Let’s face it—we all want our teens to get jobs, make their own money, learn responsibility, and be productive members of society. But how can they do this with little to no work experience to put on a resume? And what skills do employers expect teens to already have when they apply for jobs?
A sentiment we hear often from employers is that they can teach the hard, technical skills of any job, but candidates should already be equipped with soft skills. And four of the most common soft skills, also known as life skills, that we see in high demand from employers are communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. If you think about it, these skills are important no matter the job you have.
First, let’s look at the four common life skills that your teen should demonstrate on their resume:
- Communication: The ability to interact and share concepts in both written and oral formats
- Collaboration: Working effectively with others, including those with opposing points of view
- Critical thinking: The ability to work through different scenarios by making decisions, solving problems, and taking action
- Creativity: Using imagination to create or produce a new idea or object
An analysis of 80 million job postings showed that 7 out of 10 most-requested skills by employers are life skills.
The Blueprint for Listing Life Skills on Your Teen’s Resume
So how can your teen convey their life skills to an employer through their resume without work experience? To get started, let’s look at different areas in your teen’s life to find relevant examples of each skill in use. We’ll use critical thinking for this exercise, but you should follow this approach for each life skill.
If your teen has taken challenging courses that require critical thinking, such as Advanced Placement® (AP®) or honors classes, mention them in the education section of the resume.
List any academic awards or honors your teen has received. This could include recognition for outstanding performance in subjects that require critical thinking.
Describe extracurricular activities that involve critical thinking skills, including participation in debate clubs, science fairs, mathematics competitions, sports, leadership opportunities, or career and technical student organizations like Future Business Leaders of America.
A school project, personal initiative, community service endeavor, or hobby can also be used to demonstrate your teen’s critical thinking skills. These independent projects can be listed with a description that expresses how your teen made tough decisions and acted when faced with a challenge or issue.
In the work experience section, emphasize roles or responsibilities your teen has that require critical thinking, including analyzing information, making decisions, or solving problems. And these roles or responsibilities do not have to be from a paid position.
Showcasing a Skill in Writing
Be as specific as possible by providing details of each role and responsibility. For example, if your teen participated in a debate club, their resume might have something like this:
Used advanced critical thinking skills as an active member of the debate club, consistently analyzing complex issues, formulating well-reasoned arguments, and adapting strategies in real-time debates.
Resume writing can be intimidating at times, but there are many resources available that can help your teen get started:
- A student can ask their high school counselor to review their resume and offer suggestions for improvement.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT can help by creating a starting point or finetuning a resume.
- Check to see if your teen’s school has a career services center. If not, there are free resources available online, including the K12 Career Services Center, where students can find resume templates as well as tips for job searching and preparing for an interview.
Whether your teen is ready to take on the responsibility of a new job or they’re preparing for life after graduation, talk with them about life skills and why they’re important for any job they have. They can also draw inspiration from a peer who shares examples of life skills at play in her day-to-day life at a K12-powered school in this helpful video.
These meaningful interactions will help them to stay focused on emphasizing life skills on their resume and as they learn their new role. And be sure to encourage them to use the resources listed above to create a stellar resume that can help them stand out from the rest.