Don't worry, we've all been there. Thrown into the job world with little to none work experience and no idea how to start a resume. We're here to help.
With more and more people on the job hunt each year, entering the work force with minimal to no experience on your resume can be a daunting and frustrating task.
However, no need to worry, all is not lost for applicants lacking in relevant work experience.
We've all been there.
This guide is here to help you learn how to shift the focus of your resume onto your skills, unpaid experiences, and education in order to frame your lack of experience in a more appealing manner.
The first and arguably most important decision when it comes to crafting a resume is deciding which format is best for you.
When you are lacking in relevant work experience, using the standard resume format – also known as the reverse-chronological resume – may not be the best idea.
Reverse-chronological resumes are centered around the work experience section, which is precisely the section you want to shift the attention away from when your experience is limited.
Instead, you should consider using either a functional or a hybrid resume.
If you are unsure which resume format best fits your needs, check out our guide on choosing the correct resume format.
Unlike reverse-chronological resumes, functional resumes are not designed or formatted to be primarily focused on relevant work experience.
Because of this, the functional resume has become the favored format for applicants who do not have work experience to showcase.
There are a number of reasons why a person may not have work experience to feature on a resume. Common circumstances include an individual being a student or recent grad.
Veterans who lack non-military experience and people looking to re-enter the workforce after a gap in their employment history also may favor a functional format.
The benefits of using a functional resume include:
A hybrid resume mixes the formatting of functional and reverse-chronological resumes in order to make a resume that includes elements from both.
These kinds of resumes are highly customizable and can be restructured according to the applicant’s needs.
Using a hybrid resume may be wise for someone who has some work experience that may or may not be wholly relevant
For people with no work experience whatsoever, however, sticking to a functional format may be best.
Benefits of using a hybrid resume include:
Making a resume as a job applicant with little to no experience requires you to take an in-depth personal inventory of your personal skills and talents.
Everything from your communication skills to your time management and teamwork skills matter here and creating a definitive list of your greatest strengths is key.
There are two categories of skills to consider: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are more quantifiable and are typically gained through some form of education, training, or certification program.
This can include skills such as computer programming, speaking foreign languages, or being a mathematician.
While you may not have gained hard skills through prior work experience, there are still potentially hard skills you obtained through other channels, such as through school or from the military.
Writing down your hard skills is important, as this is where you will find your most relevant skills for a job application.
Soft skills are less quantifiable and have more to do with your personality, work ethic, and how you interact with other people.
Communication, problem-solving, and cooperative skills all come into play here.
Though soft skills may not be as easy to directly relate to a job application, they are still necessary and helpful to include in a resume with a limited work experience section.
Additionally, job descriptions often lend hints to the kinds of soft skills an employer is looking for, and including those skills can show you pay close attention to information given to you.
Below we have provided a list of common transferable skills to help get you started on identifying which skills you possess and how you can frame them on your resume to improve your chances of landing a job interview.
Of course, there are hundreds of skills that are good to include on a resume.
It is important to choose skills that both accurately represent your talents as well as provide relevance to the job description provided.
For more ideas on good skills to include, check out our guide on 100+ key skills for a resume in 2021.
Here are a few examples of transferable skills and how to list them:
Collaboration skills generally indicate your ability to work well with departments, professionals, or teams outside of your own.
This can show employers your ability to form connections with others within an industry
Incorrect: Collaborated with volunteer teams from other counties.
Correct: Learned strong collaboration strategies through participating in volunteer service activities involving multiple groups of volunteers.
While collaboration shows your ability to work with external connections, teamwork emphasizes your ability to work well within your own team.
Teamwork requires you to pay close attention to your teammates and be willing to compromise in order to make things happen.
Incorrect: Gained teamwork skills through community service.
Correct: Achieved effective teamwork through helping to organize meetings for a community service group.
Communication skills largely involve your public speaking abilities and your capability for expressing yourself in a clear and concise manner.
Including examples of how you have honed your communicative abilities is key.
Incorrect: Strong communication skills
Correct: Developed communication skills through working as a peer mentor at the university.
See how this Art Director resume example listed Communication as a skill on her resume:
Nowadays, digital and computer skills are a must and the more you know, the more opportunity you may have for employment.
Detailing your computer skills and programs you can properly operate is essential.
Incorrect: Strong computer skills and knowledge of software.
Correct: Experienced in the use of Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Creative Cloud. Certified in the use of Microsoft Excel.
When an employer is considering a job applicant with little to no experience, that applicant’s dependability will be one of their major questions.
As such, including dependability in your skillset is generally a smart idea.
Incorrect: Provided dependable service as an intern.
Correct: Proved dependability through being on time or early every day on an internship.
An employer will want you to be fast on your feet while also being able to think things through thoroughly.
Emphasizing your critical thinking skills helps to show a potential employer your attention to detail and ability to problem solve.
Incorrect: Gained critical thinking skills through membership in a chess club.
Correct: Employed critical thinking skills during a chess club competition, placing in second.
Taking on leadership roles oftentimes comes with hefty responsibilities.
Showing employers your ability to handle and succeed as a leader can greatly impact their impression of your work ethic and ability to work well with others.
Incorrect: Grew leadership skills in military training.
Correct: Developed leadership skills in the role of a platoon leader during military training.
For example, take a look at how Elysse added Leadership skills on her chef resume:
For many job applicants with little to no work experience, there are oftentimes other experiences they have that can be used to emphasize and showcase work done to better hone one’s skills and expertise.
Two common examples include experience gained through volunteering or internships.
When you have no experience or gaps in your employment history, having experiences like these to fill the gaps and give context to your skills is key.
Taking advantage of volunteering opportunities is a great way to both begin to build out your resume while also giving back to your community.
There are all sorts of volunteering positions to consider, from working in a local animal shelter to helping with inventory at a food bank.
Volunteer service shows not only that you have experience to back up you the skills you claim to have, but it also shows your commitment to your work even if there is no compensation involved.
This can reflect very positively on your work ethic to future employers.
Incorrect: Volunteered at a local shelter.
Correct: Spent six months volunteering at a local homeless shelter, helping to take daily and weekly food and supply inventories.
Internships are especially common for current students or recent grads to take on, as many jobs require some amount of relevant experience to be considered for open positions.
Internships provide the opportunity to gain relevant working experience for those with little to no prior experience.
Inclusion of internships is important, as though it is unpaid work it still can hold a similar weight to paid work experience, especially when applying to entry or low level positions.
Incorrect: Interned at a local newspaper for one semester.
Correct: Earned a semester-long internship working as an assistant to an investigative reporter at a locally-run newspaper.
Aside from internships and volunteer experiences, things such as community leadership or fundraising can be useful to include as well.
Basically any experience that helped you to gain and hone your skills is good to consider adding to a resume.
See how Marianne added her internship in this graphic design resume example:
When figuring out how to list education on a resume it is important to be mindful of what the job description listed as the educational requirements for the position.
Generally speaking, unless a resume is meant to be more academically focused, it is recommended to keep education sections rather short.
For those with no experience, however, the education section may be a good opportunity to showcase activities, clubs, leadership roles, and other similar experiences.
Showing your involvement on campus can help to fill the time gaps in employment history if you are a student or recent grad.
Incorrect: Played on an intramural soccer team.
Correct: Participated on an intramural soccer team and earned the role of team co-captain.
When it comes to writing the perfect resume in 2021, there are lots of considerations to keep in mind.
With so much competition, it can sometimes feel disheartening for those of you with no experience.
However, there is a lot of power in the format and wording of your resume and learning how to optimize your resume is key to overcoming a lack of experience.
Here are three key takeaways for writing resumes with no experience:
When you are using a functional or hybrid resume format, it may be immediately noticeable to employers that you have chosen against using the standard reverse-chronological format.
As such, you need to be extra careful with your formatting and design in order to ensure your resume looks clean and is easy to follow.
Since your resume will likely be centered around you skills rather than your experience, it is very important to relate your skills back to the job you are applying for and contextualize for the employer how you will apply you skills if given the position.
You don’t want to leave employers feeling like they’ve been left hanging.
While you should still strive to maintain clarity and conciseness in your descriptions, do not be shy in adding heftier amounts of detail than you might in a more standard resume.
You want to stand out to employers and showcase exactly how you are perfect for the role being offered.
Landing a job with no experience can be tricky, but it’s nowhere near impossible.
The key to crafting a resume when you lack relevant experience is to identify and showcase your relevant and transferrable skills.
If you are unsure how to get started formatting your resume, check out our resume templates and examples!
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