You've donned the cap and gown and you are staring down years' worth of student loans – congratulations, you've graduated! For those looking to enter the job market, you probably triumphantly added your new degree to your resume - and nothing else. After years in academics, any area of your resume except education might feel a bit empty. Here are a few tips to highlight your true potential to your first employer.

TUTORIAL: Investing 101

Highlight the Experience You Do Have
Consider using this trick. Look up your ideal job and read through the posting (it doesn't have to be geographically desirable, just the right career opportunity). Highlight or keep a list of the keywords used and find a way to incorporate them into your own resume. Even if you don't have the exact experience they are requesting, think about parallel experience that you do have. For example, that perfect job posting may request experience in project management; you may never have done that in a formal office setting, but organizing the large charity event you ran last summer will undoubtedly have required a similar skill set. Make sure you do yourself the credit of highlighting all of your relevant experience – there's likely to be more than you think! (For related reading, see Summer School Or Summer Job? How To Decide.)

Add Unpaid Experience
Just because you didn't get a paycheck doesn't mean you didn't walk away with something valuable. Consider any volunteer experience you might have as if it had been a job; list the responsibilities you had, the skills it required, and the goals you achieved.

Include Soft Skills
We've probably all found ourselves in this situation: your interviewer asks if you have any experience in a particular field or situation, for example, conflict resolution with a coworker. Luckily, you remember a time when you had to resolve a scheduling issue with someone you worked with. You do have conflict resolution experience! But is this skill listed on your resume?

Mark Jeffries, a leading expert on soft skills in career management, describes soft skills as "anything that enables you to influence others, to pitch ideas, and to successfully persuade others to take action," according to Do you take initiative on new projects? Do you have a tendency to rework organizational systems for the better? These are all highly marketable skills.

The catch is that you can't just list them out on a resume. Imagine if you were the hiring manager reading a list of 30 soft skills: leadership, communications, people skills, zzzzz… Don't do yourself the disservice of boring the person who is reading your resume. Instead, look for ways to incorporate these keywords into concrete examples. It will keep a human reader engaged, and still help an automated resume scanner or bot to flag you as a possible candidate. (For related reading, see 6 Extreme Ways To Land Your Dream Job.)

Consider Your Education
Completing your education is nothing to sneeze at. It may seem to you as if everyone has a degree, but that's simply not the case; and having that diploma means more than just a framed piece of paper. Successful students must exhibit exceptional time management skills, project management, attention to detail, and be strong readers, writers and (though it may seem obvious) learners. These are all skills your potential boss needs to know about.

Beyond the skills it took to get you through school, consider highlighting what you actually did. Did you earn any scholarships? Take on extra-curricular responsibilities like student government? Perhaps you organized an event for your dorm-mates. On the academic side, did you complete a thesis? Assist a professor? Go over your academic career carefully and make note of all of your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.

Highlight, Don't Lie
There's a slippery slope between shining a spotlight on an accomplishment (and, let's be honest, polishing it up a bit) and outright lying. If you really did start a small summer business selling homemade greeting cards, play it up! You probably did some marketing, client schmoozing, and kept your own books. But don't lie about the size or profits of your business just to make it seem more legitimate. Lying on your resume, even seemingly harmless lies, is the fastest way to get your resume ripped up. (For related reading, see No Wonder You're Not Getting Hired!)

The Bottom Line
Recent graduates face a unique challenge when they enter the working world for the first time. But just because you've been in school for the last few years doesn't mean you aren't a desirable candidate. It just means you need to find a way to showcase your best without relying on a ton of work experience. And really, marketing yourself effectively is the goal of all jobseekers. (For related reading on applying for jobs, see Applying For A Job When You're Overqualified.)

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How To Create a Winning Elevator Pitch

    Whether you are talking to potential investors, partners, customers or employees, the skill of being able to concisely summarize your business is critical.
  2. Personal Finance

    Top Universities for Getting an MBA Abroad

    Going abroad for an MBA can add cachet when it comes time to get a job.
  3. Personal Finance

    Five Things To Avoid at Your Next Interview

    Do you have an interview coming up? Avoid these five mistakes and leave a lasting impression on your potential employer.
  4. Credit & Loans

    10 Ways Student Debt Can Destroy Your Life

    If you're getting a student loan, think critically about how you will manage your loan. Student debt could have a profound negative impact on your life.
  5. Personal Finance

    6 Reasons To Get Your MBA Abroad

    Given the number of high caliber business schools outside the United States, it may make sense to venture overseas for your MBA. Here's what you can gain.
  6. Personal Finance

    Insider's Guide To The Top U.S. Business Schools

    The best business school for you depends on your skills, career goals and interests. We help future MBA's make a more informed choice.
  7. Budgeting

    Top 10 Ways College Students Can Save Money

    College costs are soaring, but fortunately, there are several ways for college students to save money - and some are quite painless.
  8. Personal Finance

    10 Habits of Successful People

    10 of the most-often cited habits of people who have enjoyed success in business and in life.
  9. Personal Finance

    8 Ways to Find Cheap Textbooks

    Textbooks are so expensive. What are the tricks to find cheaper books?
  10. Savings

    5 Ways To Be Irreplaceable At Work

    Companies most value five certain behaviors, and the employees who exhibit them establish themselves as essential to an organization.
  1. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Other than accounting, what does a corporate finance job involve?

    While a corporate finance job almost always involves accounting in some capacity, there are many additional job duties and ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  2. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  3. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  4. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  5. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  6. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!