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6 Things to Consider When Writing a Resume as a High School Student

See also: Writing a CV or Resume

Writing a resume as a high school student or recent graduate can be super stressful. You have very little experience (if any!), you need a paycheck and something to do with your time, and you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of being another working stiff like the rest of us.

Have no fear - pretty much every adult you know has done it. The first step is always the hardest, but these tips will make it all a bit easier.

There are plenty of useful resources for building a high school resume, but this list will help you get it started.

1. You have more experience than you think

Have you ever walked your neighbors dog?

Were you a teacher’s aide at your high school?

What about babysitting?

All of that is experience.

You’re a high school student or a recent graduate - that means you’re unlikely to have experience with a Fortune 500 tech firm.

Maybe some high school students do have that kind of experience, and that’s neat, but, for the rest of us, it’s okay to list the summer you babysat for your aunt twice a week.

What this experience shows is that you are capable of adult-level responsibility and a degree of leadership. Employers are happy to see that you’ve done more than just played Xbox in your free time, so be sure to mention it.

See our page on Transferable Skills for more information.

2. Intangible skills are your friend

At this point you probably don’t have a lot of professional level skills. That’s okay - employers don’t expect recent high school students to have mastered welding technology or state of the art finance software.

What you can use in lieu of these more concrete abilities, however, are skills you already possess as part of your personality.

Have you ever received an attendance award at school? That indicates dependability, punctuality and time management skills.

Have you ever mediated an argument between two close friends? Conflict resolution.

Even attributes like making friends quickly can be indicative of skills high school students already have.

Also, your skills can be made more tangible by relating them back to activities you’ve done in and out of school.

Remember, the whole point of high school is to prepare you to be an independent adult, so things you did for fun - drama, sports, art, clubs - can be construed as examples of skills.

Make sure you talk about this on your resume. (And if you’re short on ideas, look at a list of possible skills and see what you can use.)

3. Flexibility and work ethic are key

Speaking of skills, there are two that are universally valued by employers but are surprisingly rare: flexibility and work ethic.

The simple truth is that for most entry-level jobs, you don’t need a huge set of skills and accomplishments; you need the right attitude. Make sure that somewhere in your resume you mention these. This will indicate to a potential employer that you are willing to work hard to get things done, and are going to do it their way.

But what do you do if you aren’t flexible or have a poor work ethic? Either win the lottery or learn how to embody these features.

These skills are mostly developed with patience and practice, so as long as you are willing to cultivate them, even if you fudge them a bit on your resume, you will eventually make them a part of you. And it’s crucial you do, for both summer jobs and internships, as well as for your future career.

4. Find classes or websites to develop skills

One way to improve yourself, your resume, and show a sense of initiative is to grow your skill set outside of what you’ve learned in high school.

Luckily, you can do this for free in your spare time. Maybe you want a part-time job helping out at a hardware store or working for a carpenter. Your high school probably has a woodshop, and the teacher can likely help you design your projects in a way that enhances your knowledge base and makes you more valuable to an employer.

Perhaps you want to work in tech - if you have access to a computer there are an astounding amount of courses and certificates that can teach you everything from basic computer science to coding to Adobe software. Some of them are even hosted by world-class universities like Harvard and MIT.

By being a little resourceful and creative, you can not only open doors to positions other high school students wouldn’t be considered for, but you can also prove to your future boss that initiative is an inherent part of your skillset.

See our page on Lifelong Learning for more.

5. Your job is to learn, not to innovate (at least not at first)

When I was 16, I started applying for my first summer jobs. On my original resume I emphasized how many good ideas I had and how I could shake things up. Guess what? I didn’t get a job with that resume.

The thing is, employers don’t want you to shake things up and make them improve, at least not at first.

Your objective is to learn what the company has to show you and then do that as well as you can.

You need to emphasize this in your resume. As a high school student, it is implied that you are a capable student, so become a “student” of your employer.

Make it your priority to be a team player, and ensure that employers understand this capacity on your application. Mentioning skills like “team player” or stating that you want to learn how to best contribute in your resume objective are good ways of getting this across. Whatever you do, show humility and a willingness to learn.

6. They know you don’t have experience

The concern most high school job applicants stress about is their lack of professional experience.

Let me tell you a secret - everyone knows. You might have a few friends who have worked at a parent’s business or have had an interesting internship or know a thing or two about computers, but don’t worry so much. It’s expected that recent high school grads or current students don’t have experience. As long as you’re earnest and have a good attitude (and have followed my advice) there is a good chance you’ll find something.

Here’s another juicy secret too - as a hiring manager, sometimes I preferred candidates with less experience.

Many companies want employees who are blank slates who don’t have bad habits or different expectations. Imagine two candidates - one with 10 years of experience at 10 different jobs, and one with no professional experience but a solid resume following this advice.

The first candidate sounds like a nightmare - yes they have lots of experience, but why have they had so many jobs? What bad habits have they developed? A wise manager would hire the candidate with less experience but a willingness to learn, and then would train them right. That’s you.

The job market can be a scary place for recent high school graduates or current students. Still, things aren’t as bad as you might think, and with the right mindset you can find a great job, whether it be an internship, summer work, or the first steps to your career. Be sure to follow the above advice and make sure your resume is the best it can be.

About the Author

Adam Hatch is a career adviser and hiring manager at Resume Genius, home of the world's best resume builder. Adam strives to provide the most useful resume advice to hard-working people from all walks of life. When he’s not helping people find their perfect job, he’s probably reading or exploring.