CV Tips for New Graduates

Recent grads or soon-to-be graduating students face an exhilarating next chapter. Most already have planted career seeds along the university journey, learning practical skills through the classroom, internships, part-time jobs, volunteer activities and sports affiliations.

Taking advantage of your already honed skills and abilities while also fanning the flame of passions helps to fuel a powerful CV story.

However, many graduates fall short when constructing their career vessel. Assumptions often weaken the opportunity to build a strong, interview-landing CV that will outperform your competitor. Following are three assumptions you will want to avoid and how to circumvent them:

Assumption #1

The “I don’t have any real experience” assumption. Thinking this way diminishes the real thought work and effort involved in articulating your meaningful value.


Most graduates have compiled enough experience and results to fill a small book. To hone that experience, you must first dissect your day-to-day. Start with your most recent year of school. Did you carry a full course load? How many hours? What was the most difficult class, and why? Did you perform group projects? Case studies? Did you work a part-time job (on- or off-campus) or an internship? What was your role? Did you perform in a customer-facing role? What did clients say about your work and your service?

Did you learn to use specific software applications? Which ones? Did you learn how to analyze problems better? What types of problems? How did you fix specific issues? Did you get a chance to manage people or projects? What was the outcome? Did you have to work fast and efficiently to meet deadlines at work while also juggling coursework and grades? How did you adapt to ensure you got everything done? What systems did you employ? What tasks were you complimented for? What did you do that made you feel empowered, and ‘in the zone?’

You get the drift? You’ve done a lot, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Assumption #2

Your CV should be squeezed onto a single page.


Some new graduate CVs are complete in one page; some require three pages. What matters is that the writing is succinct, focused and targeted, but also interesting. What this means is you have poured all of your achievements into a virtual vessel and let the cream rise – these are the accomplishments that most appeal to your target reader. You want to walk through your accomplishments in mini-story format, showcasing not only the outcomes but also the situation you faced, the actions you took – and even the hurdles you had to leap over to achieve the result. This requires words and CV real estate, and sometimes spills over to a second, maybe even third page. Just because you have an accomplishment, however, doesn’t mean it should go onto your resume, which brings us to assumption #3:

Assumption #3

Your CV is about you.


Once you’ve skimmed the cream of your achievements, you’ll need to do more work, because you don’t simply want to dump ALL of your wonderful accomplishments onto the page. Instead, you must select and frame your stories around the needs of whomever you wish to attract. In other words, you will need to research what types of customers your ideal company serves or what kinds of products they produce or who their competitors are or what types of marketplace challenges they face. In what ways do they ache for someone like you to come in and help ease that pain?

Now, you must craft your CV stories in a way that says you have accomplished things using the skills they require to fix their problems. You must paint a picture of how your classroom work, team projects, part-time or summer jobs, campus affiliations, sororities and fraternities, service groups, individual initiatives and such are equivalent to the type of talent they need to solve problems, grow and add revenue to their bottom line.

Posted by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW


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