How to write a resume for your first job

Preparing to get your first ‘real’ job? The prospect of a full time salary, new colleagues, and working in an industry you actually care about is exciting, right? But as someone with little (or maybe no) experience, it’s also normal to feel nervous - especially when you start thinking about what to fill your resume with. Never fear - we’ve got you covered with a guide to preparing a killer resume for your first job, so you can wow your employer from the get-go.

Celebration of graduation

Do you have a degree, diploma, or certificate? State these early on in your resume. Be sure to write down the formal qualification title, the university name or course provider, the year you graduated, and any accolades or awards you received during your study. If you apply for roles that require certain areas of expertise that you might’ve covered in particular subjects, write those units in a short list underneath.

Undertaking study or course work shows a dedication and commitment that employers favour, no matter what the industry! So, even if you completed a Diploma of Graphic Design, and are now applying for a full-time administrative assistant role at a law firm, note it down. Your change of direction and passion could also be the source of interesting conversation when you secure an interview!

If you’re in the middle of a course, or have just started, be sure to list all the same key details, mentioning that you’re “currently undertaking” study, instead of adding a start and end date. However, if you’re planning to study – good for you! – detail this briefly in your cover letter, rather than your resume.

Man writing a resume for his first job

Call out key accomplishments and skills

McKenna Lau, Recruitment Specialist (Victoria) in the HR Talent Acquisition team for Coles, says it’s important to make references to your accomplishments as detailed as possible. “Call them out, even those you don’t think are important,” she adds. Being a school or university captain or leader, or running events with volunteer organisations are worth citing, but be sure to explain what was required of you, and how you excelled in these positions.

Highlighting skills that transcend industry, age and experience is another great way to make your resume shine, even if it lacks a long list of past employers or high-profile companies. Being organised, a good communicator, and analytical are all examples of sought after transferable skills.

Any volunteers here?

“Volunteering shows that potential employees are capable of duties that can translate into the workplace, regardless of formal work experience” says Lau, so these should be clearly listed in the work experience or volunteering section of your resume.

Research conducted by SEEK found that 85% of Australian employers regard volunteering experience as credible work experience, so call out the organisation you volunteered for, and detail your role to show employers just how good you are. Where possible, add a contact name and number, so that the volunteer coordinator can be contacted as a referee.

Tell prospective employers about your great attitude

A can-do attitude is a common feature of role requirements. Why? Because candidates who are enthusiastic about work, like to persist in the face of problems, and exude positivity in the work environment are invaluable. Positivity is contagious for colleagues, helps boost productivity, and better still, is one that doesn’t rely on having years of industry-specific experience.

Make reference to your great attitude in the key skills or section of your resume, or include it in any mention of existing experience. For example, in addition to saying that you “assisted with the South Melbourne Surf Lifesaving Club’s annual fundraiser”, you can write, “completed all duties with enthusiasm”.

Be sure to ask the people you worked with, or those that can vouch for your can-do attitude, to be referees. Positivity can also extend to being flexible with your hours and availability for an interview (even if it means pushing back that weights session you had planned at the gym!) or offering yourself up for new tasks and responsibilities once in the role.

Prove you’re worth it

Part of writing any solid resume, no matter what the job or industry you’re applying for, is to ensure that the spelling, grammar and language are consistent throughout.

Once complete, triple check your resume for typos and relevancy to the role. Ask a friend, parent, mentor, or even your course tutor or volunteer coordinator to review your resume. Another set of eyes can be a great help, considering your resume is going to be read by people who don’t know you or have previous knowledge of your array of qualities. Ditch the pride and get a second opinion!