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Keys to Writing a Great Resume with No Experience
by Ashley Cash
Congratulations, you did it! Graduating from school is an exciting time. It’s a milestone that signifies your commitment to a goal and increased responsibility. Your next big step is landing the perfect job, the one you have been mentally preparing for over the last few years. One drawback is that as a recent graduate you have little to no experience in your chosen field. Fear not, we will take you through writing an eye-catching resume in this article, and in future stories, we’ll help with searching for the perfect job and nailing the interview.
Writing your first professional resume can be a daunting task. Most of the tips you read tell you to keep the resume to one page — but that may be the least of your worries. Life as an independent adult will have its challenges, both personally and professionally, so resume writing should not be one of them. Remember that the founders of today’s largest, most well-known companies once sat in your shoes. They too had little experience and needed to write compelling resumes to land their first jobs. The next few tips will help you showcase your skills while minimizing your lack of experience. And remember the first rule of resume writing: always be honest.
First, develop a concise, two-sentence profile. Others may refer to this as a summary. These lines are a place for you to say why you’re a qualified candidate, what relevant skills you bring to a company, and what a future goal may be. Objectives used to be the norm in resume writing, but over the last few years, they have fallen out of favor. If you scour career websites, you will find differing opinions on whether a resume objective is necessary or a space-waster on the page. Being a new graduate, you will need all the opportunities you can get to concisely tell hiring managers your skills and your goals. Here’s an example of a resume profile:
Creative self-starter, excited to use my leadership skills and problem-solving abilities in a dynamic workplace.
Notice the profile gives the reader four skills and states the type of workplace the candidate hopes to find. Your profile should take up no more than two lines on the resume, and you should tailor it to the job you’re applying for if possible. For example, if you desire a job in the legal field, you may want to highlight your research and organization skills in your profile, versus your ability to think outside the box.
Tip: Don’t label your profile. No definition is necessary, and the hiring manager will undoubtedly understand what it represents. Place it at the top of the page, though, right after your name and contact information.
Now you need to focus on your actual experience. The standard way to write a resume includes listing your education first, then work history with respective duties. This format doesn’t necessarily help those with little experience.
You want to showcase your skills. Think about what skills and talents you have and how you can put them into larger categories. For example, if you are looking for a position in banking or sales, you may want to focus on sales and customer service experience, even if it was a part-time or summer job. For entry-level positions, many jobs will accept skills learned on classroom projects and internships. Under each skill category, highlight what you have accomplished in your past work history. For example, if you have taken on several leadership roles while at school, listed skills may be leadership and training. Under these skill, you should list the number of people you led, the project objective and outcome.
As a recent graduate, you may possess leadership skills, organization skills and/or presentation skills. The key here is to match the skills you have acquired over your college career with the skills required for your potential job. Provide examples of how you exhibited these skills, and focus on outcomes. Skills that you have developed and refined in your professional, educational and volunteer experience should go in this section.
Next, talk about actual work experience. Always put experience in chronological order, from most to least recent. Because you gave details of your actual experience in the skills section, just list your job history, the dates of employment, and a one-sentence description of the job and your responsibilities.
The goal of a resume is to get you in the door for an interview. On a resume, education is always listed with the year graduated or anticipated graduation date. While it is illegal to discriminate based on age, hiring managers may look at the year you graduated from college and assume that you are young and inexperienced. You want them to review your assets first, and then decide whether you are a good candidate. By listing education at the end of the resume, the hiring manager reads your skills and work experience first, before looking at your graduation year. An exception to this rule is if you attended an Ivy League school, graduated with honors, or went to a school with a top program in your specialty. These are situations that you want to highlight, so in these cases, lead with your educational background.
The last areas to add on your resume, in this order, are any courses you took that are relevant to the position you may be applying for, major research projects, computer skills and any awards or nominations for awards. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If your position focuses on a particular software skill, mention your experience in that platform early on in the resume, as the hiring manager will most likely be looking for this very specific experience.
For presentation, create a clean letterhead to display your name and contact information. The letterhead should be the same for your resume and cover letter. Don’t use images or colored paper unless that’s standard in your chosen field — for instance, graphic design. Don’t use odd spacing to make your resume seem longer; you want to limit unnecessary white space. Use easy-to-read fonts and sizes. You want your resume to be viewed as professional and clear. Use fonts like Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri. Standard font sizes are 11 pt. and 12 pt. Lastly, proofread your resume then proofread it again. If possible, ask a friend or family members to review your resume for typos. Competition is stiff these days; you want to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, so make sure your resume is flawless.
If you are lacking in relevant experience, consider volunteering for organizations in your chosen field. Not only will you gain valuable experience, you will also broaden your network. Write a cover letter that highlights your skills and major accomplishments and shows how your experience would be an asset.
Drafting a quality resume is difficult, but with an appropriate strategy, you can create a resume that gets you in the door. Remember to focus on your strengths and to not dwell on the experience you don’t have. Most important, be honest. Your first “real” job will set the stage for your future career; it should be built on honesty and integrity. Using these tips, you can craft a resume that will make you proud.
Be sure to read next month’s issue to find out where to look when you’re job hunting.
Ashley Cash is a freelance author and a modern southern belle. Her work includes articles on interior design, wellness and resource conservation.