should we require resumes from high school volunteers?

A reader writes:

I work as a year-round educator. I love working with kids, and the greater flexibility during summer has let me show off my passions in ways that I don’t have time to do during the school year.

At a recent meeting with my summer boss, I suggested that we have our high school volunteers send in resumes in addition to filling out an interest form/sending an interest email. After reading your blog, I think that the earlier we get kids practicing these skills, the better. Thankfully, my boss loves the idea, and I’m excited to see it implemented.

After the meeting, I mentioned it to a couple kids who are thinking about volunteering, and they started asking me for advice. I gave them my point of view on resumes (one page max, split into sections, list places you’ve worked and two-three actions/duties for each), and they seemed to get it, but then we ran into a problem.

They don’t have a lot of experiences.

I told them to go with what they’ve been able to do (classes outside of school, helping a parent with their job, etc.) but felt like I should draw a line at what one called “chef work” (helping their parents cook). I’d love to tell them to tailor their experiences to what they’re applying for, but they might not have any. Even if they did, it could just be a single item with a large white space underneath. Aside from sending them my own resume and links to your blog, what other advice do you think would be helpful for them? Is it better to fill the resume with crap, or only have a couple items and a lot of nothingness? I’m pretty sure they’re going to get hired anyway, so is it even worth this much effort on my part?

It’s so well-intentioned, but I wouldn’t do it.

First and foremost, there’s the big problem you ran into — they don’t have any experience to put on a resume yet. So it’s an exercise in frustration right from the start.

And by trying to scrounge around for things they could include, you’re teaching them bad lessons for later — because we do not want people applying for professional jobs to include the sorts of things you’re telling these kids to include, like helping a parent with a job (and definitely not helping their parents cook!).

Plus, they don’t need resumes at this stage. Nearly all of the jobs they’re applying for will want them to just fill out an application, not submit a resume or a cover letter. So you’re teaching them a skill for much later, and in a kind of dubious way because of the above, and which they won’t have any chance to practice between now and then, so will they even retain it?

And what’s more, when resume-writing is taught to high school kids, it’s usually not taught well. Partly that’s because it’s taught by teachers who don’t have any particular expertise in resume-writing and so tend to recycle outdated or outright bad advice (because there’s a ton of it floating around). There’s actually some already in what you told those students about listing two or three actions or duties for each job. A good resume isn’t about duties; it’s about accomplishments — and people who are trained to think their resumes should focus on duties tend to have the weakest ones. (To be clear, I understand why you told them that — they aren’t likely to have many resume-worthy accomplishments at this point — but if the point is to teach resume-writing for later when they really need it, that’s a bad habit to instill.)

I do think there’s value in teaching other job search skills — what to expect in an interview, what your interviewer is looking for from you (and I’d love to see someone teaching high schoolers about employment law, as well as things like what to do if you’re not getting paid). Those are all things they can use right now or in the near future (if they want summer jobs or if they’re working in college, etc.). But I just don’t think there’s a ton of value in making them write resumes years before they’ll really need them.

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Yeah, don’t do this. If you want to give them a lesson in resumes, tell them how they could include this experience on a resume later on.

    This reminds me of a history professor I had who has a stickler-beyond-sticklers about word count and documentation. We were in a fairly remote college so access to actual primary sources wasn’t really a thing and ILL existed but might or might not get there in time for you to use it. We mostly learned to lie. I got over it–I work in a legitimate research institution now and would definitely not the things to which I resorted as an undergrad–but it was frustrating at the time that she wanted things that she hadn’t taught us how to access and that weren’t realistically within our grasp.

    1. M_Lynn*

      I like the idea of teaching them how to write about this job on a future resume towards the end of their employment. And even have some one-on-one sessions with them if possible about their strengths, achievements, and interests. I was probably well into my 20s before I really understood what I was good at or not, and part of it was because being in a job didn’t give me a grade like in school, so I wasn’t ever really sure how work feedback translated. I love your enthusiasm for teaching these skills, but I think they’re so young that it’s better to show and explain it, rather than making them practice it on their own.

      1. Nesprin*

        I’ve done resume workshops for high schoolers, and most have a few things worth putting on there (i.e. sports leadership, being selected for a special program, honor roll etc), but the number of times I’ve had to have students take off personal attributes such as kind or caring… and the number of times I’ve had to point out that a professional email is a good idea…

        You’d be selecting greatly for students who have parents who are clued into white collar norms.

        1. Elliott*

          I think that’s a good point. Even if having the students include resumes isn’t really meant to be a big factor in the selection process, I think it’s really easy to be biased in favor of applicants who submit professional resumes–which is usually understandable in a professional context with adults who are expected to have some experience and knowledge, but not necessarily the goal in this context.

        2. Cubicle_queen*

          “You’d be selecting greatly for students who have parents who are clued into white collar norms.”

          That was what stuck out to me, too, and I was surprised Alison didn’t address it. It’s not clear on a first reading how involved OP is with helping interested students become volunteers (so the barrier to access could be low), but I can see this easily favor the more privileged teens. If my dad stocks shelves at night at WalMart or my mom is a shift nurse, I don’t really have an opportunity to “[help] a parent with their job.”

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            I think that’s not a very realistic expectation for any kind of job, really. The Air Force and public high school would not have had any opportunities for me to help my parents with their jobs.

            1. Wry*

              Agreed. I helped my mom out in her office when I was in high school because she had her own small business (it was a one-woman operation at the time). If she’d done the exact same kind of work but as an employee of a company she didn’t own, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. It’s all really arbitrary.

        3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          That strikes me as rewarding privilege. Some students have to spend all their spare time watching younger siblings while a parent or parents work, or have parents who can’t/won’t shuttle them around to after-school activities, or they flat-out can’t afford any of those activities.

          1. TardyTardis*

            And some high school students are already working 40 hour jobs to keep their families eating and won’t be able to volunteer at all.

        4. Rebecca Stewart*

          And it is ableist.
          People who have mental health issues often say that managing them is a full-time job. I know that my eldest son did school and Boy Scouts, and that was IT. He couldn’t handle a full time job too. But he has ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum, and since I am too, I understood, and didn’t push him to do more to have a “well-rounded” college resume. He wouldn’t be benefited from being miserable, having greater executive function issues due to the stress, and having regular meltdowns.
          An assumption that all high school kids can do all the things severely penalizes the ones whose minds and bodies aren’t “perfect”.

    2. Kiki*

      I want to upvote your first point. I agree that demonstrating how to use their volunteer experience to make a resume in the future would be way more helpful than having kids make a resume with filler content. I understand the sentiment of “the earlier we get kids starting doing X, the better at it that they will be,” but this is an example where that’s really not true. I could be wrong, but I feel like the issue most young adults have with their resume *isn’t* formatting– it’s finding the correct content and they struggle to find the correct content because they genuinely don’t have experiences that make resume-writing worthwhile yet. When I was in high school applying to jobs, I hated resume-writing not because I didn’t know what should go on a resume but because I knew I didn’t actually have anything of interest to put on there besides babysitting and good grades.

      1. sequined histories*

        Speaking as an educator, I think there are many examples of things where you can actually cause harm by pushing people to learn something that is developmentally inappropriate.

        Earlier is not always better.

        1. Bayn al-qasrayn*

          Resume writing for a 16-to-18 year-old is, by and large, beyond being “developmentally appropriate.” These kids are one year away from being asked to write early-life biographies in the form of college admissions essays.

          1. sequined histories*

            A biography–or a personal essay focused on narrative–is very different from a resume. Getting into college is very different from getting a job. Senior English teachers actually put A LOT of effort into teaching kids how to write college admissions statements. It’s a completely different genre of writing.

          2. PersephoneUnderground*

            And there’s a reason college admissions essays are painful to write- most high schoolers just don’t have much profound life experience to draw on yet, and things that are profound to them are also very common so don’t make them stand out very much. I was a smart kid but boy did my essays stink. Same problem as writing resumes at that age.

        2. Poppyseeds*

          Speaking as a school counselor students can and do complete resumes. In fact I encourage them to do so to help fill out their college applications. These resumes contain accelerated coursework, volunteering, job and work history, coaching, camp counseling, theatre/ musical accomplishments as well as honors and awards. These resumes are different but altogether very helpful when keeping track. We also have a template in our college tool to help students with this. These are not the exact same as a work history resume but they are a helpful tool nonetheless. The LR might want to consider this type.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I would include my three summers picking strawberries where I was expected to walk to the bus at 5 am, and then walk home in the afternoon when I was dropped off. I wouldn’t include the weekly cleaning of an office where I totally dicked off and got fired…

    3. Smithy*

      As part of the exercise in demonstrating how student workers could list this job on a resume – it could also connect to goal setting/PME education. If this is a job where the tasks on their surface seem more like routine duties, such as staffing the front desk, data entry, or shelving books – what is the difference between exceeds and meets expectations at this job?

      A lot of jobs early in someone’s life – either student jobs, retail/food service, or entry level work can feel like the greatest expectations are showing up and just doing your duties. But helping someone learn what it means to be good at that work, and then explain it later is a genuine opportunity for growth.

    4. dealing with dragons*

      or have them write resumes for their dream career – they can learn what to put on while not having to wrack their brains for experience they don’t have

      1. Smithy*

        I’m not sure this is entirely helpful….

        I took a general grant writing course when I wasn’t working for a specific organization and didn’t have a specific donor in mind. And in retrospect, it was utter useless. I learned about the different kinds of headings that proposals can have, but it did nothing to help with my actual grant writing.

        At the end of the day resumes, grants – they’re very specific documents, and making up that work when you’ve never had any of it yourself it really painful. Helping a student take their summer volunteer experience and turn it into a long or short resume entry would make a lot of sense. But asking a 16/17 year old to consider their dream career and what jobs they’ll need to get there – I wouldn’t want to do that now.

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      I came here to make the same suggestion. At the end of the summer program you could do them a great service by helping them develop a resume with information for the summer job.

    6. Willis*

      Your second sentence is what I came her to say as well. Maybe at the end of the volunteer position, the OP could spend some time helping her students develop an entry about this job for a future resume. How to format it, what info to include, what their accomplishments were, etc. I think that would be 100% more useful than them crafting a pretend resume with experience about helping around the house (although I loved the “chef work” attempt!).

  2. Lisa*

    How about giving them their “new resumes” at the end of the summer that they can then build off of over time?

    1. Person A*

      Along this idea, how about helping them write up what their accomplishments from this summer work could look like on a resume in the future, such as for college internships? That way they (maybe) have a few bullet points that they could use for the first time they’re asked for a resume.

      1. Esmeralda*

        And also have them practice how they could talk about their experience in future interviews.

        1. Chamomile*

          Yes to Esmeralda! I’m a high school teacher and I also conduct interviews for my alma mater, and many kids don’t know how to talk meaningfully about their jobs/experiences either inside or outside of school. Having them do a written reflection at the end of the summer and then having a conversation to dig deeper into some of the ideas they brought up in their reflection (and then maybe some things they didn’t notice about themselves, but that you noticed about them while they were helping out your org), would help them quite a bit in college interviews.

    2. TootsNYC*

      If you want to give them a lesson in resumes, tell them how they could include this experience on a resume later on.
      I like these two ideas. If what you want to do is help kids, this is a really good idea

      This tactic might also help OP to frame these job experiences in such as way that these kids can have an accomplishment to cite.

  3. Mental Lentil*

    Kids have such a hard time finding employment these days. This is well-intentioned, but it’s just another hurdle for them. Please reconsider.

    1. Annony*

      Yep. Some kids are going to see that a resume is required and decide not to apply because they have no experience and asking for a resume implies that experience is going to be taken into account. In general, never add a step or requirement to the process that won’t actually help you select the best applicants.

      1. oranges*

        Yep. Requiring a resume assumes everyone has access to, and an understanding of, the technology required to create a resume. If a person can do the job with no experience, and you’ve easily found them in the past without a resume, don’t force them to try and make something up this round.

      2. Anonys*

        Yes, this. This would have deterred me as a teenager and will most likely especially deter kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who will have even less to put on a “resume” because their parents couldn’t pay for music lessons and their schools might now have fancy resume worthy clubs such as debate or MUN

        1. GothicBee*

          Yeah, as well-intentioned as this may be, my first thought was that this was going to immediately weed out any kids who don’t do extracurriculars or volunteer work, kids who don’t have a ton of academic accomplishments, kids whose parents work blue collar jobs (or retail jobs, service jobs, pink collar jobs, etc.) and don’t have as much to offer in resume-writing, etc. Which, in something like this, it’s better to lessen the barrier to participation (as long as any required criteria are being met) because a volunteer summer program is likely already skewing to a certain demographic.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Roger that. Many kids are working in the summer (and were working all the way through school, too. I had to help them with taxes a few times, God love them! Some of them were legitimately independent, but couldn’t get the Earned Income Credit because they were too young).

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        Also, They may not have someone who can help them write a good resume and that might deter them from applying at what sounds like a really good opportunity for young people. I hope the OP takes this enthusiasm and changes perspectives a bit by taking some of alison’s advice

      4. Bayn al-qasrayn*

        So have them list leadership in the form of extracurricular activities. That’s what employers will screen for in most cases.

        And you are aware that a lot of schools require a senior capstone project, which often takes the form of an externship or community service project, correct?

        This exercise also shows the importance of setting goals and striving to achieve them: things like Eagle Scout awards, 5s on AP exams, published poetry, and so on all are feather’s in one’s cap that belong on that resume.

        1. Bumblebee*

          All of which support the point that you’d be screening for whiteness, upper-class-ness, etc.

          1. Self Employed*


            I didn’t have extracurriculars because we didn’t have transportation or money. My family wasn’t friends with any of my classmates’ families because we were shunned for poverty so tagging along with a classmate wasn’t an option.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I’m sure you mean this helpfully, but the things you describe apply to maybe 10-25% of kids- maybe a higher proportion of affluent areas, but in a general metro the vast majority of your high school kids and high schools aren’t offering extracurriculars or AP classes, or kids that can participate in Eagle Scouts. Self selecting for those kids and offering them further volunteer positions just continues to widen that gap.

          Equity is really hard to get our arms around, but I do think that there’s two very different America’s and when people assume it’s really easy for kids in poverty or lower middle class, or even those in more strained family circumstances it’s a real blind spot.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            Exactly! If it only lifts kids who already have people or circumstances boosting them, it’s a bad idea, or badly designed, in the first place.

          2. RecoveringSWO*

            It’s funny, I immediately thought of the barriers here for the more privileged kids. This time in spring is AP/SAT/SAT II season, sports playoffs, Scouting merit project deadlines, essentially every big ticket academic or extracurricular activity has a big assessment or commitment right now. The kids who are gunning for colleges would likely choose to focus on performing well in those assessments over learning how to create a resume for a volunteer position. I agree that the resume requirement would screen out underprivileged kids as well and I’m glad to see the LW’s plans in the comments here.

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, and it’ll be an extra-high hurdle for kids whose parents work in “non-resume” jobs and will have less help there.

      1. oranges*

        I meant to say this too! A kid with a computer at home, white collar parents, english as a first language, and a childhood with plenty of free time for extra circulars will have a tremendous advantage over those who do not. I’d hate to think how many kids will self-select out of applying because they don’t think they can create this resume.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I suspect you’re going to end up picking kids with beautiful resumes that were really written by their parents, and the kids who hand in a resume that looks like a teenager wrote it won’t get picked.

        2. OhNo*

          That was my first thought as well – this is an extra hurdle that will make a lot of young people self-select out, either because they can’t or don’t know how to create a resume. If it’s something you legitimately want to help them learn how to do, then help them with it after they’ve been “hired”. Otherwise it’s just a roadblock.

        3. TardyTardis*

          I know. I made sure that my children *were* that privileged, but I definitely remember a childhood that wasn’t.

      2. Ana Gram*

        I totally agree. When I was 16, I was a homeschooled kid who stocked hubcaps part-time. My dad was a mechanic and my mom was a SAHM who had never worked. Writing a resume would have been beyond me and I would never have applied. This requirement really caters to kids with more advantages, unfortunately.

      3. Bayn al-qasrayn*

        Yes, and it’ll be an extra-high hurdle for kids whose parents work in “non-resume” jobs and will have less help there.

        And when are those kids supposed to learn how to write a resume?

        1. Self Employed*

          At the end of high school, after they have an opportunity to gain experience, when they’re doing the career guidance class.

          What next, saying kids should be learning calculus in third grade because they need to learn this before they take any math-intensive science classes?

        2. Kelly L.*

          When did most of us? I think I got most of what I know about resumes from the internet over the years. (We technically also had it in English class in high school, but what we learned was outdated. And I read my dad’s once. It was even more outdated. He had stuff like his weight on it.) It was never taught in a job or volunteer position I had as a kid.

    3. PT*

      Yes. I worked somewhere that used the same applicant tracking system for all jobs, from 16 year old part-time camp counselors to applicants for the new CEO search. It. Was. A. Disaster.

      Our 16 year olds would be greeted with screens asking them to “upload a resume” or “indicate your level of education” from a dropdown menu that started with PhD on the first page of the application, think “I don’t have a resume! I haven’t even finished high school! I’m not qualified for this job!” and close their browser.

      We spent two summers massively understaffed before the heads of the departments that hired a lot of teenagers for seasonal work demanded the VP of HR’s head on a pike. Then he added a checkbox “This is my first job” to the form that jumped them right through the irrelevant bits of the application. It took a lot of the pressure off immediately.

      1. Self Employed*

        I’m sorry about the two summers where teens were missing out on job opportunities like that, but very glad to see the “This is my first job” solution.

    4. LW*

      LW here. I’m definitely going to push for us to not do this. If we do anything with resumes, it’s going to be picking out accomplishments at the end of summer that could be put on one, but even then I’d frame it as more of a normal job reflection than anything inherently resume-related.

  4. Cercis*

    I think there’s value in helping them craft a resume entry for this job, after they’re hired of course. Talk about what it would look like, the accomplishments they should be watching for and tracking and that this is something they should do in every job. We all know we should keep our resume up to date, but it feels like such a hard task. If we started out the working world knowing what to watch for and make notes about, it would be less daunting.

    1. Anonys*

      Yeah, I think giving the kids some guidance on resume writing could be a nice “thank you” to the volunteers rather than requiring to submit a resume to get the volunteer gig.

      Also then they actually have something to put on there which is much better than teaching them that its ok/beneficial to put a bunch of irrelevant stuff on your resume just to bulk it up.

      Besides, “helping a parent with their job” is such a weird thing to do – I would imagine very few adults have jobs where their high school kids could help them. And even if they did is it advisable to have your kid help you with your job. Would your employer approve of that (except that terrible employer that was telling parents working from home during Covid to have their kids take notes in meetings)?

      1. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

        My thought on reading that wasn’t “job” as in what the parents does for a living, but rather “job” as in “paint the house”, or “tend the garden for the summer,” family business rather than professional.

        1. LW*

          The “jobs” were both the parent’s profession and helping around the house. The former tended to be things like, “helping out my parent who works in a lab” (I tend to get the nerdy kids) which, when pressed, turned out to be more in line with clerical work and observing how one works in a lab than anything else. I agree with another commenter that experiences like this would be better put in a cover letter.

  5. Chickaletta*

    If you like the idea of teaching them to write a resume, maybe offer resume writing assistance at the END of their experience. At that point, they’ll have something to include (the volunteer work) and some of them might start looking for a step-up job like office receptionist or intern that would be more likely to ask for a resume. Still, I wouldn’t require it and be aware of the issues that Alison raised (focusing on accomplishments, not instilling bad habits, etc)

  6. Dark Macadamia*

    This is one of the things that’s so frustrating about people complaining that schools don’t teach practical/workplace skills. 1) They usually do! 2) It’s not always effective or relevant at the time.

    LW, I think it was a great idea to try it, but “they can’t actually fill a resume and don’t need one to get this job” is your answer to whether it’s worth the effort in this situation.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Yes, this exactly.

      I was taught how to write a resume in HS. It was useless during HS, where I could only work summers, and nobody asked for my work accomplishments on the Dairy Queen application. It was useless during college, where I was applying mostly for places like the on-campus bookstore, using my neighbors I gardened and cat-sat for as references.

      A resume became useful when I left college and was looking for work that was not intended to be slotted in around a 9am PolySci, a 4pm British Lit section, and every other Wednesday’s Bio lecture. But by that point, my “how to write a resume” information was almost seven years out of date.

      LW, it would be more valuable to provide them a template at the end of the summer with ways they could list the experience they’ve gained in such a way that they can build off of it later, when they need it.

      1. Anonys*

        We learned resume writing in German lessons (where I went to school) at age 13/14. We had to write resumes AND cover letters (!) for generic “office clerk” jobs with some fake educatioal experiece about ourselves. It made no sense because at the time what an “office clerk” might actually do was totally beyond my imagination. The only thing I remember from those lessons is the deeply terrible and classist advice to put your parents jobs (!!!) on your own resume which my mother gave the school a call about

        1. Undine*

          In German class? In that case, the best possible description of a clerk’s job is from Heinrich Böll:

          Broschek was sitting at his desk, a telephone receiver in each hand, between his teeth a ballpoint pen with which he was making notes on a writing pad, while with his bare feet he was operating a knitting machine under the desk.

        2. Sasha*

          “The only thing I remember from those lessons is the deeply terrible and classist advice to put your parents jobs (!!!) on your own resume which my mother gave the school a call about”

          That is, or used to be, a real thing in Germany. Hopefully not nowadays, but definitely still was in the 1990s when I was taking German classes.

      2. Elizabeth McDonald*

        I was taught how to write a business letter in eighth grade English in 1997, all formatted with the two addresses at the top and everything. I am not certain I have ever actually sent a business letter formatted like that. No one ever explicitly taught me how to write professional emails with varying degrees of formality; I just had to figure that out on my own. It could have been useful for my college professors to do that during my student teaching days, maybe, but it’s not something my eighth grade teacher could have taught me in 1997… I would be surprised if he’d even had an email address.

        As a teacher now myself, I’m a fan of mostly teaching kids what they need to know now or in the near future. The exception is big, values-shaping things, like how I talk to my four-year-old daughter about her body and mine so that hopefully later she’ll be less likely to have body images issues. But I don’t talk to her about how to renew her driver’s license just because someday she’ll have to do so.

        1. Nanani*

          I had that “How to write a business letter” lesson too!
          Funilly enough, all the business letters I’ve ever written had a house template with a letterhead and preferred styles, so anything learned in school didn’t come up, even when the letter was destined for paper rather than electrons.

          Teaching kids formatting for anything farther than say, applying for further schooling in the next year or two, is a waste of time.

    2. Disco Janet*

      Yes! The other day while teaching I compared something to resume writing. My students started asking why we don’t teach them how to write a resume, and this is what I explained to them – that at 15, they are so many years out from writing a resume that they’d forget how by the time they needed it. Instead we focus on things like how to find good resources and determine which ones are best (so they can end up on helpful job search tools/sites in the future), what formal writing looks like, how to write a professional-sounding email, etc. Things that have wider uses and won’t be as easily forgotten.

  7. Rafflesia Reaper*

    A resume would be a needless barrier for kids who couldn’t participate in extracirriculars for reasons beyond their control.

    If you want to teach them a lifelong skill, ask for a cover letter. “I want this volunteer job because…” and “You want me for this volunteer job…” is the kind of thinking they’ll put into action for every cover letter they’ll ever need.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes, this would not be a big deal to kids who already have a lot to put on their future resumes but could discourage those with fewer experiences from applying at all. I really like the idea of using the resume as an end-of-position reflection because it builds the skill AFTER they’ve accomplished something, and you can help them be really specific because you’ll have actually seen their work.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      I really like this idea. A cover letter is just as important as a resume (sometimes moreso) and I think is undertaught. Having your volunteers write a 1 paragraph blurb about why they’re a good fit for this job would be more helpful long term. Unless that’s what the interest email is? Then maybe just have them frame it differently.

    3. hbc*

      I really like this idea, combined with teaching them how to write a resume at the end of the process that has the particular job at the end. I don’t know what the “interest email” entails, but it would be a kindness to include some samples of the kinds of cover letters people with no direct experience could write.

    4. Jayn*

      I had a similar thought. As a teen I got turned down for a job at a summer camp due to not having experience with groups of kids. But the way my peers got that experience wasn’t available to me. Almost 20 years later and I’m still annoyed about that.

    5. JJ*

      Yes, I’m thinking the interest letter is a really good exercise, I didn’t learn what cover letters were supposed to be until well into my career (thanks AAM!) You don’t have to have any particular work experience to be able to write a letter about why you’re interested and why you’d be good at a job.

  8. Clydesdales and Coconuts*

    I have to disagree with the advice given here on this particular situation. I think that assuming that low skilled entry level jobs do not require resumes is really short sighted and people need to be prepared to provide one right out of high school, no matter how sparse it might be. As someone who had the role of trying to assist people with very few skills build resumes for entry level positions, I can tell you that almost all positions these days will in fact require a resume as well as an application- at least where I am from…

      1. DrMrsC*

        I can verify it happens. We live in a really rural area and my kids were asked for resumes and cover letters for their first jobs in fast food, running a cash register at a seasonal mini-golf, and mowing lawns at a golf course. Fortunately they each at least had a couple of school activities to include, but there was a lot of creative formatting to happening to fill the void. Even with that and help at home both of them thought their resumes would hurt not help them. My husband hires entry level retail jobs and his organization also asks for resumes – not sure it is a requirement though.

      2. Maree*

        I can tell you my 15yo recently applied for a dish hand job at a pizza restaurant (online application) and was required to upload a resume.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I can walk into any grocery store or retail outlet or factory around here and get a job just by filling out an application.

      Your assertion is not true in all areas, apparently.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          It IS less valid, because there are plenty of other skills that kids could be learning instead that are far more valuable to them in the present, such as soft skills. It’s not like they have unlimited time.

          Don’t waste the kids’ time.

          1. Self Employed*

            And another commenter pointed out that resume styles change over time so by the time they do need a resume, if they remembered anything from summer 2021, it might be outdated.

    2. Valancy Snaith*

      This must be location-dependent, then. I’ve worked in positions where I was assisting barriered people with finding employment and working with teens looking to find their first jobs, and the vast vast vast majority of jobs did not request a resume. If they had one, great, but it’s by no means a necessity for the type of fast food, retail, and labour jobs that formed the bulk of positions kids were generally applying for.

    3. Grits McGee*

      But in this case, the applicants will be volunteers and are still in high school; they’re not applying for paid work after graduating. If the goal is to have the kids learn to put together and use a resume, then the above suggestions to make resume-creation part of the volunteer experience are much more helpful.

      Could you give a little more info about your field/location where resumes are expected for entry level positions for high school grads? I applied for a lot of retail/customer service/food service jobs as a teen, and was never asked for a resume.

      1. 1234*

        I applied at Urban Outfitters as a teen and the application itself had a section for previous work experience as well as a section for references. I can’t remember if they required a resume itself but listing previous job experience with name of company, start/end dates and duties might as well be a resume.

        1. Self Employed*

          Listing it on an application web form is not the same as having to format and prepare a standalone resume. The form itself is going to give prompts for the information to enter (and hopefully it will be clear that you don’t list “helped my mom bake cookies”.

    4. Malarkey01*

      That’s interesting. I’ve been a sounding board for my niece looking for a summer job between high school and college this month- restaurants, retail, grocery stores all were fill out an online application no resume could even be submitted. The only job with a somewhat resume was a summer camp counselor but it was more an experience checklist of skills like archery, boating, swimming and not a traditional resume.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      I really think this is very limited to either the job or the location. In the united states (upper midwest) you can go to any retail store or fast food place and get an application orthey may direct you to their website to put in an application. For the online places they probably don’t even have a place to upload your resume.

      heck I remember my first job out of college I created a resume and they didn’t even want it. Just wanted me to input all my info into the computer before the onsite interview (it was an open walk-in interview type of set up).

    6. Me*

      I’ve heard this anecdotally but have seen no evidence to back up that it is a common practice.

      Anecdotally it hasn’t been my daughter’s experience in working at a winery, summer camp, as a college orientation leader or as an employee at the colleges sports equipment rental place.

      Now as others have stated teaching them at the end of the opportunity how to add the experience to the resume would be valuable. But preemptively, it’s setting up a barrier that is unnecessary and unhelpful.

    7. turquoisecow*

      The last time I applied for a cashier job in a large retail chain, I filled out a piece of paper in the store and handed it to the manager of the service desk. She actually gave it to her manager who happened to be in at the time, who glanced at it briefly and told me to call on Monday and ask her when to come in for training.

      At some point after I started there, applicants were directed to sit at the computer they had on the front end and fill out an application that way, along with a large number of psychological questions intended to weed out whether they were suited for customer service. I knew the woman who managed the hiring and if the questions were not answered properly the application wouldn’t even be sent to the store. They all went through corporate and came back.

      While I’m sure the electronic applications asked for experience, there was no need for resume or cover letter and anyone who tried to give one to the hiring manager at our store would have been politely handed it back and told to sit at the computer. Most of the new hires were 16-17 year olds, many left after a year or two for college or continued working during college then left, most of them had maybe worked at another retail store prior but otherwise had no experience. A resume would have been a waste of paper.

    8. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’m sure the need for resumes does vary. My concern, though, is that the OP wants to provide a learning opportunity, but is jumping in at the assessment, not teaching stage. Sure, there will be some applicants who will Google their way through to AAM, and learn something valuable in the process, but the results for most kids will be.
      – Googled “how to make a resume”, followed whatever advice came up in the first Google summary, result is… oh dear…
      – Got parent to do it (lovely resume, kid leaned nothing).
      – Asked a teacher (not terribly likely and may teach bad habits)
      – Felt overwhelmed and gave up, the risk of this last one going up a lot as the student privilege decreases.

      Learning how to make a resume is valid and important, but if the OP wants to teach it, it should be incorporated in the program. Demanding it as part of the admissions process is just creating unnecessary barriers.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        “the OP wants to provide a learning opportunity, but is jumping in at the assessment, not teaching stage.”
        Once more for the cheap seats in the back! This is the best explanation of the problem I’ve seen so far. OP, take note!

  9. Batgirl*

    As an English teacher, if I want to teach a style of practical writing it usually involves a persona (pretending to be an adult letter writer or news reporter) and also giving an example of one that’s been done well for them to copy a similar version from. That will teach them the overall style. They could also write the kind of resume they’d want to have in x years time, as a directional tool, but generally a real mccoy version probably isn’t possible yet.

    1. sb51*

      I was thinking something similar—could even do an exercise writing a resume for a fictional character or something fun like that.

      1. dealing with dragons*

        I have seen this done before – including one written in from “Hodor” from Game of Thrones — so be specific!

        1. Nanani*

          A memorable example made the rounds a few years back, where a kid wrote from the persona of Groot from the Marvel films

  10. Properlike*

    How are these students at the “soft skills” at work? The very basic things such as showing up on time, completing tasks, showing initiative in problem-solving, avoiding their cell phones, etc.? From teaching college and talking to local employers of high schoolers, respect for the schedule is THE biggest issue for this particular age group. Making sure these skills are emphasized and nurtured gets them much further than a resume.

    1. goducks*

      Yes, this. If the OP wants to use this to help students understand the working world, then they should focus on the basic job skills/workplace culture and expectations type things in this program. School and work don’t operate the same way, there’s fundamental differences on how you interact with your supervisor vs. your teacher. Differences in expectations for timeliness and communication around all sorts of things. Getting kids familiar with the ways that jobs are different than school is a big gift they can give these kids, and way more immediately useful than a mostly fluff/made-up resume.

    2. PT*

      If you want “respect for the schedule” you are going to have to loop in their parents. HOO BOY some of the parents are worse than the kids. I’ve had many a near-tears 16 year old pleading for forgiveness because their parent somehow sabotaged their ability to come into work. Lots of semi-abusive parents out there.

      1. Nanani*

        Especially if the volunteer thing requires car access. Even if you’re somewhere where 16 year olds can have a full license (vs a permit that requires a fully licensed driver with them), selecting for people with their own car is a big hurdle.

  11. zebra*

    I echo Alison and everyone else. Requiring a resume will likely discourage people from applying, because they don’t have one / don’t know how to make one / don’t have anything to put on it. If you tell people that the resume is irrelevant, they will know you are wasting their time by creating something that doesn’t matter, and if they haven’t even started in your program yet that’s a bad introduction — why would I want to apply to someplace who is openly admitting they’re making me do extra work for no reason? Skip the requirement at the beginning and talk to them about how to put this on a resume at the end, after you already know each other.

    1. Bayn al-qasrayn*

      Requiring a resume will likely discourage people from applying, because they don’t have one / don’t know how to make one / don’t have anything to put on it.

      You know, sometimes challenging people how to figure out how to do something, like solving hard math problems, actually inspires them. To quote the ever-quotable JFK, we didn’t go to the moon because it was easy. We went because it was hard.

      1. Self Employed*

        What you’re asking many students to do is to create a space mission to a fictional Planet 10. What is the point of that?

        If a student doesn’t have experience to put on a resume because they haven’t had a job, they don’t have opportunities for extracurriculars, their parents don’t have a family business, what exactly ARE they supposed to do? Exaggerate wildly and say they are professional bakers because they helped mom make cookies for church socials? Say they’ve been employed by a moving company for X years because they helped their parents load the UHaul?

  12. Roscoe da Cat*

    Maybe, OP, you can flip this. Ask them at the end of the summer to think about the accomplishments that they did during the summer and how that would fit on a resume?
    That way they get in the habit of thinking of accomplishments during the time they are working.

  13. blink14*

    I also disagree somewhat with this advice. I used to run a part time, seasonal event and we always hired at least a few students from the local high school, through their guidance office. The job duties included customer service, handling cash payments or accepting checks, taking photos, packing merchandise, etc. We required a resume, but absolutely did not make decisions based solely on that resume. I interviewed each candidate, we talked about their interests, what they liked in school, potential plans for after high school, etc.

    Their resumes were sort of the foot in door, so to speak. Their guidance counselor often helped them, but generally it was any sort of work they had done, and then things like a high school “major” or special program, skills like a second language, etc. They were brief but it helped framed an interview.

    We had some horrendous hires that were first/second year of college, but all of our high school hires that I personally brought on were fantastic and most worked the event every year through high school and then into college. And some of those students had zero job experience prior.

    Perhaps expand the interest email to include any possible previous experiences? A more informal way of thinking about what would potentially go on a resume, but not so formal it causes extra stress or potentially narrows the pool too much.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      What kind of info did you get from the resumes that you didn’t get from the interviews?

      1. blink14*

        I used the resumes as a first round sorting process – anyone with a strong resume was a definite interview. Things like a second language, if someone had any drama or art background (there were a few roles at the event that benefitted from that experience, actual paid work experience, volunteer experiences, etc were items that on a high school resume, for this particular event, would stand out and would not necessarily come up in an interview without that prior knowledge.

        1. Sam*

          But you do see how this is selecting for things that likely aren’t related to all jobs, and which correlate pretty directly with privilege for a lot of people?

          1. blink14*

            I just commented below – I typically interviewed every high school student that applied. There was one year that I couldn’t because there were too many candidates for the amount of time I had. This was a paid job, not volunteer, so we had to have some sort of basic requirements, but not having any of the topics I mentioned above wasn’t a definite no. It just meant really digging in during the interview.

            We had one long time employee, hired in high school, who’s first language was not English. She had interest in drama, had a great reference from a math teacher, and was willing to learn how to handle transactions. She was a great employee and by the time I left that job, had become a de facto supervisor for younger hires.

            1. Nia*

              The act of requiring a resume means that many students who didn’t have any of your extracurriculars self selected out. Even if you interviewed everyone that applied your applicant pool is already going to be heavily tilted towards privileged teens.

              1. blink14*

                It was a process set up by the high school guidance counselor as part of their work program. The high school was not in a wealthy town and had high diversity.

          2. Bayn al-qasrayn*

            But you do see how this is selecting for things that likely aren’t related to all jobs, and which correlate pretty directly with privilege for a lot of people?

            By this standard, we could never hire anyone for anything.

            1. Sam*

              This is nonsense. You should always attempt to match the hiring process to the job duties as accurately as possible, just from a practical perspective, and attempting to remove privilege related barriers is, in fact, good practise.

        2. blink14*

          And to back that up – we usually had a small enough group that I could interview everyone to give them that experience. I think there was one year that we had too many candidates – probably around 20 – and I just couldn’t interview them all.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      What does a teen who has not had a job before put on their resume? Maybe volunteer work, but as I kid I didn’t volunteer anywhere with any consistency either.

      My first job was a college work study job that did not require a resume, but required financial need.

      1. blink14*

        I just responded above – it was a process set up by the high school guidance counselor as part of their work program. I saw everything from school achievements, participation in technical programs, volunteering at a religious organization or at an after school program, helping out at a parent or relative’s business, etc.

          1. blink14*

            Then potentially they were not in the work program at the high school. We also hired college students, usually first or second year, and we required a resume from them. Same premise, usually they would have at least one part time job in the past, volunteer or paid, or could use participation in college programs as part of the resume.

          2. Bayn al-qasrayn*

            What if you don’t have any of those?

            Then maybe you see you’d better start trying to get some of them. Getting hired at any job generally requires standing out from the crowd.

            1. Sam*

              You do realize this is a conversation about a volunteer position, right? I mean, I’ve seen your other comments here, which kinda say it all, but you’re really coming across as unsympathetic.

              1. Self Employed*

                Thank you, Sam! Definitely a “need X years of experience pulling up bootstraps for this entry level position” vibe going on.

        1. Anonymous Resumeer*

          So this was a situation in which all of the students had assistance/direction from a program in which they were already enrolled in putting together their resumes? That seems fine, and probably helpful to both you and the students, but different from the situation in the letter.

          1. blink14*

            Most likely for the high school students, yes – they all applied through their guidance counselor who ran the work program.

            We also hired first or second year college students, who typically had very little work experience, if at all.

          2. blink14*

            That’s why my suggestion was to have something more informal, like what is in place, but perhaps open it up to capture more types of information, like previous work experience (unclear if that’s a question currently).

    3. Ari*

      This sounds all well and good for the high schoolers you interviewed from that specific school, but I can assure you not every high schooler has access to a competent guidance counselor office/college and job prep program.

      Mine didn’t even bother helping students figure out post graduation plans (college, work, military, etc.) They literally handed me an 8 inch paperback book on colleges in the US and what majors they offered (written in a very tiny font) and left me to read it at the table while they went to get coffee and chat with other co-workers. They couldn’t be bothered to even ask me what I was interested in or if I needed help navigating the process. Forget about it if I had needed resume help or assistance finding a job. They were utterly useless.

      It’s lovely that that particular school has a great program for their students, but it’s definitely not a universal resource for most high schoolers.

  14. Jessica*

    LW, you so clearly mean well and I respect your intent, but two things.
    (1) Your hiring process should be about what you need to make a selection, no more. Not about bringing enlightenment to your entire applicant pool. Think about all the AAM horror stories we’ve read about 47-round interviews, and the principle is the same even with teen applicants–respect their time and effort. Necessary hoops only. If someone you reject asks for feedback, you can give them some. Otherwise, focus your efforts on the people you hire, because that’s where you can really make a difference, by doing any or all of the workplace-education stuff Alison and commenters are suggesting.

    (2) You are introducing bias into your process in a way that’s probably the opposite of anything you’d want. If you ask teenagers for resumes, you are going to get more applications from the teens who know what a resume is, might even have already started trying to write one or at least have gotten some advice about it, and can go home to their middle-class, white-collar, educated parents and get a ton of help (and look for more on their home’s high-speed internet connection that they have their own device for). You will get fewer applications from the teens who are totally unfamiliar with resumes, who can’t go ask their parents for help because the parents are in a line of work where resumes aren’t needed (or maybe can’t help because they don’t speak English or are at their second job right now), and most of all, to whom “resumé” sends an unspoken but very loud signal THIS IS NOT FOR YOU.

    Make your hiring process as open and accessible as possible and judge teen applicants as little as possible on their pre-existing cultural knowledge. Then set aside time to work with the ones you hire and help them develop this knowledge and skills they’ll need for the future world of work. You’ll be doing a much better thing that way than with your original idea.

  15. Tibs*

    This will be an additional barrier to low-income kids, BIPOC, kids, etc and may even discourage some from volunteering for you program. There could be many reasons they can’t participate in after school activities. Also, will you be able to keep yourself from favoring applicants who write a better resume? You’d be screening out kids who may not have had good help in crafting theirs and screening “in” kids from possibly wealthier background who have parents with time/experience to help them.

    1. DataGirl*

      And given the past year, many if not most kids won’t even have recent extracurricular activities because volunteering, clubs, sports, etc were all shut down.

    2. Bayn al-qasrayn*

      This will be an additional barrier to low-income kids, BIPOC, kids, etc and may even discourage some from volunteering for you program.

      When are low-income kids, BIPOC kids, etc. going to have a chance to learn how to write a resume? When they’ve suddenly graduated and it’s sink-or-swim?

      1. Sam*

        When they’re applying for jobs that require more skills than “show up”? When they’re at least being paid for their time? When they have things with low requirements – like this volunteer position – to put on their resume?

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep, this is the kind of thing that’s called a “resume builder.” Not because you have to build a resume to get the job, but because it gives you something to put on there later.

      2. Kelly L.*

        How will this requirement teach resume writing, though? Humble Schoolmarm hit the nail on the head: this assesses the skill, but does not teach it. It’s going to select for kids who already know how, or whose parents do it for them.

  16. Esmeralda*

    A useful activity for them after they’re hired is to show them good resumes from high school seniors– because in fact h.s. seniors do sometimes need to have them for things like scholarships, summer research opportunities, internships, and so on. Then talk to them about what they can do while they’re in high school to have that good resume 2 or 3 or 4 years from now. They’re hearing some of this wrt college admissions — talk with them about these things wrt job skills.

    I’ve done something similar with my college freshmen, who generally write terrible resumes on the first go — I give them a lot of advice about improving their resumes AND I have them write a reflection about what they need to have a good college-senior resume, and then make a little action plan of things they will do this summer, next year, etc. Also, many are glad they did that crappy resume as a first step, because all of a sudden they *need* a resume. They mostly didn’t need it before college, but they for sure need it their freshman year.)

  17. Galahad*

    I love the list of things to teach this group. Especially “what to do if your pay is shorted”.
    Also add — what to do if your boss gets “handsy”, or asks you out for drinks. When is a shoulder hug ok and what do you do? Young people don’t know how to respond when it is a supervisor, even if they are ok yelling at random bus dude or co-worker who tries something.
    Both happen ALL THE TIME to young people under 20 working min wage hourly jobs where their number of shifts scheduled depends on the manager’s goodwill.

  18. fish*

    Hello, I have experience with this! I run a high-school internship and here is what we do.

    First we describe the position in plan, non-technical language, including what they would actually be doing, how it would help enhance their skills, and why this work was important.

    Then, our application is a guided cover/letter resume. That is, it asks for normal stuff a CL/resume would, but not just expecting them to know how to fill that blank page, and that counts a wide range of experience that kids of all backgrounds might have. Sample questions:

    1. Describe up to three experiences you’ve had while in high school — work, school, sports, clubs, or anything
    else. Tell us what the experience was, when it happened, what you did, and what you learned.
    ● Target cashier, 15 hours per week, Aug. 2019 – present. Provide customer service, operate cash register, and maintain clean and orderly checkout area. Learned customer service and responsible cash handling.
    ● Track team, past 3 years. Sprint specialist. During season, train daily with team and attend meets; work out independently in offseason. Learned to meet personal goals and work with team.
    ● Childcare, ongoing. Watching extended family of younger siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. for at least five hours weekly, including most weekends. Practiced responsible supervision, patience, and problem-solving.

    2. How would the above experiences help you do [job]? Be creative, even if it’s not obvious — every experience helps!

    3. Why are you interested in this experience?

    4. Tell us about a time you were curious about something, and how you tried to find an answer.

    This worked really well, we got literally hundreds of applications from students from a huge diversity of backgrounds. We ended up hiring some great interns, and hopefully gave many more some solid experience with resume-building.

    1. Smithy*

      This is a really lovely hybrid method that supports resume thinking without requiring an actual resume. Wonderful to see this!

    2. OhNo*

      Oh, I like that idea! Especially because it makes the process approachable, but because it’s framed as “experiences”, it doesn’t necessarily limit it to the sorts of academic program / extracurricular activity things that might be a limiting factor for some students. Bonus points for giving an example that doesn’t center around those things, like the childcare one.

    3. I edit everything*

      I think this is a great middle way. You’re still teaching the skills, but not putting the task out of reach for kids who don’t have the know-how or access to as many resources.

    4. Anonys*

      I think this sounds good and could be used for a selective volunteer program where spots are rare and chosen on merit. But if LWs program is more like “basically anyone can help out/ everyone who applies can volunterr” I still think making kids fill out all that and having to write creative answers is making them jump through too many hoops.

      There are definetely 14/15 year old kids (particularly less advantaged ones) who have not done much in their lives apart from just going to school – no sports, clubs, music, babysitting. I know from experience many kids would still be somewhat deterred by a form like this (when I was a kid, a questions like “tell us about a time you were curious about something” would have made me roll my eyes. And a lot of the other questions here would have felt overhelming to me). I don’t mean to be a downer – I just think if this is the kind of program anyone should be able to participate in with enough spaces available, then it’s best to have as few hoops to jump through as possible.

    5. LW*

      This was more of what I had in mind. I would never ask a student to do something like this without the scaffolding—they’d have no idea where to even start, and the frustrations to any feedback would be intense. That being said, the points about equity have me intrigued. I was coming at this from the perspective that none of the kids would know how to write a resume, but it seems as though I’d actually be giving some groups an advantage.
      That being said, I also see your point that it gives your volunteers a great learning experience—especially when you already receive hundreds of applicants and need to par down.

      1. fish*

        IMO, in terms of equity, it comes down to what you’re willing to read in the replies.

        Some students said they wanted this internship for the money. Okay — that’s a good reason and I accepted that, even if it’s not a polished professional response. But OTOH some said they wanted this job because they love working with their hands outdoors (and this job has neither), so it was still a good screener.

        Likewise, some had past experience in science labs and business internships, and some said they watched their siblings, or worked at the supermarket, or played an instrument.

        If you go in without a preconceived idea of wanting the polish, this worked out very well. My metric for that is that students with the markers of affluent background were represented in our final pool, but certainly the minority, and didn’t end up being hired. Meanwhile the students we did hire have been GREAT.

  19. DrMrsC*

    In his first semester in college my youngest took an “Intro to Engineering” course. One of their assignments was to write an “Aspirational Resume” rather than a real one. It included things like what internships they might be interested pursuing down the road, what type of job they had in mind for the future, what special certification/credentials they would need to pursue, etc… They still had the relative experience of resume writing, but used it to kind of hone their career focus rather than just filling the page with fluff for fluff’s sake. Might be something that could be adapted to your students and intern program.

  20. Just My 2 Cents*

    Teenagers have so many pressures today (especially in the last year). It’s hard for them to get jobs because so many adults are under-employed. Also, many of the kids that go to under-funded schools won’t have the opportunities for extra curricular activities, access to someone to help them with a resume, etc. I love the idea of it, but in practice it seems more harmful than not.

  21. KR*

    I can see where this is well intentioned but it just doesn’t seem especially helpful the way you’re structuring it. I like the idea other commenters had about helping them craft a resume as part of their last week or volunteering – for a lot of these kids the volunteering gig is going to be the only thing they can put on their resume.

  22. Pat*

    I think its a good idea. Academic Decathlon participants write a resume which is used in the personal interview portion of the competition. (I just googled Academic Decathlon personal resume and found several examples). It includes classes taken, any academic awards, any other volunteer work or extra circular activity, etc. I think its a good habit to get into and to remember to keep track of part time jobs or volunteering opportunities that might help for college applications.

    1. I edit everything*

      That’s nice, but what about the kids who have to rush home after school to look after their younger siblings and get dinner on the table because their parent is working two jobs and won’t get home until ten o’clock? They help the littler kids with their homework, and don’t get to start their own until late, so maybe it’s not perfect enough for academic award.

      1. Self Employed*

        I don’t even know if we HAD Academic Decathlon at my school on the lower-income side of town. I know I wasn’t recruited for it despite getting A’s in everything except PE and Driver’s Ed and being a spelling bee contestant.

  23. Fiona*

    Teacher here—STRONG disagree. Have them submit resumes. Help them through the process if necessary, but your first instinct is correct. Even if they’re putting shit like ‘chef prep’ on there, so what? They’re learning the skills and getting a jump on real life

    1. TWW*

      Because someone who cooks for their family is not a “prep chef”? Let’s not teach kids that the purpose of a resume is to describe everyday tasks in the most flowery possible language.

      TWW, domestic sanitation engineer 1978-present

      1. Slinky*

        Yes. And there are some kids who have actual chef prep experience (as in, in a restaurant) while still in high school. Overselling your experience is unfair to people with that actual experience. Add to that, it is completely unnecessary in this case. These kids don’t need to submit resumes.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      And this is why public schools get taken to task for being out of touch. You are teaching to exaggerate at best and lie at worst (because some kids just won’t understand this distinction). OP’s first instinct is way off the mark, for all the reasons Alison pointed out as well as what’s been added in the comments.

      Teaching them how to interview would be a much more valuable use of their time.

      1. OP*

        OP here. I teach my kids a couple of things. One, that we should try out new ideas, even if they seem really dumb. Even I’ll admit, “have high schoolers write resumes” is a bit of an odd thought. Two, never be afraid to go to the experts. When I found problems, I reached out to someone that I knew would tell me if the idea was at all salvageable. While I’ll agree that my initial idea was bad, Alison’s response & this comment section are giving me far better ways to enrich the experience than if I’d never tried the idea in the first place. Now, I get to go tell my student’s how I screwed up!

        1. OP*

          *students how I screwed up. Darn you, autocorrect. And don’t worry, I do that often. I think it’s important to model how to fail well.

    3. Me*

      Oh my no. They aren’t a prep chef. Teaching them to overinflate their skills and experiences is a terrible idea.

      As a teacher I would hope you would be sensitive to the obstacle that requiring a resume (a requirement that has no real value nontheless) would present to students who do not come from a background where their parents work “resume” type jobs.

      Helping them at the end of the process where they actually will have experience to put on a resume? Great idea.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      Doing something poorly and incorrectly isn’t really learning a life skill, though, unless the skill is specifically “how to BS things” and not quality resume-writing :)

    5. AMD*

      The problem is that if the resume is submitted with the application the OP isn’t going to be able to help them through the process because OP’s first interaction with the child would most likely be receiving the finished product. No one is going to assume that person who is requesting the resumes is going to be willing to help them write one.

      The issue with putting things like “chef prep” on their resume when what they’ve really done is help make dinner at home is that at worst it’s a lie and at best it’s a gross exaggeration. It might fly at a unpaid summer volunteer gig where it doesn’t count for anything but when they apply for a paying job the people doing the hiring aren’t going to appreciate it and they could even lose out on a job they may otherwise have been considered for.

    6. Case*

      I am also a teacher and I have to say that I do NOT think teaching high school students to exaggerate on their resumes is a good idea. It reminds me of a test that a colleague of mine gave, where students were asked to come up with an argument for or against a given position, using evidence. However, since it was a test and students couldn’t look anything up, they had to make up their own evidence!!! The teacher had spent a large portion of the course teaching students how to structure an argument, but in the end the students learned how to come up with a position based on no evidence, and then make shit up to support what they thought. That is not a life skill students should be learning, and neither is embellishing their skills or accomplishments on a resume.

      1. sequined histories*

        Oh, those prompts—some on standardized tests, no less!—that encourage kids to just make up the evidence are the worst!

        In writing, both from and substance are important. Definitely avoid requiring writing from teenagers that encourages them to grossly inflate the truth when writing a document that is SUPPOSED to be a practical piece of nonfiction.

        All the wrong lessons will be learned.

    7. Generic Name*

      Please consider your lowest-income students when you say things like this. The kids whose only meals they eat most days are the school-provided breakfast and lunch. The kids who do not have internet a home, let alone a computer to type out a resume. The kids who you may catch charging up their devices in class because the power got shut off at home-again. Consider how difficult-to-impossible it might be for those students to know how to even begin writing a resume, let alone how they physically are going to do it when their only access to the internet at home is through a mobile device on a limited-bandwidth plan. Yes, they could potentially use resources at the school library to make a resume, but let’s not add unnecessary barriers that only serve to further advantage the already advantaged.

    8. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Sorry, I can’t agree although I’m a teacher too (the user name gives me away). Don’t evaluate what you haven’t taught is a foundational principle of educating and that’s basically what the OP is proposing. There are ways around this, if OP feels strongly about the importance of resume writing (partner with the area schools and get the English or Guidance teachers on board; if the volunteers all come from the regular program attendees, offer a seminar on resume writing; provide a really structured questionnaire to help them create a quasi resume; focus on a cover letter instead, talk about how to include the summer volunteering on their resumes at the end of August). Requiring a resume without clear support for every potential applicant means that the only kids who can get through are the kids who can teach themselves or have family teach them i.e. are kids with enough privilege to fairly easily learn about professional resumes and norms when they’re older.

  24. Lalala*

    Ugh, I remember when I was a high school graduate with no experience is anything, and a volunteer position required a resume and references. What was the point?

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      And the other thing is that these are volunteer positions, so the organization should be grateful for the help, not requiring a résumé to prove that someone is good enough to volunteer their time and labor! I realize adult level volunteer positions sometimes do require experience, but for high school level volunteer positions the organization should be showing gratitude to them, not making them scramble to prove they’re good enough to help out.

    2. Metadata minion*

      Yes! It’s so frustrating when even an UNPAID entry-level position seems to require previous experience.

    3. Rez123*

      Even as an adult, I don’t volunteer anywhere that requires resume or sending any other paperwork. I’m ok with application with some basics and I can totally understand why some organisations need more information but I can’t be bothered providing it for volunteer positions.

  25. Fieldpoppy*

    Some universities/colleges want resumes as part of their application packages in Canada. Part of my job in general is coaching (leadership/life purpose/work purpose stuff), and occasionally my (high achiever) clients ask me to work with their grade 12 kids to help them develop their application packages. I have found that getting them to start to identify their accomplishments, even within summer or part time jobs or extracurriculars, is really good reframing for a little critical thinking, from “following what the teacher says” to “hm, here was my impact.” They are not usually the best resumes I’ve ever seen, but it’s a good exercise to help them shift from “high school robotics team” to “as the first female coder on the general robotics team, I was able to influence the development of our project to include an algorithm to [whatever,] which led to our second place result in a province wide competition.”

    It’s part of getting them to start thinking of themselves as capable of having an influence or an impact.

    As you can see, these tend to be rather high achieving kids — but a lot of the time they are just doing the things because they are “supposed to” and this resume thing can help them really think about what they actually LIKE doing.

  26. Archaeopteryx*

    Yes, high schoolers are unlikely nowadays to be able to have had any traditional summer jobs like retail or fast food in most places, because ever since the 2008 recession a lot of those jobs are filled with college grads, adults who can’t retire yet, etc. Also, plenty of those in high school may not want to have had a job yet, because they value their summers and realize that they’re not going to have them anymore once they enter the working world.

    Plus, the volunteer work they’re doing with you is what should be the start to their résumé, not something that should be required to fudge a résumé in order to be able to do.

    I would definitely agree with showing them how to add this experience to their resumes at the end though! Maybe show them a mediocre example focused on duties, compared with a great example focused on accomplishments and that really conveys the essence of the experience they gained. The fact that her résumé even could include accomplishments, much less should, it’s some thing I had a literally never once heard throughout high school or college until reading Ask a Manager in my late 20s. Ditto with the fact that you could inject personality and flavor into your cover letter, and could include details beyond just being interested in the job and reiterating stuff from your resume. Exposing your volunteers to those ideas would give them a huge leg up in their futures.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      It also might be good to provide them with help on where to go for good resumes, workplace, and cover letter advice (e.g. this website). Plenty of them won’t have someone in their life they can ask for advice, and even those that you may be getting advice that’s 30 years out of date or that only applies to a very specific field (like if their parents are in academia). Yes, they all could Google that information, but we all know that most of the advice that will come up online is just as garbage as the advice you’ll get from a high school counselor. Teaching them the difference between good and bad résumé advice on where to find it may be very useful in the long term, even more so than just showing them yourself how to do it.

    2. Nanani*

      Good point.
      A lot of areas have tightened up rules on what jobs minors can legally have, too.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if most 16 year olds today who have any resume experience are the ones whose parents own a business.

  27. TWW*

    You’re putting them in a position where they would feel compelled to exaggerate to a ridiculous degree.

    When I was in HS, my resume would have been “Work Experience: Freelance Babysitter, 1988-present” followed by a trumped-up description of what a tween/teen babysitter does reframed as professional achievements: “successfully administered the application of clean diapers, etc.”

  28. awesome3*

    If you’ve ever read teacher resumes, you’d be surprised. Most school jobs are through systems, and people might stay with one district their whole career anyway. The only time they need resumes is for teacher of the year, and these (obviously top performing, immensely talented) teachers have resumes that would not fly in any other industry.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      And as someone who has reviewed those resumes and interviewed teaching candidates, a great number of them are really terrible—both the resume and the cover letter. They are getting some really bad advice from somewhere.

      1. Jack Straw*

        It’s because they haven’t written or revised a resume in 20-25+ years. They take what they used to apply in their early 20s and try to adapt it for themselves at 46 and it just doesn’t work. Things change.

        Also, I’d add that the advice I received, as a teacher at 40, from the career center at my alma mater was terrible–that teacher resumes are X, Y, and Z ways that are the opposite of all other professional resumes.

  29. Drago Cucina*

    We never asked for a resume for teens to volunteer in the summer library program. We did require:
    a. A completed application.
    b. Two letters of recommendation that were not parents.
    c. An interview.
    If someone had difficulty with letters we worked with them. The interview was very soft.
    We did have a shift sign-in sheet.
    At the end we talked about how to translate the experience into applying for other jobs. Using us a reference for jobs, college, etc. Often we’d have how to interview sessions.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      THIS is how you run a volunteer program for teens that gives them a great experience to grow on. Thank you so much for this!

      1. Drago Cucina*

        It was always so nice to be able to write solid recommendations for first jobs (yes, Jaquin is dependable, never missed an assigned shift, was on time, followed directions, etc.) or college recommendations (Arya is an independent thinker and problem solver). I liked to outline projects, crafts, or activities and let them be in charge (with staff supervision) so I could give a concrete example of an activity they ran.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yep—how to describe yourself, how to get the tone right, how to make a point, how to stick to the topic. These are all highly transferable.

  30. newdoc*

    While I get where this impulse is coming from, I fear that an initiative like this will end up hurting kids from underserved communities or those with disabilities who might not have access to the opportunities or extracurriculars that LW is suggesting they include.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This has been pointed out above, but it cannot be said enough. A lot of kids will see that requirement and simply self-select out.

      If your parents never had a resume, where does that leave you when you don’t have access to resources?

  31. nnn*

    I’m reminded of how my high school attempted to teach us to write resumes in Grade 9 English class by teaching us the format for a resume. They gave examples of achievements and such, but they were all irrelevant to Grade 9 students. (e.g. “increased sales by 30%”)

    But they didn’t teach us anything about what to put on the resume when you’ve never had a job or any useful experience. You got an A on the assignment if you followed the template perfectly, and emerged with no insight whatsoever on how to actually write a workable resume. I didn’t manage to convince a potential employer to hire me for any sort of job whatsoever until I was 18.

    I didn’t get any useful resume advice until I took a professional writing class in university. The prof went into detail about ways to tailor resumes and cover letters to potential jobs, and then gave us the assignment: “Find a real-life ad for a job you could totally do, and then produce a resume and cover letter demonstrating that you could totally do the job.”

    That was transformational! I found a posting for an interesting job outside my field, but was able to put together a cover letter demonstrating how my education in my field gave me all the skills needed to do this job. I actually applied and got as far as a telephone screening (where I was screened out because there wasn’t a way to make the job’s schedule and my school schedule compatible). Also, that approach is scalable – even 20 years on, I still focus my applications on demonstrating how and why I can totally do this job.

    My advice for OP is, if you want to help the high school students, look at it in similar terms: how can a student who can totally do this job demonstrate to you that they can totally do this job?

      1. nnn*

        It wasn’t the final assignment, it was the first assignment, so probably not (unless you’ve, like, completely restructured the class in the past 20 years)

  32. TotesMaGoats*

    Why don’t you enhance the application? Let them share about hobbies, interests, possible career goals along with any paid or unpaid work experience. Perhaps as an end of summer experience, you can help them write up how this job should look on their future resumes!

  33. Rarely do I post*

    When my kids applied for their first jobs as high school students, the companies actually required resumes. They all had extracurricular activities/leadership roles and babysitting jobs, so I helped them create simple resumes featuring those things (the idea being “money making, volunteer or other structured activities under someone’s direction”). There wasn’t a lot there bullet point wise, but it gave them a starting point and something to add to as they built experience/went on to college.

  34. Tess*

    Well-intended, but please let’s let kids be kids. Completing a form is a good conceptual first step toward resume writing. Let it be so.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, this. If they don’t even know how to fill out a job application, they should start there. Resumes can come later.

  35. Harvey JobGetter*

    The overall advice her is probably okay, but the timing point makes no sense. High school seniors are very likely to be writing resumes as soon as the next school year. In fact, these days many high schoolers are absolutely applying for jobs that require resumes.

    I’d encourage people who have sufficient work experience to submit a resume to do so. It can be optional!

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I said this before, but I could walk into any grocery store, restaurant, factory, or retail establishment in my small mid-western city and get a job without a resume. Just fill out an application, either online or in person.

      The value of a resume at this age is over-rated, and at this age level, suggesting they need one is rather elitist.

  36. M*

    I’m going to share some anecdotal experience from a previous job. I was formerly a hiring manager in a major metro city for a large number of summer camp positions worked by high school and college age students. Unfortunately, our HR department wasn’t helpful in differentiating these sorts of entry-level youth employment opportunities from other professional career jobs around the organization, so the application system required the same long formal application from everyone, and accepted (but didn’t require) a resume and a cover letter.

    After years of reviewing applications and interviewing candidates, it was clear that having a great cover letter and resume (even with simple stuff like babysitting, helping neighbors, etc.) was not a predictor of who would succeed in the job. It was also clear that white applicants were more likely to submit cover letters and resumes than applicants of color (but, again, this did not correlate with success on the job). Without some really careful attention, resumes and cover letters, and the whole application process, could have become a huge unintentional barrier for students of color.

    Please don’t let not having a resume become a barrier to learning how to create a good resume. Find an equitable way to get the students into your program, and then teach them something useful about resumes at that point.

  37. Nanani*

    I had to write a resume for a school assignment around age 12 or 13, that is, before I was legally allowed to even have work experience. And it’s not because I was grade skipped or anything. Someone thought it was a good idea to have 12 year olds do this. I don’t remember what I put on it but I do remember using it when I got my first babysitting job a few summers later.

    At best, the skills learned are along the lines of “what this particular adult likes to see in resume formatting” – which will be outdated before the kids doing this are applying for real jobs, and at worst, they learn padding and fluffing that will weaken their later resumes.

    1. PT*

      I worked at a community org with summer camp that started at kindergarten. They had on the kids’ camp schedule, one hour, every day, slotted for “Career Prep.”

      I cannot imagine what a bunch of teenage camp counselors were doing to prep a bunch of five year olds for careers thirteen plus years in the future.

      1. Foof*

        The only thing i can think of is “look at this job!!” (Construction trucks, farming, banging wildly at a computer, etc…)

  38. learnedthehardway*

    Another vote for NOT asking high school kids to submit resumes for volunteer positions. Let’s face it, while it’s a good exercise for a kid to do a resume, it shouldn’t be what a volunteer organization uses to decide who gets to volunteer for them. The whole point of volunteering – from the student’s perspective – is to get some experience. If you require a resume to volunteer, then you are effectively disadvantaging kids who do not have any experience or accomplishments – at a time in their lives when whether they have experiences or accomplishments is very often not within their overall control (eg. home situation/stability has a tremendous impact on the opportunities and academic success of children, and that’s totally out of the kids’ control). Is that really what you want to do?

    Your organization would be far better served to look at the kids’ interest in the goals of the organization and their enthusiasm for the cause.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      ETA – my point being – if you ASK for a resume, then that will be what you make decisions about – even if it is just screening for who will be interviewed.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Even unconsciously biasing it because kids who have no idea how to do a resume and don’t have support will self select out. Even if you think you don’t let the resumes influence your hiring decision, you’ve actually eliminated some of your pool by even asking for one.

  39. Junior Dev*

    One way you could help the high school volunteers, if this is something you want them to learn, is to have a workshop near the end of their volunteer service where you help them write a resume entry for their time spent volunteering, so they can use it on future job applications. You do not have to do this, but I think it would serve them better if your goal is to teach resume writing skills.

  40. toesies*

    Another reason to not require resumes : is that any good ones are not written by the kid herself – there will have been a parent, aunt, family friend etc looking it over or writing it for the kid. So, if you’re hiring based on resumes, you’re perpetuating an inequality that kids with access to professional people who will over the resume will have a better resume, get the job, then be in a better position later to get other jobs … and kids without access to people who don’t write professional resumes will get left behind.

  41. Gray Lady*

    This might be something that takes more time or resources than you have, but if you want to help them to understand how to write a resume before they have anything of their own to put on it, you could develop a “fake bio” of a fictional person full of both relevant and extraneous information, and hold a short workshop on translating that information into a quality resume. Maybe also give them good and bad sample resumes (appropriate to young people with some work experience and education, but not too much) and have a discussion on why they are good or bad.

    1. Maxie*

      Your goal behind this is good, but an assignment that requires them to make up content can be harmful. From their perspective, you are teaching them to lie on a resume. You don’t want to do that, not even for practice.

      1. Gray Lady*

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I don’t want them to make up content. I want LW to make up a bio and then have them use the content from it to create a resume, i.e., have them write a resume for another (fictional) person.

  42. Respectfully Speaks*

    Honestly, I like the idea of teaching high school students about resumes and how to write one. Mostly because when they do have applicable experience to put on one, no one’s gonna bother to teach them; they’ll just be expected to know how to write one and magically be able to churn out beautiful resumes for job applications.

    I think the advice they were given for putting down how they helped their parents and other such activities is poor advice, like Alison said. Instead, they should be putting down extracurriculars like student council or managing a sports team. If they mow lawns, maybe that would work. Or just their education and awards at school for now would work.

    No one expects a teenager to have a filled out, plump resume, but I think knowing how to fill one out would be a skill that would prepare them for a lifetime of success.

    1. MissBliss*

      I think the idea is nice but the restrictions placed on it mean that it wouldn’t be possible for a lot of kids to participate. What about the kids who don’t mow lawns, have extracurriculars, and have no awards in school? What about the kids who take care of their little siblings or grandparents after school? I think some of the suggestions above to write aspirational resumes or resumes for fictional characters makes for a more even playing field, so it’s not just the kids who already have a leg up who are getting another leg up by learning how to do a resume.

      1. Respectfully Speaks*

        Like I said, even just their education and anything they have at school if they have anything else fine. They’re in high school, for crying out loud! No one expects them to have done much if anything. But being able to create a resume would be highly beneficial.

        Creating resumes for fictional characters would be great practice, but I’ve learned the hard way: they still need to be able to apply it to themselves. So even just a summary and their education would go a long way to teaching them how.

    2. Nanani*

      As a lot of other people have pointed out, this just advantages the kids with parents who can find them jobs, afford camps, and do extracurriculars.
      The kids who can’t do those things – because their parents are too busy working multiple jobs to drive them places or because they can’t afford the extra fees/gas/bus fare – have nothing like that and they arguably need volunteer experience more. They definitely don’t need to be shut out in favour of the kids with more options.

      1. Respectfully Speaks*

        Actually, not having them create a basic resume advantages the kids who already have more. If a kid has parents who are able to be home more, they likely have someone who either will teach them how to write a resume or will help them learn. A kid whose parents are busy working three jobs to provide for them likely won’t have anyone to teach them or help them.

        Even if it’s just a summary and their education, the student should be able and allowed to write up a resume of their own. After all, they’re only in high school, no one expects them to have much experience yet! So not having much there won’t penalize them at this point. But learning how to write a resume of their own even without much to put on it will set them up for success later on.

  43. AnotherLadyGrey*

    OP I appreciate the kind intentions you have around this but agree that having kids submit resumes is not a good idea.

    In the spirit of what you are trying to do – help kids build skills they will need in their lives – you might consider doing interviews with them. It doesn’t have to be formal, just a chance to learn about them, tell them about the role, and give them practice in meeting with somebody about a job, sharing their prior experience, asking questions, etc. I managed volunteers and interns for several years and it was very common for younger people to be very nervous about interviewing. It’s one of those things you have to learn by doing and virtually everybody can use more practice. Plus it is genuinely a great way to connect with your potential volunteers, share info with them, etc – it’s not something you’re doing just for the sake of doing it, like requiring them to submit a resume would be.

    1. OP*

      I always ask to interview my volunteers—apparently, I’m the only teacher who does. I do it for the exact reasons you suggest: everybody can use more practice, and it’s a great way to connect with volunteers. I’ve also found it to be a fantastic way to go more in depth with what they’re going to do, what my expectations will be, and what their strengths are—that way, I can better assign them tasks that will raise their confidence.

      1. AnotherLadyGrey*

        I am thrilled to hear this. I bet you are a fantastic manager. Your volunteers/students are lucky to have you!

        I know A LOT of people who hire volunteers without an interview but it truly blows my mind. Such a wasted opportunity!

  44. A Teacher*

    Veteran careers teacher. I don’t teach resume writing. The former instructor did and it was an exercise in futility. I do teach them to look for skills they learn from their part time jobs and athletics/activities for an “all about me” sheet that they can use to apply for college or scholarships. We talk about writing action statements that show achievement. At the high school level most will not need a resume.

  45. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “And what’s more, when resume-writing is taught to high school kids, it’s usually not taught well. Partly that’s because it’s taught by teachers who don’t have any particular expertise in resume-writing and so tend to recycle outdated or outright bad advice (because there’s a ton of it floating around). ”

    Yes, I often recall a friend showing me his resume. Now, he was on LinkedIn, but all of his connections were other unemployed people. He didn’t even include ME in his connections – and I have been working successfully in the field all along.

    I looked at his resume – after asking him to forward it. AHA! I saw what was wrong.

    It looked like “boilerplate” that someone down at the unemployment office wrote. And it was.

    I advised him as far as cleaning it up, and he did, and landed some interviews. The people at the unemployment office do not know how a techie puts together a resume, AND, I also said that high-tech companies advertise for candidates or network them in, they don’t go to the Division of Employment Security to find people.

    But he was his own worst enemy because he was too picky about where he’d apply. That was three years ago. He never got back into the industry.

  46. ThePear8*

    I took an Intro to Business class my freshman year of high school and our first assignment was to create a resume. We had very little guidance, the teacher pretty much told us to open up a resume template in word and fill it out. I was fresh out of middle school and barely even knew what a resume was, let alone how to make one or had any worthy experiences to put on it. I ended up filling it up with middle school extracurriculars which I had done, which, to say the least…I’m glad I never actually applied for jobs with that resume. I couldn’t get a job during high school because I couldn’t drive. Everything on my high school resume was really just…looking for scraps that could somehow sound resume-worthy. I imagine a lot of these kids would be similarly hard-pressed to come up with actual significant experience. And I agree with Allison about being taught dubiously – it took me a couple of years to unlearn the habit of adding those hard-pressed-to-find things and actually allow room for the things that were significant accomplishments and really belonged on my resume.

  47. Maxie*

    I agree with Alison for all of the reasons she stated. Your goal behind this is good, and I have another idea for you. You could help them during and after their volunteer stint in noting and framing their work for a future résumé: talk to them about the important of keeping notes for a future resume, give them a title (a realistic one), help them identify achievements, maybe provide some guidance in drafting this experience as a résumé section (could be done in a group and you could facilitate them giving feedback to each other, which is a great learning experience). This would help them understand what goes into a resume, get practice for one listing and save the draft for future use. They can keep adding to that file as they acquire more volunteer and paid experience. Maybe start by referring them to AAM.

    What kind of nonprofit do you work for and what kind of volunteer positions are you giving the teens?

    1. OP*

      I work for a private school, with the summer positions focused on assisting with the summer camps. Some of the assistants are paid, while some just do it to volunteer. The nature of the actual assisting depends on the teacher they are paired with. Some don’t really have the kids do anything, while others ask them to be far more hands on. We’ve also—on occasion, though I believe they are always paid positions, and not for several years—had older teens work in the office.

  48. Lily*

    As a high school student, I did some volunteering that didn’t require a resume and by the time I was 15, I had a fairly decent resume (for a high schooler) between extracurricular leadership positions and random volunteer work!

  49. DataGirl*

    This letter is really relevant to my interests given my teen is writing a resume as I type for an internship program through their high school. We are struggling because:

    a) they have no work or volunteer experience. They have been trying to pursue volunteer opportunities for a few years but everywhere in our area requires volunteers to be at least 16, sometimes 18.
    b) they have no recent experience of any kind because COVID shut down everything for the past year! No clubs have met, no places were taking volunteers even if the kid met the age requirement. No sports, no band or choir or school newspaper or anything.

    We are really at a loss as to what to put down.

    1. OP*

      OP here—my heart is going out to you. It’s been a hard year for kids all around. I’m not going to lie and say that things will get better soon—they might, but the best I’ve been hoping for is just to provide spaces for my kids to be kids.

      I don’t know if it’s too late, but has your teen thought about starting their own club? Would the school let them use any online infrastructure (Zoom/ Google Meet/ What have you) to meet with people and discuss/ create something? Without knowing what your teen’s interests are, I can’t think of any specifics. However, going through the process of starting and running a club would give them something to put on there. Likewise, getting in connection with local charities and other organizations can help form a network that could lead to volunteering. Maybe the soup kitchen doesn’t need someone to help stock right now, but would appreciate letters of affirmation to pass out to the homeless. Maybe the elementary school can’t have teens in their classrooms right now, but they’d love a video of someone reading a kids book so that everyone can hear a story before bed (all of the schools in my state made sure that all of the kids had at least a Chromebook for school). I’m not going to pretend that it would be easy, but even trying to make these things happen could be a process to put in a cover letter or talk about in an interview.

      1. ThePear8*

        This! I run a club at my university and we’ve adapted to fully virtual meetings – we have a very active discord server for members to chat, ask questions, get the latest announcements and show off their projects, a mailing list for weekly email newsletters, and we stream our actual meetings on Twitch (usually a couple of the hosting club officers and a guest speaker on a zoom call that we stream, and members can comment or ask questions in the chat).

  50. OP*

    Wow, I can safely say I didn’t expect this number of comments. Thank you all very much for your ideas and critiques, as I will be bringing them to my summer boss as ways to improve the experience and program. I also have to say that I loved Alison’s response. I texted all of my friends at 6:00 this morning that my letter was going to be up, and sent an equally excited message later that my idea had been shot down by Alison Green (am I a groupie? I might be a groupie.).

    As a (can you tell) relatively young teacher, this chain of events tends to be my modus operandi—get an idea, test run it with a couple of students, workshop it for feasibility, work on it if it is or abandon it if it’s not. It’s the Design Thinking process at its finest. It does mean that my kids have heard me say, “well, that sucked! I could do x better in y way.” in regards to my own teaching multiple times, but adults who observe me say that my lessons are great and that the kids clearly get what they need to out of them (it’s amazing how kids can say exactly what you wish they’d say in an observed lesson). It’s also led to some fun conversations about how to give and receive feedback, but I’m getting off topic.

    Some context: this is mostly hiring from our student body at a private school for summer camp helpers. And, when I say private school, I mean “mostly rich kid” school. A non-negligible percentage of kids at the school do internships over the summer, with plenty of opportunity for most of them to engage in (frankly) too many extracurriculars during the school year.

    Emphasis on most.

    The equity piece had never crossed my mind. I’ll be honest, my thinking was that none of the kids would have any experience building resumes. They would need examples and coaching, but that in the end they’d have something they could use as a template for future summer positions. It’s pretty clear now that this approach would appear to massively favor the kids who already have practice on the one hand, while (since we wouldn’t be using them in the hiring process besides ticking the box) be a waste of time on the other. However, I also have to keep in mind that we’ve a fair number of scholarship students who are not as privileged as the others. I now see how they would be impacted by asking for resumes at the start, and that’s something I should have thought about going into this. So no, I no longer think we should be asking students for resumes. I’m even leaning away from cover letters. I don’t know enough about either to be able to teach them properly (clearly), and the other more pressing issues means that I don’t think we should do it as a requirement.

    All that being said, I do like the idea of using a closing reflection at the end of summer as an example of how to make a resume section (please forgive me that the exact terms aren’t coming to me at the moment). In the past, it’s seemed as though summer has just ended. There’s a party (pre-COVID only), kids are thanked for their hard work, and then they’re sent off to enjoy the rest of their time off. Which has never quite sat well with me. I’ve always wanted this experience to mean more (yes, I am that kind of person—although, funnily enough, I always hated writing the reflection at the end of my own summer job because…well, it didn’t have a point beyond being something that we had to do). Tying the reflection to the idea of building something that could be put on a resume—asking them to think about accomplishments from the summer—would help give the end a nice little wrap up, while also help the reflections feel a lot less like busy work. I’ve clearly a lot of thinking to do.

    More to the point, I do think specifying some time in their training for labor rights would be phenomenal. I do read them posts where someone either stands up for themselves (or is told that they desperately need to) but without the context they don’t always grasp why people allow things to happen to them. At this point, I think that providing my students with a safe, non-toxic work environment to set their idea of “normal” will do more good than a resume ever could. Giving them the tools to stand up for themselves and an idea for what normal should be…now, that’s a lesson they wouldn’t necessarily get if they volunteered elsewhere.

    Thank you all again for all of the comments. I’ll keep reading them and posting. I will do right by my kids, even if I mess up along the way.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Even your rich kids will mostly not know how to write a resume and/or write crappy ones. Speaking from experience with college freshmen from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The wealthy kids generally do have more resources to help them produce a resume (although rich parents do not necessarily know how to write a good resume either. Speaking from experience with students who turned in resumes their parents “helped” with. Haha, nothing better than mom or dad earning a terrible grade…)

      1. OP*

        The comment about their socio-economic status had more to do with addressing the equity piece—namely, it’s quite unlikely that we’ll get many applicants from a disadvantaged background, given that most if not all of them will come from the student body—than it was about their ability to write resumes. I am fully aware that just because they have opportunities doesn’t mean that they’ll learn all that they probably should from them, and in a year of remote teaching it’s pretty easy to tell how strong the guiding hand of an adult was in a given project.

    2. nnn*

      Another thing you could do (perhaps not as part of this program, but in your capacity as a teacher) is reach out to the people who do hire teens for their first jobs, and ask about what they actually IRL are looking for. You could have them come talk to your classes, or interview them and write it up, or make a video – whatever works best for everyone.

      So if they’re hiring students who’ve never had a job and they do want a resume, what do they expect to see on that resume? What kinds of things do they see as positive and negative and why? What can a student who’s never had a job before do to demonstrate they can do the job? What are some mistakes newbies make that they could easily avoid if they know better?

      You could maybe get an assortment of potential employers (people who hire for summer jobs, people who hire for year-round jobs like fast food, people who hire for internships and co-op placements) and discuss what the differences are, how and why these differences are there, how there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

      This would be an opportunity to really drill down and understand why certain things are and aren’t desirable. For example, when I was a teenager, a potential employer asked if I play sports. I don’t play sports, and I figured this meant they wanted cool sporty people, not nerds like me. I later found out they were asking this because they liked to hire kids with teamwork experience, and would have found my time in a touring youth orchestra as very desirable if either of us had recognized that it was the answer to the question they were really asking.

      Also, I was always taught to pump up ambition and achievements on my resume, but I was never told that some potential employers saw this as negative because they figure ambitious people will just leave. Also, I was taught to emphasize all my extracurriculars (and, when I had trouble finding a job, I in fact started more extracurriculars in the hope that it would make me a more desirable employee), but I had no clue that some potential employers see a heavy extracurricular load as a scheduling nightmare. It would have been very useful to learn how to read the room about these things.

  51. Neil*

    I’ve read OP’s comments on this and I wholeheartedly agree. Resumes for high school kids are not necessarily a good thing – resumes are more appropriate for after high school is finished and they want to work while in post-secondary education. When I was a teenager, resumes were not a big thing and I wouldn’t have wanted to write one anyway as I had nothing important to write on it (I was not a member of student council, did not play sports or have any type of leadership role at school. Any leadership role I did have was not connected with school). The kids in this situation described here are mostly likely not looking for activities that will impress a future employer – they want to have fun. If there are discussions about the work world, make them relevant (what did you do this summer that made you feel good about yourself, how did you help others, how did you deal with a difficult situation, etc.) If done properly, this is the type of thing that could be later used in a work situation.

  52. Cranky watermelon*

    My objection is not that you’re teaching them bad skills, but more that you’re introducing artificial barriers to “employment” (I get you don’t pay them, but having experience helps kids get their first paid position. The ability to work unpaid is enough of a barrier). If these resumes aren’t part of your decision making process don’t ask for them. Never ask for anything in a job application that won’t be used to affect your decision. It saves everyone a lot of effort (and in certain industries/countries reduces the chance of a complaint about your hiring practices)

    The reality is many first jobs really do just want a list of duties. Because in a lot of junior jobs your accomplishments are largely did duties well, and this is the stuff I have experience with (I should stress these are duties you did, not stuff you didn’t). Anything else can really sound like you’re taking the piss. There are exceptions (eg retail with sales targets to meet), but my first few jobs really were about turning up and completing your duties. When I went for new positions they wanted to know what did I have proper expertise with and that I was good at the work ( great you won’t freak out when you have to empty the gross bins / oh you worked really busy shifts you can handle the crush of shoppers). Trying to turn that sort of stuff into accomplishments can sound very pretentious.

    Likewise I once updated a family friend’s resume for them. The base was prepared by a professional highly experienced in their field, they just had some updates that needed incorporating. 75% of that resume was stuff done (lists of machines proficient in, lists of certifications and tickets, prior positions). Accomplishments were largely addressed in the cover letter and were more relevant to supervisors than operators. This style of resume reflected his accomplishments very well for those in his industry.

    You can easily argue that neither of these is the “best” way to do things. But if that’s the norm in the industry you are applying for then that is all that matters.

    Now in my own career now my resume is achievement focused and my duties don’t get much of a mention. But I know plenty of people for whom a resume is a summary of certifications and experience because that is what is wanted and what will land them a job.

    I like the idea of you helping them to understand how they can talk about this position in future applications. Just avoid the temptation to make everything sound grandiose (wiping tables becoming chemical management, chatting with kids becoming counselling, handing someone a band aide becoming first aid response, etc).

    1. OP*

      Thank you for the reminder. As with a lot of teaching, it’s about the approach. Don’t worry, we won’t have any chemical managing (although, depending on the outcome, chatting with some kids could be a form of mentoring), but we might have some “Guided small groups in project-oriented work” and “Aided charges in navigating interpersonal conflicts.” Basically, what accomplishments were they proud of, what is a strong action-word that accompanies it (I like to think of these as the old “Thock!” from comics, where they are the things that flash and stick out and grab attention, but don’t stick around too long), is there a stronger word that still conveys meaning, and how do we fit all of the necessary info in a short sentence.

  53. Matthias*

    I remember a story where a summer camp introduced a new online application system instead of sticking to emails. So far so good. Only the first question was “what is you academic degree”, after which the huge majority of teens who were applying to be there just for the summer stopped applying, and the camp had a huge lack of people.

    I feel asking students for an industrial grade CV might cause similar feelings. Good idea in theory though :) ! Maybe there is another way to give them an insight into making a good application, like a workshop.

  54. Koala dreams*

    Plenty of employers require both resume/cover letter and to fill in the application form, and applicants detest it because it’s making them spend double the time on the application. You should require one or the other, not both. There’s no point in making the process extra hard just because. If you do continue with the resume idea, a combined cover letter and resume would be enough. You could add some pointers for what information is required if you think it will be difficult for your students to write without fields to fill out. Personally I found applications harder, especially back when I had less experience, but perhaps your students are already used to them from applying to other jobs.

    I’m not so convinced by the common idea that teenagers from a blue collar background would have less jobs to put in a resume, often it depends more on other things. If the parents run a business, the children are likely to work extra for the business, no matter if it’s blue collar work or white collar work. Babysitting falls on the oldest child, not the youngest obviously. Often the local job market for teenagers is a combination of what kind of jobs are available and transportation. Poorer areas often have less job opportunities.

  55. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I agree with Alison. Kids are required to write CVs long before they have anything of any interest to put on them. Mostly potential employers of youngsters need to know their date of birth, in case they have an age limit, and the kids need to know the local language and perhaps be able to lift things of a certain weight.

    Most importantly, kids who have any kind of accomplishment will mostly be middle class and above, so requiring CVs listing accomplishments basically screens out kids from poor families who couldn’t afford piano lessons or ballet classes or going whitewater rafting on holiday.

  56. Melanie*

    Why not create a resume, cover letter, and answers for common interview questions for a character you make up and list out all the most common things. Teach them how to put a resume and cover letter for the character.

    I wish someone had taught me early on on how to value and highlight my skills.

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, one exercise we did in my professional writing class was we were given profiles of fictional characters with a ton of information about them, not all of which was relevant, and a page of job postings, not all of which were appropriate for all the characters. We were asked to make resumes and cover letters for the characters to apply to the fictional jobs.

      The benefit of doing this is if the student is making up the character, they could just invent a character who’s a perfect fit for the job. With these made-up characters, we got to practice pitching, like, why a hobby gamer who went to French immersion schools might be a good fit for bilingual tech support.

  57. Jack Straw*

    For non-teachers who want to help–do yourselves a favor and reach out to your local district and offer up your time.

    Even better, for teachers how teach resume writing–reach out to your network or the community and ask for a few people to give feedback on your student-written resumes. I was a teacher as a second career, so I did have a handle on professional resume writing when I taught it to students right before graduation… I still solicited a group of 5-6 people each year who were in hiring positions, from varying industries, review my students’ resumes.

    Each person received 3-5 resumes and gave written feedback that was shared with the class to workshop their resumes. A few kids every year got jobs out of it at the local distribution center, and they all ended up with WAY better resumes. FWIW, I’ve had several contact me and thank me for helping them have one ready to go when they entered college. The point is, though, that they were helped through the process, not asked to do it on their own. And

    FWIW I never ever had them fabricate information–white space, playing with margins, and font selection can do a lot to make a resume look fuller than it is without lying.

  58. Nethwen*

    I once had a 12-year-old ask for help writing a resume as homework for a leadership class at their middle school. They didn’t have extracurriculars or volunteer work. Part of my job is to ask people questions to find out the answers they don’t realize apply to the situation, but no matter how I approached the topic, it seemed all the child had done that could remotely qualify for a resume was babysitting (with an adult present) their younger siblings – as should be expected from someone that young. I tried to tease out a story from them about babysitting so that I could help them write an accomplishment for that “job,” but the concept was too far beyond what they had been exposed to.

    I was flummoxed as to what that teacher was thinking, because especially in our area, for a 12-year-old to have any accomplishments beyond good grades would require an economic level that the majority don’t have or for one to be involved with sports, which isn’t possible for many for a variety of reasons. I was frustrated because if this is the child’s first exposure to writing resumes, then not only are they not learning good skills, but also they are associating the process with unpleasantness and difficulty instead of with a positive opportunity to show what they can do.

  59. Cat Mom*

    I’m teaching a summer class that includes employment and career information for first-generation to college and low-income high school students. This topic is very timely! I’m starting my search for something on employment law. If you know something off the top of your head that might work for my class, feel free to share it.

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