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Resumes for New College Students

“I just started college. Do I need a resume already? I’m not going to be looking for a job for a couple of years!”

The best time to start thinking about your resume is long before you actually need one. But let’s be clear on what we mean by “resume.”

A resume is neither an oversized business card nor a short autobiography. The resume you hand an employer is an advertisement for yourself. It says, “here’s how I fill the hole that exists in your organization.” The most effective resumes are tailored for specific job openings.

Many of the part-time jobs and internships you apply for long before you graduate will ask for a resume. It’s an easy way for an employer to see the relevant experience you have. If you go to any employer info sessions or career fairs, having a resume handy makes it easy to start networking.

The resume you may have written in high school is a good place to start. Look at the experiences that fill it, and think about how you can replace them with college-level work, activities, and projects. A good goal is to have a resume by the end of your sophomore year that only has experience from college.

Here’s the format we recommend for resumes: https://go.illinois.edu/HPRCresume

This format has a few advantages:

  1. Many U of I career services offices promote this format, so it helps with your branding as a U of Illinois student. Employers who have never met someone with your major will see your experience framed in this way and find it familiar.
  2. It’s very fluid. You can pack a lot of experience on to a single page OR you can make the fonts and margins bigger to fill the page with less experience.
  3. The applicant tracking systems (ATS) that many employers use like Word docs like this — they have trouble distinguishing elaborate formatting from the content of your resume. Unlike more elaborate (and pretty) resume templates that you find online, this one has no coding embedded in it, and your relevant experience comes through smoothly. (But note that if you’re emailing your resume to an employer, it’s better to save it as a PDF and email it that way.)

Start filling in this format with your experience, and keep a version on your computer that has everything you’ve ever done, whether or not it seems directly relevant to your eventual career: volunteering, menial jobs, self-employment as a nanny or landscaper, activities, community/political/religious involvements, independent creative projects, EVERYTHING. Include places, dates, and a bulleted list of the specific skills you used and things you accomplished. When you need to produce a resume for a specific situation, having that comprehensive list to draw from makes it a lot easier.

Need help getting from this master resume file of everything you’ve ever done to the single-page resume that will get you that job or internship? That’s what the HPRC is here for.

  • Print out a draft and bring it to our weekly resume review on Fridays at noon in 105 Gregory Hall.
  • Check Handshake or the calendar on this website for our next workshop on resumes and cover letters — we do those regularly!
  • Take it to the Career Center — they also offer regular resume reviews at 715 S. Wright St.
  • Need a deeper dive into the questions of what should/shouldn’t go on your resume? Not sure what kinds of opportunities you should be targeting? Having trouble fitting your experience to our recommended format? Make an appointment with us.