Many college grads do not get their dream jobs right away, nor do they usually start out on a clearly defined career path. Often, these young men and women lack the focus to begin their true career development or to implement a goal-directed job search. So, naturally, they find transition positions.
These positions include a variety of experiences. Some people plan to enter graduate school, so they seek something meaningful to do. The jobs can be for experience or adventures, such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America, or a job teaching English in another country. The job might also be something practical, such as a retail sales job, just for a paycheck. Still others might be in positions unrelated to their majors, but are with a well-known employer and offer name recognition and prestige.
No matter what the position is, the resume must support and inspire a first step onto a true career path. In these cases, it is best to avoid the reverse-chronological format, as experience is still limited and the format will make it difficult to project any sense of goal or focus. It's most important to present your potential and identify your goals for the future.
Here are some common questions that new job seekers generally ask:
If what I am doing now has nothing to do with my goals, how and where do I present my experience? Spend some time on self-assessment. Find some commonality between your goals and current or past experience. If there is no connection, employers will not view you as qualified for their opening. Consider taking additional coursework with your goals in mind. Or, take a step back and go for a lower-level job in the area of your goal to gain some credible work history.
What about education; specifically, my major? Build this up as it applies to your job target. Show how your education and recent training will be advantageous to the new employer.
Do I highlight what I have been doing for the past few years? Yes — but focus on specific responsibilities that are similar in scope or typical of what you will be doing in your new job. What can you bring to this position that others cannot?
Where and how do I present my most recent experiences? Any job candidate except a recent college graduate should place work experience above education, near the top of the resume and/or a qualification summary. Follow the examples in this book on formatting and presentation.
If I wasn't given enough responsibilities to yield achievements, how do I leverage my current job? Surely, something you did makes you proud — what is it? Did you streamline a process? Did you generate more reports than your predecessor? Did you volunteer for any committees? If you think you haven't had any notable achievements, you need to re-examine your work and the challenges you've faced. Almost all employment experiences can be positioned to showcase the job seeker in some way. Additionally, consider your present employer's reputation. A position with negligible responsibilities at a company that is a household name may generate interest simply because of the kind of environment or leadership interaction you faced on a daily basis.
Candidates seeking their first jobs must focus their resumes, job-search correspondence, and interviews on the qualifications they already have and those they will need to succeed in the future. Resumes must target the newly identified goals. Your objective must be presented clearly and supported with powerful summaries of your qualifications.
Focus here is critical. You must use the resume writing process to identify and articulate your goals. Working through the first five of the seven steps will help. You must abandon the attitude of leaving your options open if you're going to focus on future goals.