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I've recently graduated early from my high school, and I'm hoping to apply for a job in retail, or on a fast food crew. Unfortunately, I'm lost on what to say, and how to describe my skill set.

I have taken art commissions and communicated with my customers in the past, organized my work schedule efficiently, and dealt with being on a tight schedule before. I'm adaptable, thorough, and can keep calm under tense situations. I also have a red belt in martial arts, but that's not team work oriented; but I feel it might highlight me being hardworking? Probably not, actually.

But I feel that that's not enough, and a bit worn out in phrasing.

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As with many people, my first jobs as a teen, some years ago, were in retail/food. And based on the experiences I had, I can tell you - you're overthinking this. People hiring for entry level positions in those fields are generally looking for someone who will reliably show up on time, follow simple directions, and not goof off or do horrible things while on the clock. The list of qualifications isn't extensive or deep.

That said, there's no reason to miss this as an opportunity to start honing your resume, and to work on learning how the job market behaves.

One good technique, which will help answer your questions, is to use research to understand how to format your resume for a specific position. For instance, if you're interested in retail, find as many retail job postings as you can, and write down the trends you see in the job descriptions. Then, as you write your resume, frame your own experience/skills from the perspective of those trends. You don't want to sound too generic, and you certainly don't want to falsify anything, but this technique can give you a good frame of reference.

For instance, if interacting with customers is a common duty for the positions you're looking at, when you're writing the section of your resume that describes your art commission business, you can be sure to call out customer interaction skills:

Responsible for working directly with customers to understand their needs

The key to this approach is using the job posting as a research tool to understand what part of your own experiences you should emphasize, and what language to use when doing so.

You can also do research via other channels, such as company websites or other media channels which may describe the culture, mission, or other guiding factors at that workplace. Maybe you're applying for a retail position with a local company that prides themselves on being family-owned - you can describe some aspect of your work or skills that shows how that fits with your background, too - or whatever other aspect matches what you're learning about your target employer.

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If you're very early in your career, you're going to feel like there's not enough on your resume. It's normal to feel that way, and if you're applying for entry level jobs, employers will not expect to see much on your resume anyway.

A succinct, one-page-or-less resume will do just fine, as long as all of your content is relevant, accurate, and true. You can also use a cover letter or email to elaborate on some of your experiences and skills. For example, the fact that you graduated early is interesting, commendable, and shows that you are disciplined, loyal, and goal-oriented -- all are qualities employers are looking for in entry-level applicants.

Not all hobbies are appropriate for a resume, but I think a red belt in martial arts would be good to include -- it shows your dedication and determination, as well as your skill.

List your educational information, and any jobs/positions/responsibilities you've had, whether they were paid or not paid, as long as you can show that what you did in those roles is applicable to the job you're applying for.

To avoid worn-out phrasing, try to avoid stock language or cliche. Put in your own words what you did, and what you think it says about you and your abilities.

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    Red belt also shows 'disciprine' to quote South Park. Seriously though, you can have a "Hobbies" or "Other Skills" section and list the red belt and volunteer experiences that show initiative to be involved in the local community. – Steve-o169 Apr 8 at 19:03
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Leave all personal activities, hobbies, etc. off of your resume... unless your name is Dwight K. Schrute. Nobody is interested in them and they have no place on a professional resume.

Since this is your first plunge into the working world, with little or no actual experience, stick to generic qualities, such as:

Prompt, good communication skills, works well independently and as part of a team, etc.

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    I think your first paragraph would definitely apply to someone many years into a career, seeking a professional position. But, for a teen who is essentially trying to get their first job, something like Karate, or Boy Scouts, or a volunteer group or other affiliation can help actually display the skills you mention in your last sentence. Just saying "works well on a team" isn't as powerful as showing that you worked well on a team while involved with the High School Debate Club, or whatever. – dwizum Apr 9 at 12:36

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