How to Get a Job After College – Part 1 – Creating a Resume and Cover Letter

One of my ultimate pet-peeves is seeing people work REALLY hard to do well in college, want to get a certain type of full-time job, but then settle for graduate school or do some mediocre position as a result of not having the correct guidance for pursuing a full time job. Then, when they get out of graduate school, they still don’t have any idea of what they want to do because they didn’t get out in the real world and explore different opportunities.

Getting a job these days is definitely not becoming any easier, especially with the way the economy has been acting the past few years and the increased globalized competition. However, it is not impossible.

In this series of posts, I’ll try to explain some tips and techniques that have helped me over the years to get the full time job I wanted.

The absolute first step on this journey is to create a resume. It doesn’t even have to be bullet-proof at first, but just created.

To guide you through this discussion, I’ve created a sample resume at the link below that you can view and use as a template if desired.

Example Resume on Google Docs

Key Rules to Follow

1) Timing –

Due to the increased competition being faced today, it is VERY hard to get the type of job you want directly out of school without internship or co-op experience. Because of this, the timing of getting your resume ready should coincide with when applications start being accepted for internships/co-ops.

When is this? Generally, companies look to hire interns the summer after their sophomore or junior year of college. Therefore, you need to have your resume ready to go by Fall of your sophomore year. This means starting to work on it during the summer before your sophomore year.


You might be saying, “But My Money Blog, I don’t know what I want to do yet at that age, and I don’t have enough work experience yet to create a resume.” This is not a good excuse. Create your resume using what you have!

2) Keep Your Resume to 1 Page –

To be blunt, since you are only an undergraduate, believe it or not, you aren’t important enough yet to have a resume more than 1 page. So, do whatever you need to do to trim it down in size!

3) Have Your Resume Reviewed –

Once you have created your first draft of your resume, have it reviewed by as many people as you can – preferably, people you respect. Examples would include your parents, professors, career counselors at school, etc. Even more ideal would be any kind of contacts you or your family has that already works in the industry in which you want to obtain a job.

4) Use Action Verbs and Add Quantification Where Possible –

In conjunction with having your resume reviewed, you will want to make sure to word your experiences in such a way that they are too the point and communicate the responsibilities that you took on. It also helps here to relate past job responsibilities to broader, more universally known skill sets. For example, perhaps you worked as a cashier at a local fast food chain restaurant. In this case, you could on one hand just say that you worked as a cashier. On the other hand, you could say that you gained experience in accounting and/or financial transaction techniques. Whatever you put down, you want to make sure that it is the truth, however.

Another very beneficial technique that I am a big fan of using is to add Dollar value quantification to my experiences, wherever possible. Why does this method work? Easy! Because no matter what industry you are in, whether from fast food to pharmaceuticals, there is always going to be money involved. As such, it can be used as a common denominator for hiring managers to gauge your level of experience.

5) Highlight Your Areas of Strength –

Yet another important part of building a resume is to highlight your strong points. For example, in the resume at the Google Docs link above, notice how the author wanted to draw emphasis using bold text to the broad spectrum of majors achieved as opposed to the name of the school where she went. On the other hand, if the student had went to Harvard, you can bet your pretty penny that she would have wanted to bold the name of the school, irregardless of GPA or major.

6) Create Different Resumes for Different

The last key comment I have for resume creation is that idea of creating different versions of resumes for different areas for which you apply.

For example, when I was interviewing for jobs out of college, I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to do pharmaceuticals or renewable energy. Therefore, I tweaked my resume and my experiences around so that less emphasis was placed on my biomedical experience, and more emphasis was delivered to my experience with bioprocessing. You will also want to make sure to change your objective as well!

See how that can work? Not too bad right?

Related topic: Is it worth it to create a cover letter?

The jury is still out for me on this question. Personally, I have never been asked specifically for a cover letter in my interviewing career. The only time I have been asked for it is when I apply through the internet/computer. Additionally, in my working career, I have never asked any one to show me his/her resume, nor have I ever heard a hiring manage ask me for one of my contact’s cover letters.

However, in all honesty, it really couldn’t hurt your chances to make one. What I would recommend is to make a general template cover letter that leaves room for approximately 2 sentences of specific information you can fill in for each employer you apply to.

Click on the link below to see an example cover letter template and how it can be customized to each specific employer.

Example Cover Letter – Google Docs

Remember, you will also want to keep the cover letter to 1 page.

I hope this information was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions!

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Comments

  1. Great piece! Just to add, finding resume writers was also a good recommendation for precise resume presentation. You can try researching and read some Resume Service Reviews to compare the best rate, best features and best services they offer!

  2. thanks for reading!

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