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Despite being only 17, you may need to develop a resume for any number of reasons. Perhaps you are looking for a summer job or internship, or maybe a college or scholarship application requires you to include a resume. Even if you don’t have a great deal of work experience, a resume for a 17-year-old can highlight skills, education, community involvement, and other traits that are appealing to employers and admissions committees.
Organize Your Information
To begin your resume, organize the information you need to include. You should provide your contact information, including your email address, as well as sections for your education, experience, awards and honors, activities and any other relevant information that can set you apart, such as additional languages you speak or any certifications you have. Focus on the skills you gained from your experience; most employers aren’t interested so much in what you did, but what you learned from it. As you organize your information, jot down under each job or activity some notes about what you learned and how it improved your skills. For instance, if you worked as a cashier at a local grocery store, don’t list your job duties. Describe how you developed excellent customer service, listening and financial skills by assisting customers with their orders.
Choose a Format
The most common resume format is a chronological resume, in which experience is listed in chronological order starting with the most recent position. However, if you do not have a great deal of work experience and you want to highlight your education and skills, you may opt to use a functional format. A functional resume summarizes your skills and experience in specific areas along with your achievements. Begin with a short overview of who you are and what sets you apart from others, and what you have to offer an employer. Then list the specific skills you have, such as customer service, making presentations, office skills, etc. Then, choose two to three of your best skills, and offer evidence of those skills. For example, if you are applying for an internship in public relations and have experience in this field from involvement in school activities, you would list “Public Relations” as a skill, and then list some of your achievements in this area. For example, you might write, “Coordinated community outreach for East High Service Club food drive, which saw a 25 percent increase in donations.” After describing your skills, include a section with the details of your experience (i.e., employer, dates, major responsibilities) and your education.
Tailor to the Job You Want
You don’t have to – nor should you – include everything you have ever done on your resume. Choose the experience and skills that are most relevant to where you’re applying. While you might be tempted to include all of the cool stuff you’ve done, unless it is truly extraordinary or somehow relevant to the position, leave it off. You’ll have the opportunity to share some of the more unusual facts about yourself during an interview or in an essay.
Be Specific and Active
One of the most important things about writing a resume, whether you are 17 or 47, is to be specific. Use numbers – increased membership by 25 percent, worked with 100 customers per day, supervised four employees, etc. – to quantify your experience and your achievements. If other teens are applying for the same positions, the numbers you use will make your resume stand out.
Also, be sure to use active verbs to describe your experience and skills. Active verbs describe your experience help keep each section concise, and also improve the specificity of your descriptions and tell the reviewer exactly what you accomplished.
A Few Important Reminders
Finally, once you have drafted your resume, proofread it carefully – and ask someone else to look it over as well – to be sure you do not have any typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors. Keep your resume to one page maximum, and use an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial in 10- or 12-point size to ensure it is easy to read. And above all, never lie or embellish your resume. Lying about your experience, languages or other skills can come back to haunt you later.
- Keep your resume to one page, if possible. It's fine to expand to two pages--just be sure to put your name and contact information at the top of the second page. Don't go over two pages--employers generally don't have the time to go over a very long resume.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.