Writing a resume when you have little to no experience can feel like a daunting task. How can you show a potential employer that you have what it takes for the job if you’ve never even held a position like that before?
Luckily, the answer to this is easier than you may think!
No matter the reason for the empty space on your resume, there are ways to fill in the gap so that you can get the job you want. In this article, we’ll discuss:
- How to organize your resume
- What you can put on your resume in lieu of work experience
- General tips to keep in mind when writing your resume
Let’s dive in.
How to organize your resume with no job experience
First things first— organizing your resume. It helps to go into the resume writing process knowing exactly what you’ll need to cover and where it’ll go on paper.
There are hundreds of free resume templates online that can help guide your resume design and formatting. But remember though, design is the cherry on top of your resume content. Regardless of the format that you choose, you’ll want to ensure that you’re covering all of the right categories.
At a minimum, your resume should include the following categories.
Make sure the employer has a way to reach you by including your phone number and email address. Most employers use digital correspondence nowadays, so there’s no need to include your address unless it is specifically requested.
This is also a good place to share your website, portfolio link, or social media accounts if they are relevant to the job that you are applying for.
If you have no work experience, showcase your academic history. Start by listing the most recent education that you’ve received first and work backward in reverse-chronological order. Note your degree, major or concentration, and the years attended. If you have not yet graduated, you can include your anticipated graduation date.
If you have attended college or a trade school, you do not need to include your high school education. However, if high school is the highest level of education that you’ve received or you’re currently in high school, you can include it.
You may also include activities and clubs that you participated in related to your school, as well as any relevant honors or awards that you received.
This is the part that you may have the most questions about. People further along in their careers typically list their work experience in this category. However, you’ll use this area to showcase other experiences that have prepared you for the job you’re applying for.
We’ll talk about this more in-depth a little further down.
Your skills can be divided up into two categories: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are specific skills that are measurable and easily defined. Examples of hard skills include computer and software skills, the ability to speak a foreign language, and writing skills. All of these can be judged by proficiency level. Many times, hard skills are industry or job-specific, and some employers will have hard skill requirements. (e.g. “You must be proficient in Microsoft Excel.”)
Soft skills, on the other hand, are much harder to define or measure. They are often attributes that aren’t specific to a role or industry— but are important nonetheless. Examples of soft skills include good leadership skills, problem-solving abilities, project management skills, and adaptability. There’s no exact way to measure these, but employers will want to see what self-developed characteristics you hold.
If you have any other relevant certifications or coursework done outside of school, you can highlight those in their own category.
These are some additional categories that you may choose to include if it is pertinent to the role you are applying for.
Providing a concise professional summary can be a good way to begin your resume. In your summary, you can describe what your goals are and why you are a good fit for the position. The goal is to give the employer a glimpse of your unique value.
Remember— this is a short paragraph, not a whole cover letter. Limit this to two to four sentences.
Awards and achievements
If you’ve received any awards or achievements outside of school, list them here.
Hobbies and interests
This certainly isn’t a requirement, but some jobseekers like to include a few words about their hobbies and interests outside of work.
It is best to include this if your hobbies align with the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a role at an outdoor and sporting goods brand, you can mention your passion for mountain biking and bouldering. Take this as an opportunity to show that your values align with the company.
Some jobseekers choose to list their references on the front of their resumes. However, it is usually best to save valuable space and instead simply write “References available upon request” at the bottom of your resume.
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What to put on your resume other than work experience
Even if you had years of working under your belt, your previous jobs don’t need to be the only thing that appears on your resume. Your resume is a place to showcase the many facets of your life experience that indicate you are a good fit for the job.
If you have never held a job before, you can substitute the following things for work experience:
- Internships and/or apprenticeships
- Self-employment experience
- Volunteer work
- Extracurricular clubs and activities
- Projects that you’ve completed through school or other organizations
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Internships or apprenticeships
Even if you weren’t paid, don’t leave out any internships or apprenticeships you’ve completed. Be sure you include the company name, your role or title, the duration of your work, and any relevant experience you gained.
Self-employed job experience
Perhaps you feel like you don’t have any job experience because you’ve never worked in a traditional office setting. If you’re new to the workforce but have some experience with self-employment with jobs like babysitting or mowing lawns, it’s worth mentioning!
Be sure to include the job, time period in which you did the job, and a brief description of the skills used while doing the job. Focus on the skills that are pertinent to the role that you are applying for.
Volunteering can show employers that you are driven, passionate, and take initiative to make a difference in your community.
To showcase your volunteer experience, write the name of the organization, location, and the time period of your service. You can also include relevant tasks that you completed during your time volunteering.
Extracurricular clubs and activities
Do you participate in activities or belong to any organizations outside of what you listed under the education section? You can describe those here.
Similar to the other experience types, make sure to include the name of the organization, your role or title (if applicable), the dates that you were involved, and any relevant experience you gained from it.
Did you complete any notable projects for college, your extracurricular club, or internship? You can add these to your work experience as well.
Tips for writing a resume
Before we go, we wanted to share a few general tips to keep in mind when writing your resume.
1. Be honest.
If you are having trouble filling up space on your resume, you may be tempted to stretch the truth about what you’ve done so far in your career. Don’t do this.
Many hiring managers— especially ones hiring for entry-level positions— understand that many applicants won’t have a ton of work history. It’s always better to be truthful than to fib and get caught.
2. Cater your resume to the job you’re applying for.
While it’s easy to write one resume and send it in with every job you apply for, it’s important to craft your resume to match the job you’re applying for.
The best way to do this is to read the job description carefully and make sure that you demonstrate that you meet those qualifications in your resume. For example, if the employer has a list of requirements like software knowledge, make sure that you include that in your hard skills. If customer service skills are a must for the position, be sure to mention instances where you successfully interacted with customers during your internship, volunteer experience, etc.
3. Keep it professional.
Remember, your resume is often an employer’s first impression of you. You can keep it professional by:
- Using a professional email address: If your email address is something like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, consider creating a new account with a more professional name.
- Using a professional font: Your resume isn’t the place for a fun, crazy font. When in doubt, stick to classics like Times New Roman.
- Getting someone to proofread before you submit: Having an extra pair of eyes look over your resume can help you catch any mistakes or typos.
4. Use power words.
When describing relevant experiences, projects, or tasks that you completed, use power words. Power words are vocabulary choices that help you stand out.
For example, instead of saying that you “carried out marketing tasks”, you can say that you “designed, developed, and executed large-scale marketing campaigns”. By using the words designed, developed, and executed, you paint a better picture of what exactly you did.
Land the job you want
Your resume is a tool that can help you land the job you want. Remember to take your time when creating your resume. A well-thought-out resume with no job experience listed can stand out far above an applicant with job experience but a hastily written document.
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