As a high school student with little to no formal work experience, applying for your first job can be pretty intimidating. How do you market yourself as the best choice for the position without any experience?
Here is some advice on how to get your first job:
1. The Career Objective
When writing a resume with minimal work experience like this high school senior, including a convincing objective will help to set you apart from other applicants. The resume objective is a one or two-sentence statement that consists of four components: your strongest attributes, the job position you’re seeking, skills/experience, and the value you will bring to the company. This applicant wrote the following objective:
“A friendly, energetic (strong attributes) high school senior seeking to become a camp counselor (position) to provide children a summer camp adventure that they will treasure forever (value). Four years of experience babysitting, knowledge of first aid procedures, and successful in coordinating fun bonding activities (skills/experience).”
Resume objectives aren’t mandatory, but for busy hiring managers scanning hundreds of bland applications, hooking them with what makes you the best candidate can be refreshing.
2. The Education Section
Having a thorough education section that reflects well on you gives employers a good sense of the work ethic you will bring to the workplace. For a high school student, the education section consists of your expected graduation date, high school’s name and location, GPA, and courses related to the job.
- GPA: If you boast a GPA above 3.0, include it! Employers will take note of your hard work.
- Related Courses: If you’ve taken classes that align with a job’s responsibilities and showcase a knowledgeable background, include them! For example, a student applying for an internship as a graphic artist may add the following in their resume:
The more experience and foundational knowledge you have in the game, the more likely you are to be hired than those without prior related coursework. Why? You will be easier to train, and can begin working upon hiring!
3. Use Resume Building Verbs
Resume building verbs are verbs that accurately reflect your skills and experience. Instead of diluting the value of your accomplishments by saying “did this” or “did that”, choose verbs that enhance the language of your resume and captivate the recruiter. Below are just a few action verbs that will spice up your resume:
Be sure to check out MIT’s resume action verbs to find the right words to highlight your accomplishments.
4. Extracurricular Activities
Are you involved in clubs, sports, volunteer work, or organizations? To help fill empty space and show your professional potential, you can highlight extracurricular activities instead. Employers willing to hire high school students are going to focus on this section to find if your passions, personality, and skills fit their company, so be meticulous in this section! Let’s examine how this applicant structures the extracurricular section:
With each activity, he identifies his position, organization, dates, responsibilities, and accomplishments (if applicable). Most importantly, these extracurriculars come with transferable skills and duties that make him a good fit for the job.
5. Work Experience
As a teenager, this section can be challenging to go about because you haven’t had many employment opportunities. However, there is no need to worry! Everybody has to start somewhere, and any experience in the workforce is impressive. So whether you have formal or informal work experience, include all of your previous jobs to maximize your rate of response from potential employers.
The structure of your employment history section should be very similar to your extracurricular section: job title, company name, dates of employment, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Because your other positions are likely not perfect matches for your desired job, focusing on the relevant responsibilities will make you more qualified. To find out how to tailor your resume to the hiring manager’s liking, scan the job description for keywords and any shared skills you have.
While your skills will help employers to understand your strengths, the honors, awards, and recognition for your efforts are tangible evidence of these skills. Some examples of accomplishments are:
- Perfect Attendance Award
- Exam-based (AP Scholar, National Merit)
- Grade-based (Honor Roll, National Honor Society)
- Academic competitions
- Subject-specific Awards (Excellence in English Award, STEM Award)
- Academic summer programs
- School leadership positions
- Any award related to one of your extracurricular activities
- Athletic achievements (MVP, Varsity)
- Scouting (Boy Scouts/Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts)
- Volunteer recognition (Volunteer of the Year)
- Publications (research, short stories, articles)
- Entrepreneurship (selling products through online platforms like Etsy)
- Performer Awards
- Fundraised $3,000 for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- Directed advertisement for school play; increased attendance by 25%
- Volunteered for 60+ hours at Baltimore Temporary Aid Center
- Tutored in mathematics for 12 students
- Recruited 30 members for Political Science Club
- Published 12 blog posts on the subject of mental health in 2 months
7. The Skills Section: Soft vs. Hard Skills
The skills section of your resume is an additional factor employers assess to judge if you’re the right fit for the job. Job skills are generally categorized as hard or soft. So, what’s the difference between the two?
Hard skills are quantifiable, technical, or job-specific skills that can be learned. Soft skills, on the other hand, are natural-born capabilities such as people skills and desirable personality traits.
Here are examples of hard skills…
- Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, and Access)
- Fluency in a foreign or coding language
- Typing speed (words per minute)
- Social Media
…and some soft skills.
- Detail orientation
- Strong work ethic
- Maintaining quality of work while under pressure
- Active listening
- Verbal and written communication
- Time management