Looking to create a compelling resume but don’t have a wealth of professional experience under your belt?
It’s a common dilemma faced by many, and we’re here to help you navigate it. Don’t let a lack of work history discourage you. There are several creative ways to demonstrate your potential to prospective employers.
In this article, we’ll break down:
- Organizing your resume without work experience
- What you can put on your resume in lieu of work experience
- General tips to keep in mind when writing your resume
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How to fill the experience void on your resume
Your resume is a platform to highlight your abilities and potential, even if you don’t have traditional work experience.
If you have never held a job before, you can substitute the following things for work experience:
- Internships or apprenticeships
- Self-employment experience
- Volunteer or pro-bono 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.
Volunteer or pro-bono work
Volunteering or taking on pro-bono work 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.
Notable projects for college, your extracurricular club, or internships can be included as work experience if it is relevant to the job you are applying for.
How to organize your resume
Building a well-structured resume is key to success in your job search, no matter how much experience you have. This involves being clear about what you want to communicate and how you plan to do it. While there are countless free resume templates online that can serve as a guide for design and formatting, it’s your unique content that will make you stand out.
Essential resume categories
At a minimum, your resume should include the following categories.
This is pretty straightforward. Ensure that employers have a way to reach you by including your phone number and email address. In today’s digital age, you don’t need to include your physical address unless specifically requested.
Also, consider adding links to your professional social media accounts or portfolio, especially if they are relevant to the job you’re seeking.
With no work experience, your academic history becomes even more important. Start by listing your most recent education first and work backward in reverse-chronological order.
Be sure to include:
- Degree earned
- Your major or concentration
- Years attended
If you’re still in school, mention your expected graduation date. Additionally, highlight any relevant activities, clubs, or honors you received during your academic journey.
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.
Awards and achievements
Any honors or awards you’ve received outside of school can be listed here. This might include community service awards, scholarships, or competition wins.
Hobbies and interests
Including your hobbies isn’t a requirement, but it can add a personal touch to your resume and show that your interests align with the company’s values. However, only include this section if your hobbies are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
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.
Read more: How long should a resume be?
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 lie!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, 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 resume buzzwords words.
When describing relevant experiences, projects, or tasks that you completed, use resume buzz 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.