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How to make a resume for your first job? 6 steps to jumpstart your career

How to make a resume for your first job? 6 steps to jumpstart your career

  • How to write a resume for a job in six steps
  • 1. Identify your target jobs
  • 2. Reflect on your experiences
  • 3. Choose the right resume format
  • 4. Write each section
  • 5. Proofread and edit
  • 6. Tailor your resume
  • Design tips
  • Naming and saving your resume
  • Key Takeaways

Ready to land your first job? Don’t chance it. Follow this expert advice on how to make a resume for your first job and jumpstart your search.

Entering the workforce for the first time can be an exciting yet daunting experience. As you conduct your job search, you will certainly be asked to submit a resume. It’s one of the most important tools you'll need as you hunt for new career opportunities.

But if you’ve never had a job before, it may be challenging to write a document outlining your work experience. Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to make a resume for your first job, so you stand out as a strong candidate.

We cover: 

  • 6 steps to writing your resume

  • Design tips for a polished resume

  • How to name and save your resume 

How to write a resume for a job in six steps

As you create your resume, think of it as a marketing document that highlights your most compelling attributes. The key is not to just list your past experiences. Use your resume as an opportunity to tell your story and show employers why they should consider you for the role.

First impressions matter, so it’s worth investing the time and energy into creating a strong resume to improve your chances of landing your first job. Even without work experience, a strong resume can position you for new career opportunities.

Follow these six steps:

1. Identify your target jobs

To make a resume for your first job, start by identifying your target jobs. Consider the type of position you want and the industries you’re interested in. Research job descriptions and requirements to understand what skills, qualifications, and experiences they are seeking.

Study job descriptions, compile job titles, and take note of important responsibilities and skills. This will help you tailor your resume and focus on the aspects of your background that align with the jobs you're targeting.

By understanding the specific needs of your potential employers, you can better position yourself as a strong candidate even without direct work experience. 

2. Reflect on your experiences

Taking the time to reflect on your background is crucial when crafting a resume without a formal work history. Think about the various activities you've been involved in, such as school projects, volunteer work, internships, clubs, or extracurricular activities.

Identify the skills and qualities you developed, like teamwork, leadership, or communication. These transferable skills are valuable to employers and can help demonstrate your potential as a candidate. 

The key here is to draw connections between your background and the requirements of your target job, making your resume more compelling to employers.

3. Choose the right resume format

There are two predominant resume formats: chronological and functional. Here’s a quick overview of each:

  • Chronological resume. This lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job and working your way back. Each entry includes your job title, company name, location, and dates of employment, followed by a brief description of your responsibilities and achievements.

  • Functional resume. Also known as a skills-based resume, it focuses on your skills and abilities rather than your chronological work history. In this format, you organize your resume by skill categories such as leadership, communication, or technical abilities, and provide examples of experiences that demonstrate these skills.

Although you may be more inclined to use a functional format, note that they are frowned upon as they can’t be accurately parsed by the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software that most companies use to sort resumes  So, a functional resume will likely not make it into the hands of a hiring manager. Even if you don’t have a list of past jobs, you can stick with a chronological format and list any internships, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities instead. 

4. Write each section

Now that we’re prepared, it’s time to start writing each component of the resume. But what do you put on a resume with little to no experience?

Start with a header, which provides potential employers with your contact information. This section should be at the top of your resume and include the following: 

  • Full name. Use your first and last name and include a middle initial if you prefer. Your name should be the largest element on the page.

  • Phone number. List a phone number where you can easily be reached, ideally a mobile number.

  • Email address. Use a professional email address, such as your name rather than a nickname, and avoid inappropriate email handles.

  • Location. While you don’t need to include your full home address, listing your city and state can help employers understand your proximity to the job location.

  • LinkedIn profile. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile if you have one and ensure that your profile is up-to-date.

  • Other professional links. Depending on your industry, add a link to a professional portfolio, website, or other relevant online presence.

Copyable example

Alexis P. Morgan` New York, NY 10001 | (555) 123-4567 [email protected] | linkedin.com/in/alexispmorgan | Portfolio: alexispmorgan.com

Keep your name consistent across the web so employers can make the distinction between you and others with similar names. For example, if you use a middle initial on the resume, place it on your cover letter, LinkedIn profile, portfolio, personal website, or anywhere else you use your name. This allows you to have a cohesive personal brand across all mediums.

Then, make your resume for your first time job with a concise yet powerful summary that showcases your most relevant qualifications. Even if you don’t have many on-the-job experiences to reference, emphasize your educational achievements, key skills, and personal strengths that align with the job you're targeting. Don’t skip this section. It sets the tone for the entire document and serves as your first impression to the hiring manager.

Sample summary for new grad looking for an entry-level accounting role

Recent accounting graduate with hands-on experience managing finances for a small family business. Proven leadership skills as president of the Accounting Student Association. Dedicated team player committed to delivering accurate and timely financial insights to drive organizational success.

You can also create a dedicated skills section to highlight your abilities. Carefully review the job listing for required qualifications and integrate relevant skills throughout your resume. This not only emphasizes your fit for the role but also helps your resume pass through applicant tracking systems (ATS) often used by employers.

By strategically incorporating keywords from the job description into your resume, you position yourself as a strong candidate for the job and increase your chances of attracting hiring managers.

Example skills section for someone pursuing a customer service role with no prior experience


Problem-solving | Time management | Teamwork | Leadership Conflict resolution | Negotiation | Relationship Building | Active listening

Expert Tip

Leverage course names to include keywords

If you don’t have work experience but you've taken relevant courses, include the course titles on your resume to match the keywords in the job posting.

While you may not have professional work experience, you likely have other experiences that demonstrate your abilities. Relevant experience outside a traditional job could include internships, student teaching, community service, or volunteer experience. Others may be a role in a student organization, participation in sports, coaching or mentoring, or personal projects.

When describing your experience, use a paragraph to describe your day-to-day tasks and a bulleted list to convey your achievements. The key here is to focus on the outcomes of your actions. When possible, quantify your accomplishments by using numbers to provide context to your achievements. For example, if you helped organize a charity event, mention the number of attendees or the amount of funds raised.

Sample experience entry for a resume of a volunteer library assistant looking for office manager roles

Volunteer Library Assistant (June 2022 – August 2022) Main Street Public Library | Citytown, State Managed library operations, including cataloging materials, creating engaging workshops, and organizing community events. Provided friendly and efficient service at the checkout desk, assisting an average of 50 patrons daily with book checkouts, returns, and locating materials.

  • Streamlined book organization process, reducing time spent 20% and ensuring the library's collection was consistently well-maintained and accessible.

  • Managed and accurately filed paperwork, including library membership forms and late return notices, leading to a 15% reduction in data entry errors.

  • Conducted regular inventory checks, identifying and resolving discrepancies, which contributed to a 5% improvement in collection accuracy.

Since you may not have extensive work experience, a good strategy for marketing yourself is to focus on your education. Add your school name, graduation date (or anticipated date), and any honors or awards you've received. If you've taken courses relevant to the job, mention them as well.

Sample education entry for someone pursuing an associate’s degree in marketing

Citytown Community College; Citytown, State Associate of Arts in Marketing (Expected Graduation: May 2026)

Relevant Courses: Introduction to Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Principles of Advertising, Digital Marketing Strategies

Activities: Active member of the Marketing Club; participated in various case competitions and industry networking events.

Depending on the job, you may want to create additional sections such as certifications, projects, hobbies, or extracurricular activities that showcase your unique strengths and interests.

Additional sections may include awards, scholastic honors, scholarships, or academic projects. Others are language proficiency or hobbies.

Remember, focus on the experiences most relevant to the type of roles you are targeting. Instead of adding everything you’ve done, ask yourself, “Would the employer find this valuable?” 

5. Proofread and edit

An error-free resume reflects your attention to detail. Carefully proofread it to catch any errors and ensure it flows smoothly. Ask a trusted friend or mentor to review it for you as well.

Look out for typos, grammatical mistakes, and formatting inconsistencies that could undermine your credibility and professionalism. Don’t forget to double-check your contact information for accuracy.

6. Tailor your resume

Customizing your resume for each job application is a necessary yet often underutilized strategy when job searching. By tailoring your resume to the specific job description, you can highlight the skills, experiences, and accomplishments that directly align with the position's requirements. 

To tailor your resume, adjust the order of your sections to prioritize the most relevant information. Incorporate key phrases from the job description throughout the resume. Although the jobs may be the same, different companies have different ways of describing the work. Pay attention to the specific phrases and job title they are using along with the emphasized skills. Finally, rephrase your accomplishments to more closely align with the language used in the job posting.

This targeted approach not only displays your relevant qualifications but shows the hiring manager how you can contribute to the company's success (and you understand the job). 

Statistical Insight

According to Jobvite, 83 percent of recruiters say they're more likely to hire a candidate who has tailored their resume to the specific job they're applying for. 

Design tips

The way your information is laid out on the page is also important. While the content takes priority, it is still vital that the information is organized. When someone reviews your resume, how it looks will serve as their first impression before they read a word. 

Employ these design tips to create visual appeal especially for a resume for a first time job: 

  • Keep it concise. Aim for a one-page resume that presents your qualifications without overwhelming the reader.

  • Use a clean and professional layout. Opt for a simple, easy-to-read design with plenty of white space. Use consistent fonts, colors, and formatting throughout the document.

  • Choose an easy-to-read font. Avoid using overly elaborate or decorative fonts, as these are more difficult to read. Use a clean font such as Arial, Calibri, or Aptos for your resume. Keep the font size between 10 and 12 points for body text and no more than 14 for section headings.

  • Use bullet points for clarity. Use uniform bullet points to improve readability when describing your skills or relevant experiences.

  • Incorporate color sparingly. Add color thoughtfully to make your resume stand out. Emphasize your name, section headers, or bullets, opting for professional, muted tones like navy. Avoid using too many colors or overly bright shades.

  • Use bold and italics sparingly. While emphasizing certain points can be effective, overusing bold or italicized text can be distracting. Stick to a minimalist approach, only bolding elements you want to stand out like section headings.

  • Watch your margins. Aim for uniform margins around the edges of your resume. This balance of space prevents your document from feeling crowded.

With a few simple design elements, you can create a polished resume that makes you shine even if you lack traditional work experience.

Statistical Insight

Per key statistics, 68% of hiring managers say they would reject a candidate because of a poorly formatted resume. 

Naming and saving your resume

When saving your resume, the safest file format is Microsoft Word, as it’s most widely accepted by the ATS. Be sure, though, to follow any instructions in the job posting about file types. 

Use a clear and professional file name to make your resume easy to identify for hiring managers and recruiters. Avoid using generic file names like "resume" or "myresume." Instead, include your full name and the word "resume" in the file name, such as "JaneDoe_Resume.docx."

You might also consider including the job title or reference number in the file name, such as "JaneDoe_MarketingAssociate_Resume.docx." This approach helps your resume stand out in a hiring manager's inbox and demonstrates your attention to detail and professionalism.

Good luck on your journey to your first job!

Need inspiration? Check out our extensive library of over 100 resume examples to create a unique resume tailored to your needs. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Research and focus on the type of positions and industries you want to target to tailor your resume effectively.

  2. Leverage school projects, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities to showcase transferable skills relevant to your target jobs.

  3. Craft each section with care, starting with a clear header, a compelling summary, and detailed descriptions of skills and relevant experiences.

  4. Ensure your resume is polished, error-free, and easy to read with consistent formatting and clear headings.

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