Ultimately, our job as educators is to help students prepare for their future. Regardless of what subject or grade level you teach, a Resume Workshop could be a valuable exercise, helping your students gain an important career-related skill, and teaching them to evaluate and keep track of their activities and accomplishments.
The winter holiday break, just around the corner, will give your students a great opportunity to finalize their new resume at home – or use it when they apply for short-term holiday jobs!
Workshop Approach for Elementary and Middle School
Even if the word “resume” currently means nothing to your young students, this workshop will be both fun and beneficial. The main objective for students this age is to help them start thinking about their strengths and interests. You will also open their eyes to the concept of employment and what employers want. If students develop a rudimentary resume now, they’ll be ahead of the game by the time they apply for their first summer job. They’ll also be better equipped as they apply for college, and start a path toward their future careers.
The downloadable support materials available with this article include specific guidelines for resume-building exercises appropriate for elementary and middle school students.
Workshop Approach for High School
By the time teens reach high school, the idea of a resume may be stressing them out. They’ve probably heard friends or siblings talk about them, and they know they’re going to need one – especially if they want an internship or an income, after school or over the summer. However, without previous job experience, they probably fear their resume is going to be an embarrassment – a nearly blank sheet.
By hosting this workshop, you can take the fear and unknown out of the resume process. The downloadable support materials available with this article include specific guidelines for resume-building exercises for high school students. These activities also include an online resume critique exercise from Education World, which you may want to access and print out separately.
The Elements of a Resume
Regardless of what age level you’re teaching, your workshop should start by outlining the components of a resume:
- Name and Contact Information
- Summary Statement/Objective
- Work Experience
- Skills, Interests and Special Strengths
The younger the student, the more they will focus on the last three points, until they have actual work experience under their belts. Most employers hiring teens don’t expect to see a strong work background on their resume. What employers do hope to find are experiences that translate to good employee qualities; for example:
- School awards indicate intelligence, diligence and the desire to excel
- Volunteer work indicates a desire to help others
- Participation in clubs and extra-curricular activities indicate energy, drive, involvement, experience working in groups, etc.
Through activities like these mentioned above, students are developing skills without even realizing it: people skills, communication, problem-solving, collaboration, etc. Even babysitting demonstrates patience and responsibility. Your objective in the workshop is to help students identify and articulate the skills they’ve already cultivated, as well as plan to fill their experience gaps through future activities. They should maintain a running record of these skills and activities, so when resume (and/or college application) time comes around, they’re ready. Their activity record provides a comprehensive list of past experiences, with details on how each prepared them for the task at hand.
Resume Writing Techniques
Obviously it’s important for students’ resumes to contain strong content, but good writing is the other key component of a good resume. One goal of the workshop is to familiarize your students with the special requirements of resume writing. Unlike most other academic writing exercises, resumes are built on brief, incomplete sentences, with a strong focus on action verbs and specific results.
A resume is more than a list – it’s a carefully crafted message to an employer about why the applicant would be good at the job and an asset to the company. In essence, your students’ resumes are saying, “Here’s what I’ve accomplished and why you should take note.”
On the other hand, the employer is receiving multiple resumes and will seldom read them carefully. Therefore, your students’ resumes must be built for easy scanning, and formatted so that the most important information stands out and is easy to find.
As you conduct your workshop, have your students practice phrasing their accomplishments with popular resume action words, such as “earned, organized, led, developed, operated, enhanced,” etc. Examples:
- Organized neighborhood food drive
- Elected as class president
- Increased Spanish Club’s membership base
- Collected tickets for school play
- Developed website for school events or fundraiser
The Muse.com and Adventures in Education provide great action word lists.
Sample Resumes and Tools
Below are links to sample resume templates, which you and your students may use as guidelines during the workshop. Teens may also choose a template from their word processing software, or may create their own resume designs, following the basic guidelines from your workshop and the online tools.
Teen Resume Sample from About.com
High School Resume Sample from Adventures in Education
“My First Resume” Sample from Career FAQs
The Career Kids website enables students to build their own resume directly online, by filling in the provided form. Several other sites provide a similar tool. When choosing a site to help with your resume, be sure to verify any service you use to ensure it's secure and trustworthy.
Other Resume Tips for Students
- Keep it short and to the point
- Avoid adjectives – keep your statements objective
- Customize the resume for the specific job to which you’re applying
- Make sure your email address and voicemail message are professional, to leave a positive impression when employers respond to you
- If you’re applying for a part-time or summer job, include the hours or dates you’re available
- Update your resume every time you take on a new job or activity. If you do it immediately, you won’t forget.
Knowing how to write an effective, professional resume is a critical first step toward both a summer job and a successful long-term career. We think your students will enjoy this workshop, as it focuses on their specific interests and strengths, and pertains directly to real-world experience. In the meantime, it’s a great way to practice a new writing style.
For your convenience, we have formatted the workshop exercises in three separate printable, downloadable documents, segmented by grade level:
Workshop materials for elementary school:
Workshop materials for middle school:
Workshop materials for high school:
Please share other student resume ideas, as well as your workshop results in our Comments section!