Resume Ideas For New Graduates
By Gary Kanter

A new college graduate came to see me recently for resume help. Like most fledgling resume writers, he had sorted through his background trying to make some sense out of what he had done, and how to best present it.

As a Marketing major, he was looking for something in that field.  Looking over his “mishmash” of lawn mowing, baby-sitting, and pizza flipping jobs, he wondered why anyone in their right mind would consider hiring him in his chosen profession.

The P Word

The first order of business was understanding the nature of the hiring process.  Quite simply, nobody, at any level, gets hired because of what he or she has done in the past.  The past is only an indicator of the person’s value.  The successful candidate, from entry level through CEO, receives the job offer not based upon experience…but rather on potential! 

Use Projects to Demonstrate Your Skills

Many new entrants into the job market mistakenly believe that only paid experience is considered valuable.  Similarly, those after-school and weekend jobs are often overlooked because, somehow, they just didn’t seem “important enough.”

I gave him a homework assignment: To write about any special projects he had done, either in school or out, in which he had demonstrated skills of potential interest to employers. As in all resume preparation, he was to pay particular attention to his results and accomplishments.

What he came up with was most impressive. As part of his marketing studies, he had developed and performed successful market research surveys for some of the region’s largest and most visible employers. These surveys were so successful that both companies actually incorporated the results into their overall marketing programs.

He had also participated in smaller class-projects that further demonstrated his creativity, leadership, and writing talent.  We included these projects as well. The end result: a resume that spoke volumes about his hirability and his career potential.

Another client, a soon-to-be-graduating computer engineer from an out-of-state university, provides a similar example. Among his more noteworthy accomplishments, he had been selected by a professor to perform complex research for an article he was writing on ground-breaking developments in their field.  His material was praised as highly accurate and useful.

Another of his accomplishments involved developing and building an interactive video game that not only earned first-place in a university-wide competition, but was the hands-on favorite of the children who were allowed to “test” the entries.

He, too, had participated in other, less dramatic projects and assignments.   In each case he was deemed successful by the excellent evaluations or grades.

Both examples show how new grads — even without actual paid experience in their fields — can often demonstrate relevant and marketable skills and accomplishments.

Back to the after-school and weekend jobs.  A key to demonstrating value and potential is to show not only what you did…but how well you did it. 

Use Your “Non-related” Work Experience to Demonstrate Your Work Ethic

That time you put in at Burger King or Papa Murphy’s, for instance.  How was your attendance?  Did you receive compliments from your customers for providing quality service?  Did you win sales contests?  Did the manager select you for any special projects?  Did you willingly come in at the last minute because some other employee did not show up?  Were you noted for finding constructive things to do during slow times?  Did you train new workers and act as their role model?

These results are all evidence of your value to your previous employer and are transferable to your new employer.

Highlight Your Education

The value of your education cannot be understated.  For those employers with dust on their own college degrees, it does not hurt to remind them of what coursework new graduates have been studying.

When preparing the Education section of the resume, I usually recommend a subcategory called Specialized Coursework. “Coursework” does not only refer to course titles but also to the subjects studied within those classes.  Economics, for instance, encompasses a wide range of subjects:  “Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Economics, and, of course, “Economic Theory”.  At my college, for instance, two professors, poles apart on political and philosophical maps, taught the same Economics 101 course.  The only similarity was listing in the course catalog.

Here’s a real live example of how to make a detailed education section pay off.  One of my recently-graduated clients was interviewed for a position in the banking industry. Toward the end of the interview, the employer admitted he was most impressed with my client but there was a deficiency in his experience that was, unfortunately, fatal to his chances.  The client called the interviewer’s attention to the Specialized Coursework section of his resume, where the particular subject was listed and proceeded to demonstrate his considerable knowledge of the topic. The interviewer was impressed enough to offer him the job with sufficient training time and resources to enable him to come up to speed.

Internships offer another opportunity to prove your experience and motivation.  A young woman I recently worked with had just completed her second internship with local television stations.  The skills she’d learned and the work she’d performed were well within standard broadcasting job descriptions.  The lack of pay in no way negated the quality and value of her performance. 

Tutoring, paid or otherwise, is another excellent resume item.  A tutor has a clear understanding of a subject and is able to effectively explain this subject to someone else. Tutoring demonstrates the ability to communicate ideas and problems:  a talent valued by all employers.

(Sample Resume)
1321 124th Street N.E.
Bellevue, Washington 98004
(425) 555-7990

OBJECTIVE:  Entry-level Banking


  • Excellent education and project experience in business and economics.
  • Received exceptional feedback on the quality of business projects from a major international manufacturer and regional retail corporation.
  • Consistently valued and highly evaluated by employers in all professional endeavors.
  • Noted for dependability, flexibility, and competence in all areas of pursuit.
  • Proven ability to quickly learn and utilize new methods, systems and procedures.
  • International educational experience.


BA – Economics, Seattle University, 2004

Specialized Coursework:  Money and Banking, Marketing Management, Urban Land Economics

International Studies: International Student Exchange, United Kingdom, France, Italy (2001).


Business Etiquette, Seattle Chamber of Commerce (2004)

Effective Management Techniques, American Management Association (2003)

Problem Solving, American Management Association (2003)


Northwest Appliance Headquarters, Bellevue, Washington  Spring 2003

Marketing Analysis: For this prominent regional retailer, analyzed entire marketing program including advertising and media presentations, pricing strategies, in-store promotions, image and competitor positioning. Performed extensive research, phone surveys, and comparative shopping.  Prepared recommendations which were utilized to modify the existing marketing program. The CEO contacted the professor to praise the results and overall professionalism

Business Computer Services, Seattle, Washington  Fall 2003

Ethics Analysis:  Reviewed the company’s Code of Ethics for completeness and applicability. Compared the Code with similar documents from other organizations, including Paccar, Microsoft, and IBM.  Identified strengths and weaknesses.  Prepared and submitted recommendations to company CEO and the board’s subcommittee for consideration.  Received the course’s first perfect grade in its eight-year history and the project was incorporated as a model for future endeavors.


Sales Associate, The Cutting Edge, Redmond, WA (seasonal 2000-02)

Station Attendant, Duard Chevron, Bellevue, WA (1999)


Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity (Chair, membership and Marketing Committees)

Power by Masterpiece Studioz