Summer is heating up. For many of this year’s college graduates, the festivities are dying down, and the need to find a job is becoming more pressing. Yet many recent grads or those who have taken career breaks find themselves in a conundrum when they begin their job search: how to write an outstanding resume if they have little or no professional experience. Embarking on a job hunt is never easy, but it can seem even more daunting if you feel you haven’t had the professional experiences that hiring managers look for when screening job applications. Fear not, however, because there IS a way to frame your unique experiences and skills so that they translate in to valid, valuable bullet points on your resume. With a little research, some personal reflection, and determination, you can write your resume and begin applying to jobs within a few hours of reading this post.
1) Do your research
Decide which industries you would be interested in working in. Once you’ve picked two or three, use sites like monster.com, indeed.com, and idealist.org to peruse some job postings for entry-level positions in your chosen fields. In each posting, there should be a list of qualities and qualifications that hiring managers desire in potential entry level job candidates. Make a list of these traits and skills.
Once you have a good list with quite a few skills and traits, examine any that repeat. If you begin to notice patterns across job postings from various companies, you can get a general sense of what is expected of an entry level worker in that field. For example, if you were researching desired traits for jobs in sales, you might see that customer service, persuasion, negotiation, and diligence are among dozens of skills that are emphasized when working in that field, according to TheBalance.com. Now, analyze your findings. Do you possess any of the qualities that recur across job postings? Circle all that are relevant to you.
2) Do some personal reflection
Once you’ve got a sense of what hiring managers are looking for, you can begin to reflect on your own experiences to discover if any work you’ve done over the years would demonstrate your suitability for a position in your chosen field. The trick here is to stop limiting your interpretation of “professional experience” to solely conventional long-term jobs, which you may not have had yet. Professional experience can be anything you have done that utilized or developed your skills. Perhaps you were a TA in college or you volunteered at the writing center or as a tutor. Maybe you gave tours to prospective students or were assigned to have a visiting student shadow you one day. Maybe you worked at the library.
For recent college grads, work experience doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to your college, either. You may have worked on a catering team at a wedding, or helped take care of your neighbors’ children. A family friend may have asked you to help with a home improvement project or help fix a car one summer. Even hobby activities can be considered experiences that demonstrate your value as a worker.
It may make it easier to reflect on these experiences if you think of times when you collaborated with others to achieve some sort of end. What projects have you completed? What volunteer work have you done? Now reexamine the list of desired qualities in your industry. Focus on the ones you circled, those you possess. Try to think of how you acquired, developed, or utilized these skills throughout your past work, volunteer, or other project experiences. These experiences will be the bullet points in the Professional Experience section on your resume. For help formatting this section and others on your resume, see Resume Yeti’s “Anatomy of a Perfect Resume” Pro Tips.
3) Make your resume look the part
Since you are searching for employment with few “conventional” job experiences, it is of paramount importance that your resume be as close to perfect as possible. In an article about the most important resume characteristics for an applicant with no experience, Business Insider states that the number one way to make a resume stand out is that, “The layout is clean and easy to read.” Your resume should contain no spelling or grammar errors, no formatting inconsistencies, and it should have a clean, polished design. In order for hiring managers to take your resume seriously, it needs to be visually as good as or better in caliber than those of applicants competing for the same positions. First impressions are key!
Once you get over the initial anxiety of feeling like you have no work experience, you’ll be able to crank out your resume and start applying to jobs immediately thereafter. And remember, the employee profiles that hiring managers post in job listings are only desired qualities; they are usually not hard line requirements for every applicant. Show hiring managers that despite not having had conventional work experience, you have had valuable learning experiences in the past, and you are ready to put your skill set into action.