How To Write A Resume When You Have No Experience

By: Karrie Comfort

Help! I’m fresh out of high school, or in college and I need a job ASAP, but I have no resume. What do I put on my resume when I have no experience? - said every college student ever.

You may not have job experience, but you DO have experience in something, it’s just about how you frame your past accomplishments in the absolute best light. No one will know you can do it, unless you show them, and if you can’t show them that you can do a job based on past work experience, give them enough confidence that you COULD do it in the future based on these five factors. Let’s jump in!

1. School - From Coursework to Grades!

Sure, everyone is in school, but what was relevant about that experience to the job you’re applying for? Sometimes, a particular skill might be relevant: for example, if you are applying for a photography assistant position and you took a photography class, list that. Employers like to see relevant experience, and just because you didn’t get paid for it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t good work. This applies for almost all fields, from engineering to human resources, and in some industries it might even be relevant to show some kind of a “deliverable” or portfolio that you made while in that class. It’s true what they say: show don’t tell.

No specific coursework to support the gig you want? Or is it rather entry-level like retail or customer service? Two words: Hard. Work. Show your devotion to your studies by highlighting your GPA (3.0 or higher I would say is worth mentioning); pro tip: if you’re major classes were better for you than those pesky GE math classes, only mention your Major GPA for a higher figure.

2. Volunteer Work: Both On Campus and Off Campus

Did you volunteer with your home church, a food bank, or at a conference? Put it in on there: employers want to see that, even though you weren’t paid, you’re a go getter that wants to gain experience and contribute to their community. Also, you have to consider that out of the hoards of other faceless resume submitters, the fact that you volunteered at a wildlife reserve, may help you stand out to an animal-loving hiring manager!

Did you lead the dance club to a national championship? Or maybe you’re the face behind all of the fundraising for a popular cultural club! Either way, similar to volunteer experience this is another opportunity to perhaps relate to the kind of job you may be pursuing. For example, fundraising may relate to an entry level data-entry position, or being a cashier.

3. Skills - Relevant & Irrelevant!

You might be asking yourself, “what does being able to use Excel have to do with working at the front counter of Subway, and the answer is absolutely nothing! Some skills simply show your breadth of knowledge and so you may want to include these.

However, do a simple Google search depending on the position you are applying for: “what skills do XYZ’s need?” For example, here’s what I found for cashier:
-Flexibility
-Friendliness
-Detail-Oriented
-Dependable
-Customer Service Oriented
-Point of Sales System

Chances are, you can be friendly, flexible & dependable without any job experience! The employer doesn’t know that from looking at a resume, especially one with no work experience to show that they will stick to a position. That being said, I would recommend adding a soft skills section to your resume that highlights things that the hiring manager would want to see for someone that would be a reliable employee.

4. References - Everyone Needs A Hypeman

True, this isn’t a hip hop music video, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a hypeman. If you are riding low in the work experience section, consider asking a professor, or former supervisor in a club or volunteer event to write you a letter of recommendation. Keep in mind that this is a quality over quantity game: it’s better to have one solid letter, rather than five from every single professor you have this semester. Sometimes less is more: this is one of those times.

5. I Choose Youuuu - Your Objective

If you want the employer to choose you over a lot of other valid candidates, then it is crucial you tell them why YOU chose THEM. Not only does this show that you aren’t applying for just anything, but that you chose this position with specificity. For example, your objective might be: to obtain a position where I can use my service skills and improve the customer service experience of customers. Try to keep it short, and valuable to the employer.

Now, visualize yourself in an in person interview with the manager, and they ask you that fateful question: “Why do you want this position?” Although in the back of your mind, you may be thinking “because I need a job”, this is the moment you again have a chance to reiterate your objective. Why wait until you’re in an interview to make that known to the employer?

Start now. Go forth and conquer, you hard working humans!