“I’ve Never Needed a Resume, So Why Start Now?” Part Two

In Part One, we looked at why people who have gone a whole career and never needed a resume should consider getting one done. This time, we will focus on those who would like one, but do not think they have anything at all to put in it. 

Finding a job is hard enough but landing a new position without formal work experience can seem downright impossible. The good news is that it is not impossible. Everyone who has ever worked had to get hired without formal experience at one point. So, what do you put on a resume if you have never had a job?

It can be frustrating – a Catch-22 situation – employers will tell you that you need more experience, but how are you supposed to get it if no one will hire you? Whether you are a recent graduate or a stay-at-home parent re-entering the workforce, here are some tips that will help you combat a lack of experience in your job search.

First of frame your idea around why you would be great at the job you have set your sights on. When you decided to apply, you had some reason to believe you could do the job being advertised, right? So, spend some time thinking about why. This does not have to be about formal experience; it can be about personal traits you bring to the job or other less formal qualifications. For instance, it is perfectly appropriate to mention your love of being organised n your personal life when applying to an admin job or your encyclopaedic knowledge of car engines when applying to work in mining vehicle maintenance and so on.

If you've never needed a resume here's where to start.

For applying for a job for the first time, it is more important than ever to write a solid cover letter. If you do not have much – or any – relevant experience, a cover letter is the thing that can convince a recruiter to call you for an interview. But the letter needs to be a truly excellent one – and that means it cannot just rehash the contents of your resume or consist of a few paragraphs of generic filler. It needs to explain precisely why you would excel and why you are truly excited about the opportunity. Also, this is the perfect forum for you to explain why THIS company is the one you want to work for – is it their ethos? Is that you truly admire what they produce? Do you know someone who works there? Devote an entire paragraph to them instead of you. 

Have you got the academic experience that is relevant to the role? It is important to note that this is fair game and should definitely be included in your resume. The same goes for side projects you have tackled outside of work or school. As long as you are clearly identifying this experience as project or academic work, there is nothing preventing you from including it in your resume – and you absolutely should! Do not make the assumption that only full-time, paid experiences can be on your resume. One way to do this is to create a ‘Projects’ section. Here, you would write about your project work the same way you would for work experience. Think about the experiences you have had that helped you realise your career interests. Was it a class project? Maybe you volunteered to help with something that ultimately sparked your newfound career goals – that is the experience that you can include on your resume under a ‘Projects’ section. Format it similarly to help the recruiter understand that this, too, is a valuable experience that should be evaluated when considering your candidacy for the position you are interested in. And for graduate teachers and nurses – absolutely include your practicum and placement experience and include a list of key duties. You can also include any positive quotes from supervisors. 

Ultimately, whilst all of these tips help strengthen your application when you do not have a lot of experience, it’s also important to be realistic about what types of jobs you’ll be considered qualified for. In a tight job market like this one, where employers are flooded with highly qualified applicants, there is less incentive for them to consider people who are less qualified. You will have the most success if you carefully target jobs you truly can prove you can succeed at – not just jobs where you think “I could do that,” but jobs where you can pinpoint specific evidence that you would excel. Ultimately, the idea here is to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. What should make them excited about hiring you? That is what needs to be reflected in your cover letter, your resume, and ultimately your interview. And if you cannot figure out why they should be excited about hiring you, you cannot expect them to figure it out either – which should be a strong sign that you need to move on to a different opening, one where you can make a compelling case for yourself.

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“I’ve Never Needed a Resume, So Why Start Now?” Part One
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