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How to Write a Strong Resume: A Guide for Teenagers

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer in Career Services at McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin and the Owner of Cafe Con Resume.Erin has a B.S. degree in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago. For over a decade, Erin worked in Advertising, Marketing, and Digital PR on all types of projects ranging from McDonald’s Happy Meal promotions to Nokia/NAVTEQ’s B2B/social media marketing plans. She also had the opportunity to do Creative/Marketing Recruiting for two years for a worldwide staffing firm and be an Adjunct Instructor at Loyola.

Erin’s passion for marketing, education and helping others has all come together and led her to Austin, TX where she is now a Career Coach and Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin. Erin has been through lay-offs and switched careers so she knows what it takes to update your personal marketing materials and how to sell yourself. She knows that it’s stressful and sometimes painful and created Café Con Resume (inspired by her beloved Café Con Leche from Spain) to help try to make part of the job search enjoyable like a good cup of coffee. Outside of UT and Café Con Resume, Erin keeps her marketing hat on to aid her husband in expanding his personal chef business, Down to Cook. She has also been known to help promote the expansion of Dabble in Austin. Headshot by Leandra Blei Photography

How to Write a Strong Resume: A Guide for Teenagers

Summer is around the corner, and you may be thinking about summer jobs or internships. You’re going to need a resume!  Perhaps you are preparing for college applications. Yes, you’ll want your resume for this too.

Not only do you have to figure out where to start, you might be wondering if you have anywhere near enough experiences to include.

The good news is, you do! You just may have to dig deep and make a list first before trying to fill out a resume template. Speaking of templates, keep reading for a couple of ideas to get you started.

Don’t Start From Scratch. Use a Template!

You can download great resume templates in Microsoft Word. Ideally, you want it to be very simple to skim and read so it should include larger header sections that are in bold font. You want your name to be the largest on the page (usually about a size 14 font) and the rest to be 10-12 size font. Typical fonts for resumes are: Arial, Cambria, Calibri, Garamound, Georgia (basically sans serif fonts and no more Times New Roman).

At your age, a 1-page resume is normal and sufficient. Here are also some great layouts on Etsy that are easy to download and edit and look slightly more creative than a Word template.  

Reflecting on Your Diverse Skills

Utilize the following writing exercise to brainstorm before you start filling out your resume. This may be helpful to type out a long list of all of your experiences and then pull from it what you feel are great examples to show your activities and leadership experiences.

Idea prompts. Make a list of all of your extracurricular activities (even when you were little!) and honors achieved in school or in your extracurricular activities. This can actually be a fun way to celebrate yourself! Here are some examples:

  • Volunteering (school organizations, church, temple, synagogue, etc.)
  • Fundraising (sports, student organizations, school fundraisers, book sales, bake sales)
  • Girl Scouts
  • Boy Scouts, Eagle Scout
  • 4-H
  • Athletics/sports teams/cheerleading/gymnastics/etc.
  • Band/orchestra/chorus
  • Spanish Club, Key Club, Student Council, Debate Team
  • National Honor Society
  • Camps and/or Summer activities
  • Part-time jobs including child care/babysitting, retail, newspaper delivery, pizza delivery
  • School projects where you presented or designed a report: Science Fair, Built an App, Public Speaking class, Dance/Performance, Theater, Photography, Art Shows, etc.
  • Any other leadership, extracurricular, or community-building activities you have participated in

Key Components of a Strong Resume

Ideally the sections you want to include on your resume would be (not all required):

  1. Contact Information
  2. Education
  3. Work Experience (Don’t worry if you don’t have any yet)
  4. Leadership Experience/Activities (can include Volunteer experience or Student Organization involvement)
  5. Computer Skills
  6. Awards or Honors
  7. Trainings and Certifications
  8. Hobbies and Interests

The Finishing Touches

this is a laptop used for resume writing on a desk with other writing tools

Finally, you’ll definitely want to have your resume proofread by someone you trust. Often times we miss typos or grammar when we look at our own resumes. Keep in mind that resumes are constantly evolving. Thus, you will want to look to update it about every six months or so with your newest and most relevant experiences. And to be honest, most people do not enjoy creating/editing their resume but once you have one, hopefully, it’s much easier to update and opens lots of opportunities for you!

You need a strong resume for college, to apply for jobs, and to pursue professional and /student organizations. In fact, I suggest creating a personal portfolio if you have some great work to show– especially in the fields of photography, writing or coding). You can build a free site on Wix or WordPress. Squarespace is also a great site (but not free). This can help set you apart. If that seems too advance, you may also want to consider creating a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn has some great resources including Building a Great Student Profile and

If you need any help getting started, please feel free to reach out!

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