How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience

Landing your very first job (or first job in a new field) is a little bit of a tricky task. Hiring managers are hesitant to go after new talent with no work experience. Even when the job is labeled entry-level, it seems that they are still wanting some sort of experience.

How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience

What do you do if you have no work experience? There is a pretty good chance that you have some sort of related experience in either school or volunteer opportunities that you can highlight instead. Spend this time focusing on what you can bring to the table and maybe just forget to mention that you don’t actually have any practical work experience!

Brainstorm About your Strengths

Before you begin trying to write a resume with little or nothing to start with, spend some time brainstorming. Identify what the key skills are for the type of entry-level positions you are interested in applying for. Make a list of all of the hard and soft skills that come to mind and arrange them in order based on how strong you are in that skill.

Pick the top five skills on your list and think about times that you have developed or used that skill successfully. Examples might include school projects, extra-curricular like 4H or scouts, or volunteer work.

Next to your list of skills, begin compiling a list of the activities that you have participated in that have helped you develop the skills in the first list. Get really specific and record dates and accomplishments for each activity. Many of the activities that you have participated in can be a stand-in for traditional work experience when you are just starting out.

Edit for Relevant Experience

Read several job listings in your target field or position. Compare the key skills in those job postings to the skills and alternative experience that you have accumulated in your brainstorming session. Edit out anything that is not directly related. The only thing worse than not having any work experience on your resume is having a lot of unrelated work experience listed.

Unrelated experience is just sort of clutter that bulks up your resume and makes it hard for the HR professional to match your resume to a job opening. It is also a pretty quick way to end up in the reject pile. Increase your chances of a call back by making the HR professional’s job easier. Only give them useful information that is relevant to the job posting.

Focus on What you Have, Not What you Don’t

One of the biggest mistakes that newbies make is to draw attention to their lack of experience. Opening with a line like ‘I may not have the x experience, but…’ is a pretty good sign that your resume will go straight into the reject pile.

If you do not have the experience, you do not have to mention it. Keep the focus on what value you can bring and let the potential employer decide if you are worth the risk. Despite how impossible it feels, employers hire inexperienced employees all of the time. Some even prefer to hire less experienced employees so that they can train them the way they want them.

Treat Education Like Work Experience

If you spent time taking college courses, even if you did not finish, those courses were a valuable experience. You can highlight grades, awards, and projects completed in lieu of traditional work experience on a resume. Most employers are open to accepting experience from higher-level institutions.

No college experience? Professional organizations typically offer educational programs like certificates or individual courses that are well-recognized by most employers. While these organizations do cost money for memberships and courses, the cost is much less than a college or university and they can be completed much more quickly.

There are many to get around a lack of work experience. By playing to your strengths and highlighting your skills instead of focusing strictly on past work experience, even a recent college graduate or career-changer can fill a quality resume to attract employers.

Volunteer work, school, and professional organizations are all excellent sources of alternative experience that are a great stand-in for traditional work experience.

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