common app essay

Guest post by Marie Schwartz, CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media.

If you’re a high school student ready to get a part-time job, internship or volunteer position, there’s an important tool you’ll need to describe how awesome you are, convey your individuality, and tell employers how to get in touch with you.

That tool is a job resume. And even if you’re still in high school; even if you’ve never held a paying job; even if you’re convinced you don’t have any relevant experience, you can write a truthful and good-looking resume that will help convince someone that you will make a good employee.

At TeenLife Media, we know that learning how to get a job is important. Colleges value work experience because it shows you can be responsible outside the structure of home and school. It’s great, of course, if your summer job relates to your interests—working or volunteering at hospital if you’re thinking about medicine, for example—but almost any job will teach skills you’ll need in the future. Those include problem-solving, follow-through, teamwork, creativity, consistency, resiliency and the ability to show up on time, prepared to work hard.

But first you have to get the job, and that’s where the resume comes in. Think of your resume as part advertisement, part Wikipedia page about you: what you’ve accomplished, what you are interested in, and what you have to offer. A well-written resume highlights your achievements, accomplishments, and contributions at school and in the community. It tells an employer about your background and what you’ve already accomplished. And if it’s neat, without typos or spelling errors, it shows that you can pay attention to detail and present yourself professionally.

Learn to write a resume now, and you can use it to apply for both paid and volunteer jobs, and even to guide your college applications. We can show you how in TeenLife’s eBook, “How to Write Your Resume,” which includes these tips:

  • Keep it simple. You don’t have a lot of experience yet, so keep your resume to one page. And use straightforward fonts, like Times New Roman or Arial. Don’t go crazy with color, either. A touch of blue or red to divide sections is fine, but remember, this is a resume, not an art project. Employers may be looking at lots of resumes and yours should be simple and easy to read.
  • Tailor your resume to the job posting. When the University of Denver surveyed employers, their number one complaint about student resumes was that they weren’t specific to the job. So, if you’re going to be scooping ice cream and dealing with customers, highlight on your resume how well you interact with families when you lead tours at your school.
  • Make sure you present yourself professionally. That means, no jokey email addresses or whacky personal website names. And while you’re at it, clean up your social media accounts just in case a prospective employer checks.
  • Rest assured that experience comes in different forms. Even if you’ve never had a paying job, you can use your community service and extracurriculars to show that you are responsible and have leadership potential. For example, make sure to not only describe your role in the photography club, but what you learned organizing the photo exhibit.
  • Be courteous to references. Make sure you ask people to be references before you list them on a job application or resume, and tell them a bit about the job. That way, if the employer calls them, they will be prepared to talk specifically about how well you are suited to the job.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. And then have someone else proofread it. Make sure your resume is typo-free, that all names are spelled correctly, and that all phone numbers and addresses are correct. Print a copy out and read it out loud to yourself (our eyes scan differently over print than online). Ask a friend, a teacher, or a parent to read it. A sloppy resume tells employers that you just don’t care.
  • Finally, keep to reality. It’s so tempting to exaggerate on a resume, saying that, perhaps, you weren’t just in the photography club, but you were president of it. Or that you are fluent in French when you’re really just a pro at ordering crepes. Or that you are a wizard at Excel when you flunked the class. Never be untruthful to a potential employer. Word gets around, and what will happen when you are asked to do something you claim you know how to do but can’t? Consider this: If you have to make up skills to get a job, it may not be a good fit.

About the Author:

Marie Schwartz is the CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media. She launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her family and discovering that there were no information resources for families with teenagers. Now, TeenLife’s award-winning website lists thousands of summer, performing arts, therapeutic and gap year programs; schools; college-admission resources and volunteer opportunities for teens throughout the world.


Written by College Coach
College Coach® is the nation’s leading provider of educational advising, offering expert guidance from the best college admissions consultants on the college admissions and finance process. Our goal is to help each student maximize his or her chances of success through services focused on their personal desires, goals, individual strengths, and accomplishments.