Many students are thinking about the spring-times of their future careers, or summer jobs, or 'after school' jobs.
But with that thought comes anxiety: as a home school grad, what do I put on my resume and what do I say in a job interview? What will I say when they ask “do you have your high school diploma?” I have some ideas…
(Note: this article isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you should put in a resume or say at an interview, but simply a few ideas for you to consider and get you thinking).
1 – Study to be an effective job hunter
Elsewhere in this issue there’s an article talking about how the meaning of ‘inspire’ is related to ‘breathe in’. Breathing in is how we learn.
When you want to learn to write better, you read good writers. You ‘breathe in’ good writing.
Learning the techniques of the great artists will help you draw/paint/sculpt better. You ‘breathe in’ great art.
Seeking and finding – and keeping – a job is similar: there are techniques to observe, tips to think about, personal qualities to develop, skills to build.
To be successful, make these part of your ‘breathing exercises’, but remember to personalize this for yourself, for what works for you.
2 – A resume is YOU on one page.
Unless you have years of relevant experience, don’t pad your resume with your past.
It’s natural to want to add padding, especially when you feel you don’t have a lot of experience yet. But that extra padding hides the ‘muscle’ of your strengths.
For most students, their biggest ‘selling feature’ is their enthusiasm and their character qualities. So, note accomplishments that show those qualities in your resume.
If you want to show ‘persistence’ or ‘diligence’, note that you have your grade six piano or that you’ve earned a brown belt in karate.
If you want to show that your leadership qualities, mention teams you’ve played on but also teams you’ve coached, camps where you’ve been a leader.
Every employer wants to know ‘what kind of person are you?’, so use volunteer experience to illustrate positive character qualities like:
- dependability and self-discipline
- ability to make own decisions, and independence
- sound judgment and common sense
- honesty and integrity
- enthusiasm and mental alertness
- ability to respond positively to criticism and feedback
- respectful toward others and contributions to the team
- ability to get things done
Now you may be asking yourself: “OK, so employers want those skills and qualities. How do I get them?”
The answer is to work on them now, and the best resource on how to do that may be right in your own home: your parents. Ask about their experiences, listen to their feedback on how you can improve. (For instance, check out Part A of WISDOM’s Facilitator Assessment Report Form; it’s entitled “Conduct” and includes these behaviours: Obedience, Diligence, Listening Skills and Attentiveness, Discretion, Initiative. Those are good qualities to have).
Also: keep your resume short.
During the time I was a Home Depot store manager, I read thousands of resumes.
I never read the second page of any.
If the first page didn’t capture my attention, there was no point going past that.
If the first page was good, I’d bring the candidate in for an interview.
So be concise: show who you are on one page.
Without stretching the truth, sum up your best self on that page, and consider starting with a “Personal Summary” near the top of your resume. Put your best qualities and greatest strengths right up top.
3 – In the interview, hit the curveball.
Interviewers will try to rattle you, throw something at you that you don’t expect so that you can’t simply recite a memorized answer.
Expect the curve, and hit a home run with it.
One curve that’s coming, in some form or another, is this: “what is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”
The strength can be tailored to the position you are seeking in order to highlight the fact you are suited to that job.
But the weakness? That can throw a lot of people. We don’t want to admit to being weak. But if we don’t say something, are we being arrogant, or is it that we don’t really know ourselves?
Here’s where we can turn that weakness into a strength: “Well, I know I’m not strong in X area, but because I know that about myself, I’ve taken these steps to fix that: A, B, C.” Translation: I know myself, I know I have a weakness, but I’m working on it so that it won’t really be a weakness anymore but will become a strength.
Say that and you just hit it out of the park.
4 – Show, don’t tell.
Now you can pitch a few back: use words in the interview that are meaningful to the person interviewing you and the company that may be hiring you.
Are you responding to a ‘help wanted’ ad? What kinds of qualities are they looking for? How does this company advertise itself, what phrases are used?
Use their own words to sell yourself, illustrating who you are with concrete examples that show you are that kind of person. Be specific: tell them why you want THIS job, and show – by your knowledge of the company and the position you’re applying for – that you’ve done a little homework already.
Be specific also about yourself. We would all like to say “I have great communication skills”, but you should be able to SHOW that through real-life experiences, specific things you’ve done to communicate well.
The same thing applies to other clichés. Don’t just say that you are a ‘problem-solver’, show them that by using specific examples of problems you’ve solved. Don’t simply state that you ‘have a strong work ethic’ or that you are ‘a self-starter’, use examples to show you do.
5 – Be who you are.
Yes, this means ‘be honest’ on your resume and in the interview, but it means more: be honest with yourself too and don’t be afraid to trumpet your strengths or admit your lack of experience in some areas.
It’s OK to say you don’t have much experience in one area because you have a lot of experience in other areas: educating yourself, becoming self-directed, knowing how to think.
State those positives, and then give your reason for knowing those things about yourself: “I know this because I was home educated.”
It’s OK to say, “I have a diploma and transcript from the largest home education organization in Alberta, WISDOM Home Schooling.” (That would be WISDOM’s Parent Authorized Diploma and Parent Verified Transcript).
If you have received these – and even if you haven’t but you do have your parents’ blessing to say that you’re a graduate – you can clearly and proudly state that you are indeed a graduate. Perhaps you don’t have ‘credits’, but you do have ‘alternative credentials’: a portfolio of your academic accomplishments (which is not your resume but which you would have with you to back up your claims).
‘Graduate’ can be checked off on a job application, stated in an interview, and backed up by a certified Alberta teacher - your home school facilitator.
This is another way to hit that curveball: state home education as a strength.
After all this time being home educated, you can say: “I know how to think outside the box because my whole education has been outside the box!”
And that’s why I’d hire you.
Paul van den Bosch is a WISDOM facilitator and former store manager for Home Depot. During his time at HD, he read almost ten thousand resumes and conducted over five thousand job interviews.