Even for summer jobs, teens should craft a resume'

By Vickie Elmer Sunday, May 30, 2010; K01 Washington Post

The teenage girl who shadowed Theressa A. Green wanted a job at a summer camp. She had some work experience, as a babysitter and veterinarian's assistant, and she had volunteered at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

To make potential employers aware of these activities, the teen needed a professional resume', and Green was happy to guide her through the process of creating one. "She didn't have the language. She said, 'I'm a people person. And I can type fast,' " recalled Green, who works for the Boys & Girls Clubs as teen services director of character and leadership development.

Together, they put together a resume' with business-like wording, showing how her experience indicated dependability, initiative and an ability to hold a job.

Even with a tough job market for teens, many don't think they need a resume' for their summer job search. "A resume' is important. . . . It is the first introduction to the employer," Green said. "This is the time to put your best foot forward . . . to really put yourself on paper."

It's also important to start learning job-search skills, including how to create a resume', before you undertake a crucial career search in your early 20s.

Creating a first resume' may seem daunting, and most teens will need a parent or other adult's assistance, said Carol Christen, co-author of "What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens" and a career strategist based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The resume'-creation process can be made less daunting by breaking it down into smaller steps and allowing one to two weeks of intermittent work to capture a complete picture of yourself, she said.

Start asking yourself and others questions such as: "What do you think are my key talents and strengths that will help me get a job?" and "What have I done with my time?"

"Think of the radio station WLPR -- Work, Learning, Play or free time, and Relationships," Christen said. If you were volunteer co-chair of an Earth Day event, for example, ask yourself: How did you organize the event? What did you learn? What were your strengths?

Your resume' should answer other questions, too: What am I good at? What do I have to offer an employer?

Christen suggests that young people develop at least two resume's. The first is a master resume' -- everything about yourself on paper in logical sections. The next one is tailored to the type of job sought. "What am I using my resume' for? Adapt it for that purpose," Christen said. A creative resume' with some color or a bold border may help make it stand out. So could some unusual fonts.

"If you want to get noticed in today's market, you've got to have something that pops," said Bettie Biehn, owner of Career Change Central in Alexandria and the former lead resume' writer for JobFox. She has helped her niece and some neighborhood youths with their resume's and thinks that little icons or visuals, or even a small logo or sketch, could jazz up some resume's.

Other things that will make you stand out are leadership roles in high school and college, such as captain of the football team, volunteer awards or your role establishing new clubs. Sometimes those awards are grouped near the bottom of a resume', but sometimes they belong right up top, below your name, address and contact information.

"If you won an award for selling the most Girl Scout cookies and you're seeking a job in a children's museum trying to get more memberships," then list the award in that first section, Christen said.

Most resume's follow a standard format -- name and contact info, followed by a summary, then details on job and volunteer experience. Look at resume's posted online or check out resume' writing books for a variety of styles. Education often comes near the end. Biehn suggests that young people explain where they hope their education will lead them.

Include your GPA as long as it's 2.75 or better. If it's lower, you may want to skip it or add an explanation. Biehn suggests that lower GPAs be balanced out with a note if you took a lot of Advanced Placement classes, earned two varsity letters or were working 20 hours a week.

Green reminds young people to use spelling and grammar checks. Then ask an adult to review your resume' and choose someone knowledgeable whom you trust, she said.

A completed resume' "gives them a sense of self, of accomplishment," she said. "A resume' that looks like the young person put some effort and energy in it -- it will get them to the next level, the interview."

Vickie Elmer is a freelance writer.