Pursuing a career after graduation is one of the most thrilling yet terrifying moments of college and whether you’ve known your major from the moment you finished preschool or you decided at the deadline last year, everyone is on the same job hunt. But in a world of applicant tracking systems and online job markets, where do you even start? Let’s break it down.


This is probably the most overwhelming part of the whole process because there are just so many options. If you’re starting from scratch, Microsoft Word and Google Docs both have access to simple, well-organized resumes. If you’re looking for something a little more creative, Canva has resume templates designed by actual graphic designers. But no matter what format you decide, there are some non-negotiables you need to include.  

  • Contact Information
    • Your full name, address, phone number, professional email address, and the link to your website if the job requires some sort of portfolio submission
    • Pro Tip: Make sure your contact information is towards the top and easy to read! Make it as simple as possible for a hiring manager to contact you. 
  • Objective or Summary Statement
    • A simple sentence or two describing what you hope to do, why this job is the right fit for that, and what you’ll bring to the job 
  • Education Section
    • Where you go to school, your major, your minor, your GPA (if it’s above a 3.0), relevant coursework, and honors/organizations
  • Work Experience
    • Relevant jobs or internships go first followed by any extracurricular involvement – this section is by far the most important
    • Include all relevant experiences even if you have to make room by cutting your objective statement.  
  • Relevant Skills
    • Add any technical skills you have like programming languages or marketing analytics and soft skills like communication and leadership 

If all of this sounds like a little too much, try using an online resume builder like Resume Genius or Zety to get the basics down. Once you have most of the information ready, you can bring it into your university’s career resources center where a career expert should be able to look over it and tell you if anything should be edited. 

After all the content has been edited, you’ll want to check to see if it is Applicant Tracking System (ATS) approved. The software looks to see if your resume and the job description have enough matching keywords to make it to the next round.

Cover letters

While they make sense as an introduction to your future employer, it can be difficult to figure out how personal your personal introduction needs to be because there’s no standard format for cover letters. But, it’s important your cover letter has these three main things:

  • Introduction
    • Include important information like your background and why you’re interested in this position
  • Body 
    • Talk about examples of work you’ve done and how it will translate to this job
  • Conclusion 
    • ​Keep it concise but make sure to include a call to action 

As long as you have these basic aspects, you have the freedom to be creative and express your personality. Cover letters are what future employers use to get to know you beyond the accomplishments on your resume.

Job applications

The easiest part of the job process is finding the actual jobs. With job networking resources like LinkedIn and Handshake and actual job search engines like Indeed and Monster, it seems like there’s a constant supply of companies hiring recent college graduates (yay for all the hours you’ve spent dying in the library for that A!). For many of these applications, all you need is your newly perfected resume and cover letter, but some will require more technical information, such as writing samples, transcripts, and recommendation letters. 

While it may be a relief to get that application in, that doesn’t mean all your work is done. One of the most important parts of job applications is not letting them sit and never be looked at again. Once you apply for a job, see if there’s a university recruiter at the company and express your interest and follow up on your application. Email their work email address if available or message their LinkedIn profile if you can’t find their email. From there, introduce yourself and ask for more information, but most importantly, be respectful of their time and the relationship dynamic (this could be your future boss you’re talking to).

Now that you have a beautiful new resume, a personalized cover letter, and know how to apply for jobs, it’s time to start your journey into the real world.


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