent’s store or office), be sure to list it here. After all, a resume with some experience is better than a resume with no experience!
- Be sure to exemplify your specific responsibilities and accomplishments in these roles using strong, persuasive verbs (sell yourself!)
- Relevant Courses &/Certifications
- Include any industry-related online courses you may have taken from sites like Coursera, Udemy, IOA, etc. (Pro Tip: TAKE courses like these to show potential employers that you’re serious about getting the skills you need to succeed in your field of choice).
- Awards & Accomplishments
- This is your place to show-off! However, if you have a lot of things to be proud of, keep it to just a handful of your most impressive (& most relevant) accomplishments.
- If you are bi- or multi-lingual, make note of it in a separate languages section! Be sure to indicate your level of fluency in any languages you list.
- Hobbies & Interests
- This section is entirely optional, but it could help to showcase your human side and, if fate aligns, it could help pique a hiring manager’s attention if you share common interests.
- Take care in crafting this section: be sure to only include things that will reflect positively on your character (i.e. reading & spending time with family and friends, not: partying & playing video games).
- When formatting: list items in a single line, separated by commas, rather than using a bullet form list – this information is entirely extra, so you don’t want to waste valuable space on it.
So, while the thought of starting a job search with no formal work experience may sound like a losing battle, by arming yourself with a solid skills-based resume you can be confident in knowing you’ve put your best foot forward.
Think your resume is up to snuff? Head over to the official Canadian youth job bank and put it to the test! And while on your job hunt, remember that your first couple of jobs need only serve as stepping stones of experience that will help put you on the path to where you want to be.
P.S. Rejection is an inevitable part of any job search: don’t take it to heart – keep building your network and sending out applications until you find the shoe that fits!