How to apply for your first job

This is the first in a series on finding your first job post-graduation

High school, college or university may be over for students come summertime but usually the brief period of elation following graduation only gives way to a sense of unease as the inevitable milestone approaches – getting your first ‘real’ job.

When applying for any position – particularly a competitive one – human resource managers see dozens, sometimes hundreds, of applications and resumes per day.

It is of the utmost importance to have a resume that stands out. Even if you are just applying for a summer job to tide you over till the beginning of the next semester, or if you will only be graduating in upcoming years, it is never too early to start preparing your resume and job interview skills to ready yourself for the working world.

Tips for writing an effective resume

Do not lie. Despite what comedy shows or clich├ęs may report, lying on your resume will only lead to trouble down the line.

References are often followed up on and often an employer will call on you to utilize various skills you listed on your resume, and if you are not actually adept in these areas you stand at risk for losing your boss’s trust, at the very least (recall the Friends episode in which Joey claimed on his resume to have danced at a professional level, only to be offered a position in a Broadway play and called upon in the first rehearsal to demonstrate his superior dance skills to his fellow cast member!).

Having said this, feel free to enhance the experience and skills you do have. Think very carefully about what you learned in your previous jobs, thinking beyond the job description you were provided.

For example, if your work experience is limited to baby-sitting, carefully consider what you may have gained from working with children for so long. You will no doubt have improved your knowledge of how to educate, develop and discipline people in a nurturing manner, which would make you perfect for any kind of leadership position or a teaching position.

Consider your interests carefully. The section of your resume that reads ‘Interests and Activities’ is more important than many think, and for this reason it is the most under-utilized section of the resume.

People often don’t think too much about what to put into this section. It is, of course, important not to misrepresent your interests, but as people usually have many varied interests, pick just a few that may have taught you qualities that you believe will be relevant for the position you are applying for.

For example, if you are applying for an office leadership position or anything that involves working closely with colleagues, be sure to include any team sports you have taken part in, which will emphasize your teamwork skills.

What is your true objective? I would write this section last, even though it usually appears at the beginning of your resume. Some resume templates do not include this heading, but I feel it is something that should always be inserted. It may be titled ‘Objective’, ‘Goal’, ‘Aim’, but it all means the same thing – what are you hoping to achieve by applying for, and possibly getting, this job?

If your only goal is to make money, then do not put that on the resume, and seriously consider if the job you are applying for is what you really want to do. But if you are hoping to promote within the company, do not be afraid to put this down. Companies love to promote from within as it encourages development and inspiration within their employees.

There is no harm in writing that you hope to learn as much as you can in order to progress in your field of work. This represents ambition and initiative – two very important qualities to human resource managers, as they signify a willingness to work hard to reach your goals.

While you should apply for a job you are passionate about, do not be afraid to send out your resume to as many different positions as you can. Ultimately, any interviews you may be offered are good experience and should be accepted with enthusiasm, as each interview will only help to better prepare you for the next. Good luck!

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