It’s a problem that has stumped generations of entry-level workers. How to get a job without experience? And how to get experience without a job?
This is a dilemma that you may be facing right now as you create your professional resume. Naturally you want to impress your potential employers. But how can you show them your value as an employee if you have no work experience?
Like many new graduates, I spent a lot of time after graduation trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I finally ended up sending my resume out to schools and tutoring centers in hopes of getting a job as a tutor or language teacher. Although I had never worked in such a position before, I managed to showcase my talents in my professional resume so effectively that I received not just one job offer, but several. And I bet you can do the same!
Here are some tips to help.
A Targeted Summary
The summary is a brief 2-3 sentence paragraph which clearly states who you are and why you would be a great fit for the position. Think about the job description and try to get in the mindset of what the employer wants. Then consider your strengths and skills and how these make you a perfect fit for the position.
Remember to revise your summary each time you seek a new position to reflect the needs of your potential employers.
Here are some step-by-step guidelines to help you write your summary.
- Who Are You? State who you are. For example: “I am a recent graduate with a BA in Education.” Or: “I am a college senior at _________ majoring in Government.”
- What Are Your Skills? Think of a few skills that specifically relate to the objectives of the position. Conflict management, problem-solving, and research skills are some great examples of skills to mention.
- What Can You Do In This Position? Will you be able to manage your time efficiently to meet deadlines? Will you innovate new solutions to problems? Think specifically about what you might do to benefit this company.
Once you have crafted a punchy 2-3 sentence summary, it’s time to move to the “Education” section.
Of course, it’s important to list any honors that you have received in your educational career. Don’t leave out any awards or special recognition. But you will also need to focus on specific skills that you have gained as a result of your studies. Have you gained proficiency in any languages?
Have you gained skills in the area of technology or digital media? Be sure to include any practical skills you acquired in your coursework to show exactly what you will bring to the new position.
Here are some other things that you should include:
- Your GPA, if higher than a 3.0
- Relevant coursework. For example, writing classes if you are applying for a job as a journalist, or Government classes if you’re applying for a position in a political organization.
- Academic experience and honors (Dean’s List, High Honor Roll, any awards).
- Extracurricular activities (like clubs or sports), can be included here, or in a separate section if it’s a lengthy list.
The Experience Section
And now the million dollar question: what to put in the “Experience” section if you have no experience?
Here are some ways that you can solve this problem and make your limited experiences shine.
- Play up volunteer work. Don’t dismiss the experiences that you gained organizing a canned foods drive or volunteering at a nursing home. Think about the ways in which volunteer or unpaid work can show time management, responsibility, and leadership skills. I included my experiences teaching Sunday School in this section. Even though it was unpaid, it demonstrated leadership, creativity, and dependability.
- Group experiences together based on skills. Start with the skills that you listed in your summary and use these as subheads for this section. Then list experiences that pertain to each skill.
- Extracurricular activities. Instead of just listing your experiences in clubs or sports teams, be sure to state exactly how you contributed. Perhaps you were team captain in basketball and led the team to a winning season. Or maybe you showed diligence and organizational skill in your regular submissions of articles to the school newspaper.
Although the previous section can include volunteer and unpaid positions, this part should only include jobs for which you got paid. List any positions that you have held along with dates.
While it’s important to be honest in your work history, you should feel free to enhance some job titles so that they more truly reflect your accomplishments. For example, you can use the term “child care worker” instead of “babysitter,” or “customer service representative ” instead of “cashier.” There is no need to describe them at length, as you have already articulated relevant contributions to these positions in the previous section.
This section is especially important if you have a minimal Work History. List skills you have developed that make you uniquely qualified for the job. To be effective, go back to the job description and consider which skills relate most specifically to what the employer wants.
If you’re really stuck, try looking over job postings and ads for the kind of position that you seek, and jot down any specific skills they mention. Then write those that apply to you in your “Skills” section. The things you mention should also reflect what you wrote in your summary. Showcase skills such as video editing, public speaking, or coaching sports to demonstrate your creativity, communication skills, and leadership.
Here is an example of what a skills section might look like.
- Conversational Spanish
- Experience with Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
- Ability to type at 100 words per minute
- In-depth knowledge of social media platforms
Hobbies and Interests
Maybe you haven’t been working, but you’ve still been busy! List some hobbies to show that you’re well-rounded and can follow through on commitments. Playing an instrument or a sport or acting in the school play all show that you have the capacity for dedication and focus.
When writing your “Hobbies and Interests” section, try to make it fit well with the type of position you are seeking. Individual and team sports show that you like to stay healthy, take on challenges, and/or can get along with a team. Technical hobbies show that you are tech savvy, but may not have great social skills. Hobbies that involve socializing with others show that you have good communication and interpersonal skills.
Look Like a Professional
Even if you haven’t been in the workforce much, the appearance of your resume should signal that you are a dedicated professional. Pay attention to details such as spelling, font, and grammar. Proofread it several times for errors and ask friends to help in case you miss something. Ensure that nothing in your professional resume appears sloppy. Avoid decorative borders or unique fonts unless you are applying for a position in an artistic or creative field. Nothing in your resume should distract from presenting your best, most professional self.
Even if you have no job experience, you can still look like a superstar in your professional resume. Take it as an opportunity to reveal the skills and strengths that make you uniquely qualified. There is a job out there that’s just perfect for you… but you have to show them your real self to achieve it.
and lastly, Use a Professional Resume Template
We’re already done talking about how you can grab the attention of a hiring manager on our previous post, hence, this is the time you apply those things in your resume. But how are you going to do that if your resume looks almost the same boring resume they already have? What you need to do now is to try to find a resume template that stands out from the crowd. A resume template that make the hiring managers say “Hey, this is something new…” . There are hundreds of them out there. All you have to do is download a resume template and modify the details. By doing this, you’re increasing your chances to get noticed and eventually get hired.