How do I write a resume if I don't have any work experience?

Posted by: Alisha Sedor, Founder

Crafting a resume is an essential part of the job search, including informational interviewing. For those in high school, in college working toward an internship, or just getting out in to the working world, generating a resume that stands out while highlighting who you are and the value you'll bring can be really hard. You might be thinking, "I've never had a 'real' job so what do I even put on this blank document?" Before we dive in, one note: reading a resume is highly subjective and different hiring managers/recruiters have their own preferences. That said, the below are some best practices from my own experience and recommendations from other people who are great at helping people craft resumes.  Even if you're more tenured in your career, some of the tips below can help give it a fresh face.

First, make sure you fill the space. You want your resume to be robust and paint a great picture of who you'll be as an employee. That said, best practice is to keep your resume to one page. The common statistic is that recruiters look at your resume for 6 seconds. SIX SECONDS! A resume that's too sparse is going to the bottom of the pile in that 6 seconds.

Generate a list of your accomplishments (in addition to traditional jobs you've held) by asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What interesting or ambitious things have I done?
  • What are some experiences or accomplishments that make me unique?

Once you've brainstormed those a bit, list out any of the following that you didn't capture from those questions:

  • Volunteer experience
  • Clubs you joined in school
  • Interesting things you did or created in school - did you lead a protest? Start a new organization? Win a cool award?
  • Interesting trips you've taken, especially if they had a service or learning component
  • Specialized courses you've taken: even if you're not going to art school, a pottery class you've done on your own can show initiative and interest to learn.
  • Skills you have ,including both things you've learned formally and things you've learned on your own
    • Did you teach yourself to code and make an app in your free time?
    • Were you captain of a sports team and you practiced leadership?
    • Were you a dancer running from class to class while staying on top of your homework? Great, you're highly organized and disciplined.

Ok great, you have a list of all of your accomplishments, skills, and work experience. From there, formatting will be important. You want to keep it simple but also unique. Don't overcomplicate your resume, you want your experiences to be the star. However, having it organized well and look nice also helps recruiters, hiring managers, mentors, and informational interviewers digest that information. This list from the Muse has lots of great example templates. I wouldn't recommend spending money on a template, but they can serve as some great inspiration!

Resume summaries are also highly recommended these days. Remember those 6 second reviews? A summary at the top can pull a recruiter's attention to that section and tell them who you are in the blink of an eye. Uptowork has some great tips on writing a stellar summary.

Lastly, make sure you're catering your resume to the role you're applying to. You don't have to make massive changes, but especially without a ton of prior experience for your resume to stand on, you'll want to be sure that it highlights the skills that are relevant to the role or opportunity you're seeking. You can move items around to highlight skills and experiences that map to the job description or your understanding of what they're looking for. For example, if you're looking at a customer service position, you should ensure that the experience you have volunteering answering the phone at an animal shelter is the star of your resume. Applying for an event planning internship the next week? Reorganize your resume to focus on the club you chaired that did fundraisers twice a year.

As mentioned before, there's no one way to craft a resume and each reader will have their personal preferences. Hopefully, these tips can get you started if you're feeling stuck! And, of course, reach out to the team at Poros if you're looking for more formal help getting your career moving forward.

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