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How to write a resume when you have no work experience

resume writing tips

So, you’ve spotted your dream job posted online. You’re feeling super charged and ready to apply, but there’s just one problem – you have zero relevant work experience, or maybe no real work experience at all.

While many resume tips out there tell you to “show experience” or “prove yourself”, these aren’t relevant to you, are too vague, and provide little value. As a new grad with no internships to your credit, what can you actually put on your résumé that makes you look as qualified as possible?

Monster recommends these actionable tips and some formatting tricks will help you stand out and brand yourself in the professional world.

Is this a job you can actually apply for?
Before going any further, you’ve got to see whether you can actually apply for this job. Just because it’s your dream role, doesn’t mean you’re ready for it. If the job is targeted to fresh graduates or junior professionals, go for it! But if they ask for 2-3 years of experience and relevant skills gained from different education paths than you, it might not be the right fit. If it’s not the right time, it’s not the right time – but you can keep this dream job in your back pocket and search for other roles that could lead you along the right path to get there.

The one page rule
Most newbies believe that an elaborate, long and detailed résumé attracts the employer’s attention, but this is a huge misconception. Hiring managers are busy people, so don’t put your whole life story on your résumé. Keep it to one page (two maximum! But as someone with little experience, you won’t need more than one page) with a short summary. Use compelling action verbs such as “planned”, “executed”, “spearheaded” to catch their eye and make sure you get someone to proofread it before you send! Avoid typos and grammatical errors – employers won’t be too impressed by a lack of attention to detail.

List appropriate skills
To show potential employers that you are the perfect fit for their position, include skills on your résumé that mirror the ones they are seeking. Even if you’ve never worked before, what skills can you transfer from relevant projects at school? Have you developed any relevant competencies from extra-curricular activities that would fare you well in this job? Where have you displayed leadership skills, the ability to work with a team, meet deadlines and manage your time well? These are all relevant things to include, even if you’ve never had a job before.

Presentation is key
To create an attention-grabbing résumé, make sure you package it well. A simple format that is appealing to the eye is a recruiter’s delight. You can use online tools to create a visually appealing résumé, or stick to a tried and tested neat format that describes your achievements, academics and skills in bullet points.

The X Factor!
Employers primarily want to know what differentiates you from other candidates, and you don’t need work experience to convey this. Articulate your volunteer work, entrepreneurial activities, awards and honours from school, or anything else that will help you stand out from the crowd. Most employers want to see your aptitude and ability for your first role. In an increasingly competitive job market, graduate recruits need to be able to demonstrate they have something more to offer than just academic performance.

Do you really have no work experience?
If you’ve never held an office job, you might think of skipping the experience section altogether – but chances are you do have experience to share. Your waitressing job counts. That time you helped your church organise a community event counts. Your volunteer work to tutor other students counts.

As a newbie, don’t feel intimidated by the big bad corporate world – everyone had to start somewhere! The secret to writing an effective résumé is to highlight your skills. For students, recent graduates or entry-level candidates, a functional résumé powerfully showcasing your ability to be resourceful and meet their needs will help you stand out.

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