Writing a résumé without work experience may seem like a paradox–how do you showcase your industry know-how without having actually worked in the industry yet? Especially when to get that work experience, you’ll need a résumé to land your first job. But don’t panic: the key is finding ways to bulk up your credentials, highlighting the skills, activities, and achievements that compensate for a lack of professional experience. To get you started, I put together a step-by-step guide with tips from an industry professional on how to write a résumé with no work experience and ensure you’re showcasing every unique experience that adds to your expertise.
List Extracurricular Activities Outside Traditional Jobs and Internships
Even without jobs and internships to list, that doesn’t mean you have to leave the experience section on your résumé blank. Including relevant activities, clubs, and leadership roles you’ve been involved in is another way you can show potential employers how you’ve prepped for a career.
Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and editor who has worked with various publications including InStyle and Taste of Home, points out that people often overlook the amount of relevant experience they have under their belt. “I think most people, especially aspiring writers, have more experience than they think–there are plenty of activities that can count as career experience beyond traditional jobs and internships.” Whether it’s a leadership position on the executive board of your sorority or involvement with your school’s fashion magazine, listing all these extracurriculars along with a short description of your role in them will bulk up your résumé and illustrate your work potential.
Think Outside the Box When It Comes to Relevant Experience
When it comes to noting relevant activities on your résumé, make sure to consider even more informal experiences that could showcase your expertise. If you’re pursuing a career in graphic design, including a blurb about creating a Facebook cover photo for an event on campus could demonstrate how you’ve put your skills to use.
Rabideau points out that there are endless possibilities for the kind of experience you can list on your résumé, from one-time gigs to ongoing projects. “Do you run your own blog? Take pictures for your friend’s Instagram? That can go on your résumé! Did you help your aunt create marketing flyers for her store? That counts as experience, too.”
Student success advisor at Parsons School of Design, Brad Heikes, encourages students to include volunteer experience on their résumés, as well. “If you do not yet have much formal work to fill up your résumé, be sure to add volunteering to your experience category. You would be surprised at how well the skills you have gained from volunteering can apply to the professional world.” Remember that no experience is insignificant when it comes to marketing yourself to potential employers, whether it be leadership development, volunteering, or finding new ways to publish your work.
Create A Section to List Your Relevant Coursework
Use your experience as a student to your advantage by making a note of the relevant classes you’ve taken throughout your college career. Employers will be able to see that even without formal work history, you’ve been able to pick up the important skills and experiences relevant to your field.
Nicole Hartwig, a student success advisor at Parsons School of Design, emphasized that listing classes geared toward your career path is also a great way to relate back to samples of your work. “Dedicate a section of your résumé to highlighting the relevant courses you’ve taken! This is a great way to showcase what you’ve learned in school and connect back to projects you’re featuring in your portfolio.” For instance, if you’re aiming for a career in journalism, you can list the courses that correspond to samples of your writings from class.
Highlight The Skills That Can Set You Apart From Other Job Candidates
Experience isn’t the only thing employers look for on a résumé, and often times, your arsenal of skills is what will land you the job. Dedicate a section of your résumé to list the skills you’ve mastered, which can be anything from sales to Excel.
Hartwig notes the that a separate skill section can showcase the knowledge you’ve accumulated through experience. “Really let that section speak to what you’ve learned so far. Include relevant software, such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, etc. Be sure to include the relevant technical skills you’re learning, too, such as pattern-making, tech packs, styling, etc.” Check out job applications from your field online to see if any of your skills match up with what employers are looking for, and then make sure to highlight your relevant expertise on your résumé.
Include Samples of Your Work and Build Your Portfolio
Possibly even more important than crafting your résumé is building a portfolio with samples of your work. Depending on what industry you’re going into, samples of your work could include photographs, designs, or articles you’ve written. You can publish your portfolio on a blog or website, or create a digital copy you can attach to job or internship applications.
For writers especially, Rabideau emphasizes the value of published samples of your work. “I would argue writing samples are just as important, if not more so, than your résumé. Published writing samples will give you a major leg up in the long run, so don’t be afraid to pitch ideas to different websites or contribute to your school newspaper.” Supplementing your experience with snippets of your work allows employers to see exactly what product you can produce and gives them a better sense of your unique style that a résumé alone can’t show.
What are your tips for writing a standout résumé? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured photo by @hannahbertolino.