Writing a Resume When You Don’t Have Work Experience
Writing your first resume can feel intimidating, especially if you feel as though you are not directly qualified for a specific position. However, most of us at some stage have to write a resume without having any experience to list.
If you are just transitioning into the job market, you’ll likely have no work experience to list on your resume—and this is okay. When you have no job experience to add to your resume, you should focus your attention on all the other experiences and skills you do have that illustrate your value to an employer.
You should remember that, if you are just looking for your first job, companies are not expecting you to have a lot of experience. So, to evaluate you, they’ll be looking for anything else that shows your skills in action. This could be anything from volunteer experience to courses you have taken.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss what to mention in a resume when you have no experience to list. We will also walk through a few examples of what you can add to your resume to help set yourself apart from other candidates for a position.
Here are the main things you should put on a resume if you have no experience to list:
- Professional Summary
Professional summaries appear at the top of a resume and briefly describe who you are and what skills you have demonstrated. This section is typically only one to three sentences long.
Including a professional summary in a resume is a good idea whether or not you have any experience. This is because the summary will set the tone for the rest of the resume, and allow a recruiter to get a better sense of who you are as soon as they start reading your resume.
The summary you include on your resume should be written specifically for each job for which you have applied. Here is an example of a professional summary:
Detail-oriented aspiring accountant possessing a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Organized as demonstrated by my experience as an apprentice accountant, and interested in starting a formal career as an accountant.
- Internships and Apprenticeships
Have you participated in any internships or apprenticeships? If so, you should make sure that you mention them prominently on your resume.
While apprenticeships and internships are not technically full-time jobs, they are good examples of real-world work experience that you can list on your resume. While listing any internships or apprenticeships you have participated in, make sure you discuss any notable accomplishments from your tenure in that position.
For instance, suppose you were an apprentice at a local software engineering firm. You could discuss the experience you acquired using the following:
Software Engineering Apprentice
June 2019-August 2019
- Trained in the basics of the software development process
- Participated in the analysis of a new project as a member of a project team
- Helped contribute to the code for a new project
- Maintained a codebase of over 20,000 lines of code with my team
This structure is similar to how you would discuss professional experience. As you can see, this candidate has listed a few key bullet points which show what they accomplished on the job. This will go a long way to helping an employer evaluate this candidate’s suitability for the job.
- Extracurriculars or Volunteer Work
Extracurricular activities are a good way to showcase your skills and interests to a potential employer. Were you student body president at school? Mention it on your resume. Were you a member of your school’s computing club? Add it to your resume.
In addition, if you have any volunteer experience, you should make sure that it is added to your resume. Volunteer work is a great way to showcase your experience working in professional work environments, even if you were not paid for your work.
With that said, you should only mention extracurriculars or volunteer work that is relevant to the position for which you are applying. So, if you are applying for a mechanical engineering apprenticeship, you may not want to mention that you were part of your school’s dance club.
- Key Skills
In your resume, you should list all the skills you have—both technical and non-technical—that are relevant to the position for which you are applying.
If you are not sure whether a particular skill you have is relevant to a job, read over the job description for the position that you are applying for to see if the skill matches something that has been mentioned in the job listing.
When you are applying for your first job, employers will look to see what soft skills you have, in place of hard technical experience. Soft skills, like organization and reliability, are personal traits that are needed for success on a job.
Here are a few key skills you may want to list on your resume if you are applying for a job as an office junior:
- Time management
- Organizational skills
- Microsoft Office experience
- Experience using email tools
- Experience with teleconferencing
- Team working skills
In place of professional experience, employers will focus more heavily on your educational background. The educational experience you mention will show employers your ability to commit to tasks, your learning abilities, and also acts as proxy evidence for soft skills such as time management and organization.
Suppose you are applying for a job as an administrative assistant. You may use the following section on your resume to highlight your educational experience:
Harrisford High School
August 2014 – August 2019
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
High School Diploma, 3.9 GPA
- Personal projects
Personal projects are a good way to demonstrate your skills without having to rely on professional experience.
Suppose you are a programmer. If you have built a website in your spare time, you could mention it on your resume. This will allow you to showcase your technical skills to an employer and make it clear how you can add value to their organization.
You can also list academic projects that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Suppose you built a Raspberry Pi computing cluster as part of a school project. If you are applying for a computing-related job, this would be a useful project to mention.
Here is how you could list a project on your resume for a retail associate job:
Homemade Jam Enterprise
Founded a homemade jam business in January 2019. Tracked and fulfilled customer orders, handled payments, baked all the jam products, and delivered them to customers.
If you have won any awards or accolades, you could list them on your resume. While this section should not take up too much space on your resume, listing awards is a good way to showcase how your work has been recognized by other people.
Here is an example of two awards listed on a resume for an administrative assistant apprenticeship:
English Student of the Month
Harrisford High School, January 2019
Best Creative Writing Essay
Harrisford High School, March 2019
Tips on How to Write a Resume with No Experience
Now that we’ve discussed a few things that you can add to your resume with no experience, let’s explore a few top tips you can use to make your resume even more impressive.
Tip #1: Keep your resume short
While it may be tempting to list every side project you have built and volunteer experience you have had, you should resist the urge to do so. Instead, make sure that you mention only information that you think is relevant to an employer.
A recruiter may spend less than a minute reading your resume, and so as soon as they read it, they should find it easy to get a grasp of your skills, and how those skills relate to the position for which you are applying.
Tip #2: Proofread your resume
Before you submit a resume for consideration, make sure you review it carefully. This involves checking for content errors, inconsistencies, and typos that would make your resume appear unprofessional if they were seen by an employer.
Tip #3: Ask a friend or family member to review your resume
It can also be helpful to ask a friend or a family member to read over your resume and give you feedback before you submit it to an employer.
Asking for feedback allows you to get a fresh perspective on your resume, and will ensure that you mention all the key points that you should discuss in your resume.
All of us have had to write a resume without experience at some point, and so it’s completely natural to be wondering how you can do so effectively.
Your resume is your chance to present how you can add value to an employer. What you include in your resume will heavily influence whether or not you are called in for an interview.
If you mention all the experience you have—from projects to apprenticeships to volunteer positions—and highlight your educational history, you’ll be on your way to writing a professional resume that can help you get hired.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.