7 Resume Tips for Entry Level Professionals & Career Transitions
How do I get my first job? How do I demonstrate that I have the ability to learn and provide value? How do I differentiate myself from the hundreds of other potential resumes a Recruiter/Manager is considering for a more junior or entry-level role?
Thousands of resume reviews later, there are patterns we've seen around what content is often missing from the resumes of individuals who are looking to land their first job in the technology field that communicates key traits Recruiters and Managers are seeking!
As someone new to a career field, what content/sections do I include in my resume? What else will make me stand out positively to Recruiters and Managers?
First, know that it is not just about technical skills. Especially with more junior/entry-level roles, the soft skills often matter just as much, if not MORE, than your current technical knowledge. As one of our long-term Managers, a Technology Director, once put it, "I'd much rather hire someone who has 50% of the requirements I outline and is a team player who is adaptable and eager to learn than someone who has 100% of the technical requirements but isn't coachable and is set in their ways."
Here are the main traits we have seen that get Managers really excited about a more junior technical candidate/job seeker:
- Interest in learning
- Passionate about technology
- Team player
- Good verbal and written communication
- Committed / loyal
- Ethical / good person
- Coachable / adaptable
- Honest / transparent
Understanding these preferred traits that fall into more of the "soft skills" bucket will be helpful as you evaluate your resume and make updates and additions that speak to these skills!
1 - Coursework via schooling or other technical boot camp/program
Ask yourself the following questions: What technologies and systems have I been trained on? What tools have I used? What other technologies am I proficient in? What core technical concepts do I have knowledge in? If you are pursuing a technical job, having all the technologies you have a basic knowledge level in represented on your resume is extremely important. List them under a 'Courses' or 'Technologies learned' section under your program/education, or include in a 'Technical Skills Summary' section.
2 - Coursework towards Certifications
One of the top questions we get around certifications is "If I've taken any training towards a certification but I haven't passed the exam yet, is it worth including on my resume?" Especially if that certification is in-demand and/or relevant to jobs you are targeting, yes! Many Managers and Recruiters are looking for individuals that not only have a certification, but also could have a certification within a specific timeframe, such as 90 days. Showing that you are on that path towards a certification tells people you are committed and that you have some of the skills!
3 - Pet Projects
Don't ever underestimate the impact pet projects can have on your resume and overall candidacy! Doing things on the side and on your own time shows employers that you are passionate and interested in improving your craft. Your pet projects could be anything from open source contributions, to a website you built, or an app you created for fun. Simply list this on your resume as "Side Project", "Pet Projects" or "Additional Contributions".
4 - Volunteer Experience
Are you demonstrating that you are a good person in your resume? Do you give back to your community? One of the most frequent resume additions we uncover is that a candidate/job seeker is active with supporting a local nonprofit or volunteer initiative, or has been in the last year, yet that is missing from their resume. It's one of the quickest additions you can make that speaks to at least 5 of the positive traits/soft skills outlined above that people are looking for. If you have volunteered in the last few years, we highly recommend adding that information to your resume. It shows one of the most important traits at all, that you are a good human being who cares about the world around you! If you have taken a leadership role, such as organizing your school or churches 'Adopt-A-Family' involvement, include that as well!
5 - Training Courses
Have you taken any additional technical or soft skill courses online through a provider such as MSSQLTips, Udemy, Udacy, Treehouse, Pluralsight, Cybrary, LinkedIn Learning, etc.? If so, add a 'Technical Training Courses' section to your resume and list out the title of the course, provider and month completed. Even taking one extra course a month around skills that are in demand by employers, and then representing that continuous development on your resume, demonstrates at least three of the top traits. It may also help your confidence when interviewing and give you more talking points!
6 - Technical Community Involvement
Are you passionate about technology? Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Do you go above and beyond? One of our favorite overall career tips for technology professionals is to get involved in your local technical community. Whether that's joining a MeetUp group and trying to attend one+ event a month/quarter, or attending a local or regional technical conference or event, such as a Code Camp, SQL Saturday, DevOps Day, Hackathon, or another event, which are abundant and mostly free in the technical world!
7 - Leadership in non-technical jobs
Do you help others? Do you take initiative? Does Management frequently ask you to take on additional tasks? These are some examples of questions Managers/Recruiters are assessing when looking at your previous work history in order to determine if you have some of those coveted soft skill traits they are looking for! Even if you worked in a restaurant or retail job, but you took on a leadership role such as training others or other responsibilities your Lead/Manager specifically asked of you, include those as a bullet point.
Many of the technical resumes we review, not just those with career transitions or individuals who just got a technical certification or graduated a STEM program and are looking for their first job, are missing the specific technologies, versions of technologies, tools, and/or methodologies they've had exposure with. There are various ways to include, such as:
- Adding bullet points under 'Summary of Qualifications'
- Having a separate section for 'Technology Systems/Tools' and listing out
Whatever you want to label it, it is so important for Technical Recruiters and Managers to see the specific technologies you have learned from training and/or worked with (even in a personal environment, on a school project or from a training course) immediately on your resume. Adding these specifics has another benefit too, as it helps ensure a higher resume prioritization by the ATS (applicant tracking systems) when you apply for a position that has one of those technologies listed in the job description!
How do you actually label and add any of the above to your resume? Once you have watched any trainings, done any volunteering, joined any Meetups or other relevant groups, here is how you could add to your resume.
- Attendee, South Florida Code Camp November 2020
- Volunteer, Tampa Bay Code Katas Meetup Since December 2020
- Salvation Army – Volunteered 10+ hours each November/December to help with the annual Angel Tree program.
- Keep America Beautiful – Since 2014, I have volunteered at least twice a year with different trash clean-ups, and have acted as a Site Lead on 4-5 occasions.
Additional Programming/Technical Training Courses
- Completed 8 hours of coursework on AWS Certification Sitting for exam in next month
- Introduction to Redux, Coursera May 2021
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Article Last Updated: 2021-09-15