You need a job to get experience, but also you need experience to get a job. What a conundrum!
The situation is not easy and you can feel a bit frustrating, but don’t lose heart. There’s a starting point — your resume. Which is great news, actually.
Just because you don’t have relevant skills or experience from a conventional job doesn’t mean you can’t create a resume that will get you a job.
First of all, don’t let lack of experience discourage you from applying for the job you want. As a college senior, recent graduate or an entry-level applicant, your experience might be naturally a little thin.
But that’s not something to be ashamed of. Lack of relevant experience is a common issue for many people looking for a job or for those who just want to change their career path.
The key to writing a no experience resume is to explore other creative ways to show you have the skills needed to make you a fantastic hire.
Do you want to learn more? Follow our guide to craft a powerful resume with no work experience that will make your recruiter sit up and take notice.
Open up with a personal statement.
Your personal statement is usually the very first thing your hiring manager will come across. It’s something that you should definitely use in a no experience resume because a strong summary can help you go far with standing out in the crowd. And if you manage to get it right, you’ll entice the hiring manager to keep reading.
Think of it as your resume elevator pitch that sums up who you are professionally and what you can do for the given employer. The personal statement should also address some of the crucial requirements and skills listed in the job posting.
Make sure to place it at the top of your resume, right after the header. Also, remember to keep it as short and simple as possible.
Although you might feel tempted to start writing a full-length novel about yourself, try to the distill the essence into two or three sentences. You’ll go into more detail later.
To determine which skills to include in your personal statement, print out a copy of the job description and look for the qualifications section. The keywords you’ll find there will resonate with the recruiter and help pave your way to the job.
Here’s a good example:
- Recent graduate with Master of Science in Finance and excellent research, time management and problem-solving skills. Able to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines on time. Seeking a position where I can use my expertise to communicate with potential clients and increase project efficiency.
Now choose a suitable resume format.
There are a few dominant resume formats in use today. They have different functions and serve different purpose.
- Chronological resume presents information in reverse chronological order, with the most recent events being placed first.
- Functional (skill-based) resume focuses on your skills, accomplishments, job traits and personal characteristics that employers expect future employees to have.
- Hybrid resume contains elements of both the chronological and functional styles of resumes by including your relevant skills and accomplishments first and then describing your employment and education in chronological order.
Most people put the events on their resumes in chronological order. They talk about the jobs they’ve held, describing the way and speed with which they’ve been climbing the career ladder.
But for a job seeker with little or no experience, functional — or hybrid — resume is definitely a better option.
It enables you to prioritise some sections in favour of others. And being able to showcase your skills first will help you effectively make up for the lack of work experience.
Think smart and turn your disadvantage into an asset.
In other words, don’t get hung up on where you fall short. You need to specify what you can bring to the table. In lieu of work experience, it’s best to focus on your education and skills you’ve developed during college and expand these two sections on your resume.
Most resumes start by listing the candidate’s most recent jobs. You, however, need to list skills rather than roles and back them up with some evidence.
This section is a great place to highlight both your technical expertise and transferable skills.
Prepare a list of skills and situations where you used them for illustration. By using specific examples, you’ll make your skill-based resume far more powerful and believable.
Think about situations where you best demonstrated your ability to:
- Take on responsibility.
- Lead and inspire others.
- Show initiative and determination.
- Bridge the gap between others to get them working together.
- Build something or make it work again.
- Increase efficiency.
- Meet a challenge in an innovative way.
Remember that you need to be specific with your skills. If you’re a social media expert, for example, you need to list the various social media sites you have expertise in. The same goes for experience with specific computer programs that are relevant for the job.
The Education section on the resume of a seasoned professional is usually fairly compact. Its sole purpose is to prove they have a degree.
That’s why the only thing they’ll include is the name of the school and degree, graduation date and grade.
You need to think differently, though. Play up your degree and pack your Education section with other information that speaks of your professional skills and personal qualities:
- Academic awards
- Relevant coursework
- Group project work
- School societies
- Sport clubs
You sure have plenty to draw on from your studies. While these may not have been paid work experiences, they still present valid experience that you should include on your resume.
As a college graduate, you can delve deeper into specialised courses, school societies or interesting coursework.
Think about the skills that stemmed from this experience and make you a good fit for your target job.
Even a high school graduate can describe their electives, why they chose to take them and what they learned from the class.
Yes, it may take some time to brainstorm and recall all these details. But without relevant work experience, the success of your resume — in large part — stands and falls on the depth of your Skills and Education section.
Take stock of your achievements and activities.
An additional Achievements section can act as an extension of your Education section and will help you fill space on your resume.
Start by making a list of absolutely everything you’ve done that you are really proud of. From that list, you’ll be able to narrow down things to include on your resume.
The thing is that different achievements might be relevant to different jobs you’ll be applying for. So it’s very useful to keep a full list and pick only the most relevant ones when the time comes.
Did you organise an on-campus event, present a paper at a conference, volunteer for a good cause or write an article for the school magazine? These are kinds of accomplishments that deserve a place in the Achievements section in your resume.
Treat your internships and extracurricular activities as regular jobs.
Despite being unpaid, these activities can showcase your soft skills and help recruiters gauge your professional aptitude. Each one of them should come with a few points that detail the responsibilities you had:
Paid and unpaid college internships are one of the best weapons against “experience required” line in a job posting.
Use this unique opportunity to gain some relevant work experience. An internship is also a place where you can network and make connections that you will use later during your job search.
Most recruiters look at volunteer experience similarly to a paid work experience. In other words, just because you didn’t get paid doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job.
Go ahead and list your volunteer roles as you would a full-time job. Detail the length of time you volunteered, relevant tasks you undertook and the skills you gained through the experience.
You’ll often find your extracurricular roles very similar to regular jobs. If you’re applying for copywriting job, for example, recruiters will be more impressed to hear that you wrote a handful of articles for your student newspaper than that you had a summer job in a local fast food restaurant.
Add some personality.
Recruiters have to deal with many applications for each graduate job. Standing out from the crowd and making yourself memorable is the best move towards getting called in for an interview.
Have you run a marathon? Won an unusual award? Skydived in the Alps? These unusual and surprising things deserve to be in your resume.
Obviously, these experiences are not relevant professional skills, so avoid listing them in your Skills or Achievements section.
Simply list them in your Hobbies section and don’t bother going into detail. The goal here is simply to make a memorable first impression, not to convince the recruiter that running those 26 miles has prepared you for the job of an accountant.
Keep it professional even before you become a professional.
While there are many elements that should be a part of your resume, there are a couple of things that can ruin your job search before it even begins.
Stay away from including these things on your resume:
- The word “resume”
- Your age, date of birth, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation
- References — include a note “references available upon request” or attach a separate list of references
- Writing samples — include them on a separate sheet of paper
- Information about your grammar school
- Unrelated work experience or hobbies
- Negative words or ideas
Most of them will waste valuable space on your resume, won’t tell the recruiter anything relevant or — at worst — destroy your chances of getting a job entirely.
Last but not least, make sure you’re not using an unprofessional email address. “Punksnotdead2000@email.com” may have sounded great when you were young, but it’s not what you want prospective employers to see.
To get this right, head over to Gmail or Yahoo. Creating a free professional-looking email address to use on your job searching journey is a matter of seconds.
Pay attention to technical details and mistakes.
Take that extra time to edit and proofread your resume before sending it out. In an entry-level resume, you can’t simply afford a typo or missing word.
Make sure there are no punctuation, grammatical or spelling mistakes that will make your resume look awkward. If your resume sounds too dull and boring, use language in a smart way and utilise action verbs and powerful adjectives to keep your readers engaged.
Then have a friend or family member read it over once again to catch mistakes you may have missed. They might also provide some useful feedback and describe their feelings after reading your resume.
Customise your resume for each job you’re applying to.
Many college students are too lazy to tailor their career documents to the positions they’re applying for. And that’s a mistake that can often cost them a job.
Beat the crowd and adjust your resume to each job you’re opting for. Consider replacing your academic achievements or irrelevant skills to better match the job’s requirements. Recruiters will appreciate you’ve made some effort and haven’t just sent out a dozen identical resumes to a dozen different companies.
Remember that fortune favors the prepared.
Zero experience or tons of experience. Doesn’t really matter.
If you really want your career to take flight, you need to be prepared. To talk about your skills and achievements with confidence. To control your body language during your first job interview. Or to be able to negotiate your salary.
There’s no shortcut to experience. But once you decide to walk that extra mile, you’re on the fastest way to become a true professional.
Good luck with that!