Most of us know that for a successful job hunt, you need a resume that lists both experience and education - but what if you don't have relevant job experience to list? Maybe you're a recent college graduate, a stay-at-home parent getting back into the workforce or someone looking to make a career change. Lacking experience doesn't have to kill your chances when applying for jobs. Here are six tips to give your no-experience resume a little boost, so you can get the job you want. (For related reading, be sure to check out 6 Resume Must-Haves.)
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- Start with Your Skills
Maybe you don't have that long list of impressive corporations and job titles, but everyone has skills. What are you good at? If you're not used to thinking of your own contributions in a positive light, ask your family or friends. Are you the person people look to for advice? That means you have good people skills, you're a problem solver. Maybe you always take charge at fundraisers - those are organizational skills that would make you a valuable employee. Think in broad terms for this step; you'll work on making these skills work in a resume format later. For now, just take a moment to look at your skill set, and make a list. (Learn more in Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)
- Think Outside the Cubicle
But none of these skills relate to any real job, you say. For your no-experience resume, think outside the confines of a job title for experience you can list. Just because you didn't get paid to perform a task doesn't mean it's any less valuable. Did you work on a research project in college, or did you hold a part-time job? Even if these are not directly related to your desired job, the skills you used to perform them are often broadly similar. Take some time to make a list of any tasks or projects you performed that relate to your skills in step one. Any awards, speeches given or special projects you completed count.
- Be Specific
Now comes the tricky part: you'll need to take all these skills, experiences and other things you've accomplished outside the cubicle, and distill them to fit a resume. Instead of writing long paragraphs about your fundraising activities, try to get to the point. For example: Raised $2,000 for XYZ fundraising project in two weeks, benefiting ABC school. Or: Won third place in science fair, with 200 students competing. Hiring officials often only have time to quickly scan a resume; numbers will pop off the page. Quantify any skill you have, especially if it shows you added to the bottom line somewhere.
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- Focus on the Positive
Now that you've made a nice list of skills, with any out-of-the-cubicle experience and specifics, you'll probably wonder: what do I list first on my resume? Start with your strongest asset. Did you just graduate? List your education first. If you're lacking both education and experience, start with a listing titled "Qualification Summary," and list your list of accomplishments from step one, two and three above. Focus on the positive; you have lots to offer, even if you don't have the 9-to-5 title to show for it. (Find out more about improving your resume, read 7 Ways Your Resume Dates You.)
- Add Personality
If your resume feels a little skinny, add a section titled "Interests and Hobbies." You may feel like that's not relevant to the job, but it shows what kind of person you are. Use your cover letter to add some personality to your application, as long as you keep your letter and resume professional - don't add your scrapbooking samples or photos of your pets. You never know: your hobby may just make a personal connection with a hiring official.
So what if your resume is still not getting you the job? Consider volunteering. There's no paycheck, but the career benefits can be great. If there is no volunteer position like your desired job, look for tasks that allow you to list the skills you need on your resume, like managerial or organizational skills. Volunteering doesn't have to take up a great deal of your time, but can boost your resume and even give you new networking opportunities plus the work offers fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment while you're waiting to land a paying job. (For more on networking, see 4 Career Networking Tips That Work.)
The Bottom Line
Look for ways to shed a positive light on your skills. Remember that everyone lacked experience at one point, so think outside the cubicle for ways you can showcase the great skills you have to offer employers.
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