Library Work: Helping Teens with Resumes

13903379490_e08650368b_bI’ve been slacking on my library posts. Last fall I submitted my last blog post to the Youth Services Division of PaLA. It discussed my particular approach to helping teens write resumes. I really loved doing that work when I was in my public library. Now that I’m in an academic library, they don’t really have much need for a librarian to do that. In fact, we have a totally separate career center in the basement of the library that is completely devoted to that work! Anyway, below is my blog post for those of you who work with teens and find yourself in a position to help them write their very first resume. This might be good for anyone to review who knows a teen planning to go job hunting this summer.

Resume Writing from Scratch: Guiding teens through their first resume experience

As librarians, we tend to find ourselves helping patrons with their resumes rather often. While working at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I acted as the liaison between the Job and Career Education Center and the Teen Department in our Main branch. My focus was to connect teens with the resources and support they needed relating to employment, education, and career planning. This included sitting down with them one-on-one to offer resume writing assistance.

This might not seem like a big deal, especially if you are used to helping adult patrons write or edit their resumes, but a different tactic is needed when dealing with teens. Most teens have never written a resume before, and many do not have formal work experience at all. They have no clue where to begin or what is even eligible or appropriate to put on their resume. Helping a teen write their first resume can be a long, slow process, but if you enter into it with the right approach you will be able to help your teen create an application-ready document that you both can be proud of.

When working with teens, I first show them what a standard resume looks like and go over the different styles they can pick from, explaining which style works for different situations. I show them what each section of a resume should include, and explain that the simpler the format, the better.

Next, I explain to them how best to write a resume. This usually includes introducing them to the idea of keywords, quantitative statements, and how to highlight achievements. I will usually talk about the difference between soft and hard skills as well, making sure to tell them that soft skills like time management and attention to detail are very important despite what they might think.

And the last thing I do before we get into the actual writing of the resume is conduct an interview with the teen. This is very important, because teens do not realize how much of their experience and daily life can go on their resume in one form or another. If a teen has never had a formal job, they might think they are out of luck. But once you start asking them questions they might tell you that they are captain of their soccer team, volunteer at the library, or rake their neighbor’s lawn in the fall. Even gaming can be put on a resume as communication, leadership, or time management skills.

Below is a version of an interview worksheet I use when working with teens on their resumes. It is formatted for them to read, but you can adjust it to ask the questions. The goal is to get them brainstorming and thinking about all the activities and responsibilities they take on in their life, no matter how small.

Once you have picked their brain and collected all of this information, you can guide them in molding that information into a resume. This is not easy, as you still have to figure out how to transform answers like “Riding my bike around town with my friends” to valuable content for a resume, like “Adventurous” and “Takes initiative”. And sometimes, things just won’t work. Not everything needs to go on a resume, or should. I hope the below tool helps those of you engaging in this kind of work.


Never written a resume before?

Questions to ask yourself as you think about the experience you have:

  1. Do I or have I worked any formal or paid jobs? Working for family businesses and seasonal jobs count! What responsibilities did I have, and what skills did I use and learn?
  2. Do I or have I volunteered for an organization? What responsibilities did I have, and what skills did I use and learn?
  3. Am I a part of any clubs, groups, sports teams, or organizations at schools? What are my roles in these groups?
  4. Do I take an active role in any faith or community organizations? What is that role?
  5. Do I take an active role in my neighborhood? Do I help my neighbors rake their lawn, carry in groceries, work in the garden, etc?
  6. What are my hobbies? What kind of skills do I use when I engage in my hobbies? For example, am I leader in my gaming guild? Do I value attention to detail while drawing? Do I teach myself new skills with YouTube videos (like makeup tutorials or building bikes), and do I teach others these skills?
  7. What are my goals? What do I enjoy doing best, and what do I want to keep doing in the future?

Skills Employers Are Looking For:

Chances are, you already have a lot of these skills. Think about moments where you’ve used them or learned how best to develop them.

  • Communication skills, verbal and written
  • Team skills/team player
  • Attention to detail
  • Energy/drive
  • Flexibility/ability to learn on the fly
  • Initiative
  • Ability to handle pressure
  • Enthusiasm
  • Leadership
  • Reliability


Jocelyn Codner is a Reference and Outreach Librarian at Chatham University. She offers services to teens and young adults as they transition to independent life. Her past experience included working in public libraries as a bridge between the teen services department and the Job and Career Education Services department to introduce teens to critical information about higher education, careers, job seeking, and technology.


2 thoughts on “Library Work: Helping Teens with Resumes

    • jcodner says:

      I’m so glad you’re helping them write resumes! It’s a really hard skill to master and people don’t teach kids early enough. Good for you! I hope this post will be helpful the next time you teach resumes :)

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