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How to Build a Resume When You Have No Experience

In order to get a job, you need experience. But, you gain experience when you land your first job. It’s a bit of a tricky situation – something many new graduates have a hard time overcoming. These tips will help you get noticed by potential employers, even when you may be a little light on work experience.  

Leverage Internships 

Did you intern at a great company while you were a student? Add this as work experience to your resume. Your duties may have seemed like grunt work at the time, but you were gaining valuable experience in your chosen field. You participated in meetings and networked with people in your field, all while getting a look at what your future position could look like. Use these things to your advantage. Did you see a problem or inefficiency while interning that prompted you to take a class to learn more about solving the issue? Call that out in your cover letter. Employers love it when students can demonstrate taking initiative, and that is a prime example.  

Highlight Student Work 

Many campuses offer work-study positions. It’s a win-win – the college benefits from the work you do, and you can gain valuable experience on-campus. Whether you are working in the Marketing office taking photos for social media or working in the Financial Aid office helping people with their loan paperwork, you are gaining experience that you can add to your resume. Employers will ask about your specific job duties and how they played a part in the overall picture.  

Volunteer Experience 

If you don’t have years of experience to fall back on, you may highlight some of the ways you have volunteered. Did you spend time working with animals at the rescue league or mentoring kids in an afterschool program? Potential employers will see what you took initiative, and volunteered to do something you are passionate about or really enjoy. You may have volunteered through school or your local church, or simply sought the opportunities out on your own. If they align with your future career, they could have a spot on your resume.  

College Activities 

The activities you participated in during college can provide great resume fodder. Did you write for the school paper? Were you in Student Senate, or did you lead an on-campus group? Consider adding these activities to your resume. Employers know that you can learn a lot by actively participating, even if the activities have little to do with your chosen career.  

Itemize Your Skills 

If you are just graduating from college, most employers don’t expect you to have a two-page resume, but they do want to know what you bring to the table. Consider itemizing a list of the skills you would bring to the position. Are you creative? A self-starter? Problem solver? Natural communicator? Figure out what skills employers are looking for and (if you have those skills) include them on your resume. Fair warning: most employers will ask for examples during an interview, so be prepared to share specific instances that will back up your claims.  

Consider the Length 

When you graduate from college, you aren’t expected to have a multi-page resume. Keep your resume to one page. You should list your education history, any relevant work history, a summary statement that articulates what you bring to the table, and your contact information. How you structure your resume is important – it’s your best chance to highlight your skills to potential employers. Use specifics: rather than saying you lead a campus group, say that you lead a team of 14. Talk about your goals and your accomplishments.  

 

Drafting your first resume can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Use your on campus resources to review and proofread. And remember: we all started somewhere. It’s OK to start the job search process when you don’t have experience.  

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