What should I put on my resume if I have no work experience?

November 21, 2017

It can be challenging to get hired without any work experience on your resume, but everyone has to get their first job at some point. Employers realize that students and recent graduates may not have had many opportunities to be gainfully employed, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be okay with a blank resume. There are many qualifications other than past professional experience that you can use to demonstrate that you’re a good fit for a position. Below are a few of the ways you can write an impressive resume even though you don’t have any relevant work experience.  

Capitalize on your extracurricular activities

Being actively involved in extracurriculars demonstrates initiative, hard-work, and drive. Make sure your resume shows how these activities make you a well rounded and qualified candidate. You’ll receive bonus points if your activities are related to the job (such as involvement in a professional association). But even unrelated activity will help you develop skills required for a position (ex. public speaking, analysis, etc.) so make sure you put those on there.

If you have the space, you can either put your extracurricular activities in the Experience section or in a new section called Leadership. ARTICLE: “What extracurricular activities should I include on my resume?”

Highlight your skills and achievements

Consider adding a skills section to your resume to showcase your expertise. The ideal thing to do is to add courses you’ve taken outside of class by creating a whole set of bullet points around these courses. Each bullet point should list the course, what you learned, and what you accomplished. Do NOT just list a bunch of skills and achievements.

Also, call out your achievements and quantify them wherever possible. For example, if you ran a fundraiser for your club, detail how much you raised and the number of people and events you managed to make it a success.

Tailor your resume according to your strengths

You don’t have to follow a rigid resume outline centered on related work experience when you don’t have any. Instead, format your resume to best show off your skills and accomplishments that are pertinent to the position. Analyze the qualifications you need for the job, how you have developed them, and how you can best demonstrate them on your resume.

For example, if the job description emphasizes leadership and you have leadership experience from your extracurricular activities, consider adding a “Leadership Experience” section. ARTICLE: “How to format and structure your resume” for more information on how to format a resume.

Expand your education section

While candidates with extensive work experience limit their education section to a line or two, your’s should be longer and higher up on your resume. Your education is one of your main assets for demonstrating your employability. If you have a high GPA, awards, or honors, put them on your resume (ARTICLE: “When to include your GPA on your resume”). Also, include your coursework, publications, academic projects, or training programs that are applicable to the position.

Include jobs even if they are not related, full-time, or paid

Work experience – even when it’s unrelated – will strengthen your resume. You may think you don’t have any experience that you can include on your resume, but part-time jobs, summer internships, volunteer positions, temp jobs, and positions in unassociated fields are valuable to include when you don’t have any related work experience. These jobs can show a history of dependability and professionalism.

If you have these types of experiences, focus on what you accomplished in those roles and the transferrable skills you developed. For example, if you worked at a retail store over the summer, write about how you served customers or improved the store’s efficiency rather than about the different items you restocked. However, don’t try to overinflate your role or stretch your experience.

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