If you are a student looking to get a job right out of college, it is advantageous to start working on your resume early – in other words, before you finish school. You definitely don’t want to be behind the 8-ball on the cusp of graduation scrambling for job opportunities.  Make sure you already have a strong resume that outlines your accomplishments, extra-curricular activities, special projects, jobs you’ve held and anything else that would make you stand out as a strong candidate for your intended career.

Here are some tips for polishing your “new grad” resume before you finish your education.

Get an Internship

If you still have time to complete one during your educational career, you should strongly consider searching for an internship. An internship may even be part of your graduation requirement. Paid or unpaid, internships provide valuable on-the-job experience you can list on your resume. One of the biggest challenges recent grads have is having this degree (with tons of debt) without a lick of experience. Employers want to know that you are able to do the job, so if you’ve had hands on experience, this may give you a competitive edge among your classmates.

Lead with Your Education

The whole goal of a resume is to sell yourself in 6 seconds or less.  So, if you don’t have much relevant experience, your degree will likely be one of your strongest selling points. While professionals with multiple years of experience tend to keep their education at the bottom, new grads can keep theirs towards the top.  Simply write out your information with an expected graduation date. For example: Bachelor of the Arts in English (Expected Graduation: May 20XX). This is important because it lets employers know how far along you are in your education and when you might be available to start working.

Focus on Outcomes & Achievements

Although you may be just starting out, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a compelling career story to tell. Make sure you focus on the outcomes of your duties if you have work experience and talk about what you discovered in your major class projects. Showcase your leadership experience and passion for your pursued career field. Whether at a job, in an extracurricular activity or in specific class, include a action verbs and specific achievements you accomplished.

Keep the Information Relevant

Don’t distract your reader by including unnecessary information, such as irrelevant hobbies, contact information for references, or an outdated objective statement. I always say “become what you want to become.” Remember, this resume is the first impression an employer may have of you, so if it’s all over the place, you may hurt your chances of a call back. Don’t bother listing all your part time jobs at McDonald’s or Wendy’s from high school if you’re looking to be an engineer. Talk about your exposure to the engineering field, use keywords based on the core classes you took, highlight your engineering internships, summarize your knowledge of the industry.

You don’t have to spell out every single job you’ve held, but you want to be strategic about what information you include on the page. Oh! And you will definitely want to keep the resume to only a page, as it is highly unlikely at this stage in your life you have enough material to justify two pages.

Don’t Treat Online Education Any Differently

Many students are seeking an online education today, whether for a college degree or even for K-12 education. Don’t treat this type of education any differently on your resume. List your degree, the school you are obtaining it from, and your GPA, if applicable. As long as the school is accredited, and you can demonstrate what you learned and how it helped you, employers likely don’t care whether you obtained your education online or not. Do not hide this information if asked and be prepared to talk about your experiences in an interview.

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