Write Your First Resume

No previous work experience? No problem.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #83

Today's topic is creating a resume when you are new to the job market and don’t have a work history.

Michael writes in:

After listening to your "How to Write a Resume," I noticed you focused more on established people who already have a resumé or work experience. My question is as follows: Stever, what is your advice for a young person, either right out of high school or one writing a resumé for the first time, in creating their resumé?

Looking for Your First Job?

Now is a very challenging time to be entering the workforce. Thanks to the tens of millions of unemployed people--no matter who you are--you’re competing head-to-head with people who have more experience and more contacts than you do.

Welcome to the wonderful world of economic downturns combined with the aging of the population. But before you get too mad at your parents’ generation, remember they had hair spray and dial telephones phones growing up. You have hair gel, text messaging, the Internet, iPods, the Wii, and AXE Body Spray. You win.

Why Write a Resume?

Why do employers want resumes? Because they hope a resume will give them a clue about who they want to hire. Maybe they see that Fred the job applicant worked for a competitor. They want to hire Fred because they know that with just a little bit of “enhanced” interrogation, Fred will be thrilled to reveal all of those competitive secrets. Although this is highly unethical and some would say immoral, the interrogation part at least might currently be legal, so bring in the water buckets, boys.

If an employer isn’t looking for specific company experience, they may be looking for candidates with specific skills and experience: operating heavy machinery, writing ad copy for fashion magazines, or creating complex “innovative” financial instruments for the good of society.

Assess Your Skills

Although you can’t compete with skills that require experience in the job market, you can compete with the skills you do have. Look over the classes you have taken, student groups you have been involved with, clubs, extracurriculars, boys or girls clubs, scouts, and so on. Make a list of all the skills you have developed. It may help to do this with someone who knows the kind of job you are applying for, so they can help you identify relevant skills. You may take your accomplishments for granted, but they may hide seriously needed skills. Did you budget a school play? Did you organize a fund-raiser or other event? Did you sell enough magazines to pay for a trip to Tasmania? These are all skills you can highlight on a resume.

Consider organizing your resume into sections by skill. In each section include your experience that demonstrates the particular skill. “Sales skills” might include your Tasmania magazine sales, your senior year fund-raiser, and your experience buying and selling rare comic books. “Leadership skills” might highlight your uncanny ability to drag your entire social circle to fifty consecutive weeks of Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night at midnight. Ok, that might be an exaggeration.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.