The job market has been quite a competitive place for some time now, and it looks like it will only become more competitive into the future. For those of you who are finishing up college this coming May, or for those of you who do not have a lot of work experience, this can be a daunting competition to enter into. However, you do not need to fear it; there have been countless individuals that have gone through the same experience you are about to go through, and countless more who will go through it after you do. When it comes to resume writing, what you need to know in order to get a leg up in this situation, is how to be competitive and make your resume stand out from the all of the other candidates.
We live in a time where there is a ‘notable skills’ gap in the workplace. Employers are having difficulty finding the right “skilled talent” to fill their open jobs. Yes, experience is very important when it comes to getting a job, but so are your skills! The key to standing out is to emphasize your skills. If you can tailor your resume to highlight your skills that are specifically related to the positions you are applying to, you are off to a good start (assuming that they are the particular skills desired by the employer). You can do this by evaluating job descriptions and their requirements. Next, focus the story being told through your resume by pointing out those skills and how they can be applied to the specific job requirements.
Let’s take a look at the various sections of your “standard” resume and see how we can best utilize them as someone writing a resume without a lot of ‘experience’.
The typical resume will follow the following format:
The opening summary is used to quickly explain to an employer who you are and what you can do for their company (what value you will bring to the table). This is usually done by summarizing your professional experience and skills. When you have little to no experience this can be hard to do, but it is important that you not waste this precious space. Saying “I want to work in x, y, z job where I can do x, y, z” (the objective statement) is not a good choice, employers know why you are applying…you want a job!
- Instead, try to briefly highlight recent (scholastic) achievements and the skills you used to make them.
- As a recent graduate without a lot of experience, it can be beneficial to list your most relevant skills immediately after your summary section.
- If you are changing careers, this is an opportunity to highlight the transferable skills that you have in a way that relates to the position(s) you are seeking. Use this as a way to tell employers why you are able to do the work in the newly chosen career path.
Some resumes include the ‘Education’ section at the top of the resume, while others include it closer to the bottom. The information you include here is important regardless of where it is placed, but its placement is more important when you have little career experience.
- When entering the job market or changing careers, and you have recently gone back to school, it is important to include your education near to the top of the resume.
- Include secondary or post graduate education as well.
- Most recently completed should be placed first.
- Do not forget about academic projects or course work. There were valuable skills and experiences that you have taken from these. If you include these, and you should, they should be labeled as such.
Professional Experience / History
This is the tricky part for most people with little work experience. This section is normally where you discuss the prior roles you have had throughout your career. Even if you are just starting out in your career, you will have relevant experience that you can include (it just may not be specific jobs). What you do not want to do is only have a sparse amount information here or to have too much “padded” non-relevant information here.
- Every part-time job you had growing up, while in school or graduate school is not important.
- Relevant experience is what counts. This experience does not have to be paid work and can include; internships, volunteer work, academic extra-curricular experiences that show growth, leadership or that provided you with some relevant skill and/or valuable experience.
- If you are changing careers, relevant experience may be difficult to explain. What needs to be included here, are the transferable skills from your prior experiences, how they were used, and how you can apply them to a new career. These will most likely be soft skills needed within the workplace (your technical skills may be too niche). It is important to display your ability to lead, as well as the ability and willingness to learn, grow and collaborate in this situation.
If you have industry specific skills you should list them. Include technologies you have expertise in and those you are proficient in using.
When writing a resume without having much experience it can be difficult to express your qualifications through relevant experience. Therefore, you need to dig deep into the experience you do have. As someone changing careers, consider any transferable skills you possess that are applicable. These are the skills that the other candidates applying may not have, which you do as a result of your previous career path. As a recent graduate or soon to be graduate, the experiences you had and skills that you learned in college are important and they were not in vain. It just takes some thought on how to best show your value. You may not have a lot of ‘real world’ experience at this point, but you did make it through college. You met deadlines for the various projects and rigorous coursework you had; what were the skills used when completing those? Research, coordination, collaboration, time management, etc.
A Functional Resume format which lists your professional work experience (to show you what you have accomplished in a professional setting without labeling your experiences by specific employer and title) followed by a Work History, which just lists where you have worked (to show you have worked before), might be an option to consider.