How to Write a Resume with Little or No Experience – Part One
Do not let a lack of work experience put you off applying for a role where otherwise you meet most of the requirements. Instead, make the most of your other qualities: your skills, attitude, potential and enthusiasm. There is no doubt that if you have just graduated from university or completed training, you are going to have a resume with a lot of white space on it. But there are ways to write a resume that can still work even if you have never had any paid employment whatsoever.
Ultimately, it is not only paid experience that counts. Voluntary or community involvement, work placements, practicums, coursework, personal projects and extracurricular activities can all be highlighted to support and underline your suitability. Try and think of it from the employer’s perspective and highlight the most interesting factors where you have used relevant skills, and then make these prominent on your resume.
For example, as a graduate, your resume could emphasise education and training, including achievements and endorsements, or you could decide to underline project work above less relevant work experience. Breaking down each project into target, result and learned competencies shows relevant skills and achievements in context.
As you will be speaking about your soft skills – communication, organisational abilities, teamwork skills, punctuality, critical thinking, interpersonal communication skills, and so on – these can be best conveyed using a cover letter. This is not something everyone puts with their resume, but it can be particularly valuable when you are just starting out. A cover letter offers you the opportunity to articulate your strengths, your personal qualities and your ambition for the future. It gives the employer a glimpse into your personal qualities. What is lacking in experience can be countered by personal characteristics, showing the hiring manager precisely the qualities, they are seeking.
A cover letter is a good idea for career changers, too, and you also have a little bit more experience to work with. The cover letter is the perfect opportunity for you to connect the dots between the company’s needs and the skills you have built across a short career. Be specific here. You want to really spell it out for hiring managers and explain why your thus-far short career might even be an asset so that when they have finished your letter, they have a good understanding of why it makes sense for them to hire you.
When it comes to the resume – whether you have some or no work experience – there are many ways you can construct a compelling document. You do not need to always use a strict chronological work history format or have the same section order. Put the most important information first – relevant project work can come before less relevant employment. In contrast, voluntary projects bridging your move into a new career could come before current, paid work.
You can be flexible with layout and include additional sections for work that is less relevant or earlier in your career. You can also put your education before your work experience or extract relevant course work and place that prominently. Do not be tempted to flesh out a resume with long, rambling paragraphs and irrelevant details to compensate for lack of work experience. Instead, write concisely, and focus on making it easy for your reader to find key information.
If you are light on work experience, but you have done some volunteering, this can (and should!) be its own section. It is a great way to list additional skills and responsibilities- plus, sharing these details gives hiring managers additional insight into who you are. Within this section, list each of your volunteer positions the same way you would do your paid jobs, with your title (even if it is simply ‘Volunteer’), the organisation, a little bit about them, dates of service, and your accomplishments. Do not have any volunteer experience? Consider signing up for something now! Whatever it is, that experience is one more line on the page than you had before – not to mention a valuable (and hopefully rewarding) experience.
Next time, we will look at more ways to write a great resume if you have little or no experience under your belt!