Resumes: Keep em short!

Here I’ll discuss different resume lengths and why you should keep your first resume short.

5412613295_a56b1ddfd8_mMy girlfriend’s resume is two pages long, and that makes sense because she’s an academic librarian. She’s presented at conferences, edited published works, and worked in and out of libraries. These sorts of things are important in the library world; it’s a relatively small profession with many different specializations and a wide variety of technology. That she knows how to use X database system, that she’s lead instruction sessions about Y reference search tool, that she’s worked reference in an actual library as well as through a virtual platform, all of these things are important to potential employers.

My resume, on the other hand, is one page. I write. Yes, employers want to know that I’ve held professional positions before, that even as a free-spirited creative type I know how to put on a pair of pants and go to an office for 8 or more hours a day. And yes, it’s important that I’ve been published and recognized for my work. At the end of the day, though, the real important thing is can I write the kind of stuff that a potential employer wants, and my cover letter and writing samples are going to answer that question more than anything.

The point I’m making here is that acceptable resume length varies based on your industry. With that being said, you want to keep things to one page if you can, especially when applying to your first position out of undergrad.

Your first resume is a great way to show off all the cool stuff you’ve done in school as well as to let potential employers know that you’re ready to leave that world behind for some real-deal professional experience. The way you do that is through categorization. For example, did you write for your college newspaper? Great, but don’t try to make it sound as though worked full-time as an investigative journalist. Your potential boss went to school (probably); he or she knows how student newspapers work.

Then where do you put experiences like the college newspaper? You add an “Achievements & Activities Section” and write brief one-line descriptions like, “Wrote for the State University Bugle” or “Served as president of Student Government.” This gives you a way to mention student experience that might be relevant without over-blowing them and wasting valuable space that you need for your actual jobs and internships. Remember, what you leave off or minimize on your resume is just as important as what you highlight.

How about you? How long is your resume? How do you break it down? Let us know in the comments.

(photo by Flickr user CUS Visual Media used under a Creative Commons License.)

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