So you’re finishing up high school or you’ve just finished (congrats!) and now you have to do real-world stuff like writing a resume.
There are already a gazillion resources online about writing a good resume. Why make another? Well this post isn’t going to be another one of those guides. Instead, we will be taking a particular focus on how to write a resume or CV (“Curriculum Vitae” which means the same thing by the way) as a high school leaver and providing you with a template too. We get that not only do you not know how to even begin writing one, but heck! You’re still in your teens! How many skills, achievements or work experience could you have? So here you have it – what really should be called: “How to fudge a resume and look like a boss”.
1) CONTACT DETAILS
Full name | Contact number | Email
Including your date of birth and home address used to be a thing. We recommend leaving it out. By including them you put yourself at risk of identity theft and potential discrimination.
As for the email, make sure it’s professional. You’re probably still using the email you made in year 7. You know…“email@example.com” and “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Create a new email if you need to. Try to stick with just your name and numbers and keep it as short as possible.
High school | University | Graduation date
Feel free to also include your subjects, especially if they are relevant to the opportunity you are applying for.
Think you’ve got an impressive mark or ATAR? Definitely include it here. Otherwise, it’s probably best to leave it out. If you’ve had the privilege of studying overseas on exchange, that is something worth including here too.
3) WORK EXPERIENCE
Company | Position | Period | Short description | Achievements
This is arguably the most important section of a resume. The key thing to know here is that your focus should be on your achievements rather than your duties or the job description. You worked at Boost Juice. We get it. You made a large range of healthy fruit-based juices, wiped benchtops, restocked supplies and worked the cash register. You don’t need to tell us that. Instead tell us about how you introduced a template re-stocking sheet for team leaders could fill out which reduced the time taken by 50% and eliminated the risk of stock errors. Or maybe you simply took the initiative to pre-prepare ingredients prior to peak hour which substantially reduced stress on the team, allowed the business to service more customers and increased customer satisfaction by lowering the wait time.
Reflect deeply about this. Focus on achievements, not duties. And be as specific as possible about the impact of your work.
Never worked before? This is where we’ll be interpreting the word “work” loosely. Try to think about whether any of your extra-curricular commitments are appropriate to be classified as “work experience”. For example, playing basketball on the weekends is not going to do it for you. But something like participating in a 5 day business start-up competition would work. The criterion is – would you be able to talk extensively about your experience and show learnings that can be translated into the current opportunity on a professional level? Still nothing? Here’s a hack – merge your extra-curricular section into your “experience” heading.
4) AWARDS (or ACHIEVEMENTS)
Award title | Year received | Short description
For most of us, this section may be hard to fill. But awards are not just academic and you can include more things here than you may have originally thought. Here’s a list of awards and achievements to consider:
- Academic: competitions, prizes, awards
- Certified skill: first aid, RSA etc.
- Artistic: music performances, competitions, artwork displays, blog features or readership etc.
- Hobbies: senior dance company, black belt in martial arts, advanced bronze level Toastmaster etc.
You may be thinking “what on earth does 7th grade piano have to do with an accounting cadetship?” What you do and have done with your life reflects a lot about you inherently as a person. 7th grade piano indicates to the reader that you can balance additional commitment outside of study, have the discipline to commit yourself to a practice and have the patience to work through a long and steep learning curve in reaching that particular skill level. And this concept of transferrable skill and attitude should permeate your entire resume.
Organisation | Position | Period | Short description
For most of you, this is probably where the meat of your resume will currently sit. Even with zero work experience, this section should be enough to wow the reader. Some extra-curricular to think about include:
- Charity and volunteer work
- Writing and publications
- Musical and artistic commitments
- Sporting commitments
- Educational, cultural or leadership programs
- Pet projects
Again, focus on achievements, not duties.
List of skills
This section refers to specifically technical skills. So unfortunately effective communication, organisation, teamwork and leadership don’t count. If you’re desperate, you can include the more impressive Microsoft office tools like Excel or Project. Knowing how to use Word is a given. Otherwise some other skills definitely worth mentioning include:
- Foreign language skills – Mandarin (bilingual proficiency), Italian (elementary proficiency) etc.
- Creative skills – Adobe Photoshop, illustrator, InDesign, Premiere etc.
- Industry-specific skills – e.g. metalwork for a construction role or SEO for an online marketing role
If you don’t think you have any skills, that’s fine. Just leave out this section.
Reference name | Position | Contact number | Email
Your mum is not a referee. Neither is your dad. Or your older brother for that matter. Maybe you worked at your family business. It’s still best to avoid using family. Instead, find someone in a leadership position whom you have had a working relationship with and who you know will say good things about you. Here is a list for you to consider:
- Previous employer
- People you’ve volunteered for
- School teacher
- Year advisor
- Sports coach
And of course, before including anyone as your reference, ask them! Nothing worse than your referee being called up off guard to which they will probably reply “Who’s James?” Say bye-bye to your offer James.
Oh and here’s another pro tip – if for some reason you cannot fit your references onto your resume, it is acceptable to simply write at the bottom “referees available upon request”.
LAST WORDS AND A GIFT (OR TWO)
Don’t forget that a resume is essentially an early introduction of yourself with a purpose. You are selling yourself so be persuasive. Sell yourself so well that they can’t resist asking you for an interview. Because honestly, at your age, everyone is roughly on the same playing field so it all comes down to how well you write your resume (except if you’re one of those freakishly amazing kids in which case I don’t even know why you’re reading this).
If you’ve gotten to the end of this post and feel worried because you realise that you haven’t really done anything to even fudge upon, then we have one BIG PIECE OF ADVICE FOR YOU. Start picking stuff up. It’s never too late to start. Seriously. There are actually a lot of opportunities out there that don’t require any experience or a resume. Look for skill-based volunteering (not necessarily charity work) or find work that involves connecting you with a mentor. In the process, you’ll pick up invaluable skills and get a great reference as well. If you want to stay in the comfort of your own home, there are many things you can do to beef up your employability like playing around with video editing software or doing a free online course on coding.
To send you on your way, here is a template we’ve made modelled after Hero Education founder Evan’s resume. Because we like you so much, we’ve even included a theoretical example of what we think a great resume would look like for the average high school leaver.
(seems impressive but really it’s about taking an ordinary person and making them seem extraordinary. You can do it too!)
Feel free to post any questions or thoughts you have below and we’ll do our best to respond to them. Oh and don’t forget to read the follow up post – 5 Things to Check Before Finalising Your Resume.