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Resumés for students short on experience

By Linda White
Special to The Sun

For many college and university students, landing a summer job is key to filling their pockets with enough cash to carry them through another year of study. But in order to do that, they must first create a winning resumé that will catch the attention of a prospective employer.
President of Career Sport

That can be a daunting task, especially if you've spent more time studying than earning a paycheque. But many students don't give themselves enough credit for all they have to offer, believes Jeff Baldock, president of Career Sport and coach with Nexcareer Services of Toronto.

Begin by taking stock of volunteer and work experiences. "Create a profile of your key strengths and unique value proposition, which will tell an employer what makes you different from the competition or how you will bring value to an organization," Baldock says.

Examples of those strengths include organizational, interpersonal and creative skills. "As you review a person's history of accomplishments, you typically see a theme. That person applies a few key strengths to get results," he says.

Next, make a list of eight to 12 work-related accomplishments.

"Perhaps you got noticed by your peers or succeeded at reaching a goal. Understanding your accomplishments will allow you to go into an interview with real clarity to your strengths and how you can help an employer make money or improve productivity," Baldock says.
UOIT and Durham College

Soft skills are an important steppingstone to hard skills, notes Tara Blackburn, director of career and employment services at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

"Employers are looking for soft skills. You can't train someone to have a positive attitude, to have a willingness to learn and to get along well with others," she says.

Too often, students don't put enough value on their experiences. "Students often say they've only worked as a restaurant server," Blackburn says. "I look at that and see time management and organizational skills, especially when a student is going to school, volunteering, participating in varsity sports or completing a field placement. Once you start listing your accomplishments and skills, you'll wonder how you'll be able to fit it all on two pages."

Your experiences and accomplishments will dictate the type of resumé you want to build: a chronological resumé that lists your work experiences beginning with the most current, a functional resumé that highlights your skills, or a combination of both.

But remember, even a long list of accomplishments and skills can be overlooked if it's not well presented.

"You don't want to squish too much information on one page," Blackburn says. "Choose a font style that's easy to read."
Want to create a winning resume? Follow these tips:
  • List volunteer and work experiences.
  • Identify your unique skills, including soft skills.
  • List work-related accomplishments.
  • Choose a resume style that highlights what you have to offer.
  • Create an easy-to-read resume. Don't forget to include hobbies and interests.
  • Write informative cover letters.
  • Keep track of positions you applied for.

  • Create a meaningful cover letter. "I ask students how they feel when they receive a letter addressed 'Dear homeowner'," Blackburn says. "Why would an employer be excited to receive a letter addressed 'Dear employer'? Make the letter meaningful to the reader. Take the time to research the company so you can write a letter that makes sense and will be read."

    Keep track of which positions you apply for. "You don't want to pick up the phone and have to say, 'Who are you? What job did I apply for?'" Blackburn says.

    She also reminds you to have someone proofread your resumé for suggestions and accuracy.

    Once you land a summer job, keep track of your accomplishments and accept tasks that will allow you to continue to build your resumé.

    "It's important to work for finances, but it's important to work for experiences and to get a clear understanding of your strengths, likes and dislikes," Baldock says.

    "This is a chance to accumulate accomplishments. Talk to your employer about their needs, their goals and how they plan to get there. A summer job may not be ultimately where you want to end up ... but appreciate it for the experience, the piece of your resumé you need, such as working with others."

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