How To Write Your First Resume With No Work Experience

By Heidi Cope - Apr. 19, 2021
Articles In Resume Guide

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You are probably sitting down at your computer and staring at the screen, terrified. You need to apply for a job, but how will you land a job, or even an interview, in a competitive job market when you don’t have any experience? Many people are in your shoes and are understandably anxious about this situation.

The good news is that the first thing many potential employers will see for any candidate is their cover letter and resume and luckily for you, just because someone has a lot of experience, doesn’t mean they will have stellar application materials.

Sometimes, landing an interview or a job is more about how you do it versus how much raw experience you have. Luckily for you, this article will show you the method to writing a great resume when you have little to no job experience.

Common Questions for First-Time Job-Seeker

Writing a resume with little to no experience can be tricky.

Some questions that may come to mind as you plan your resume:

  • How do I fill in the experience section with no experience?

  • What do I write for the career summary section with no career to summarize?

  • How do I fill out a resume to be something more than just my education and my contact details?

We’ll show you how — don’t worry.

How To Write a Resume For a First Job With No Experience

When you write a resume with little or no experience you will have to craft it differently. The core of a resume is work experience, so if you do not have any, you will have to come up with something different to focus on. What to focus on instead? The answer to that is your education and work-like experience.

If you have a college degree or a technical degree, the experience you have gained from that alone is important to emphasize on a resume. And since those experiences are likely recent, you have fresh, up-to-date knowledge about the field, which is a great asset.

As for the work-like experience, there are a few things to keep in mind.

What Counts as Work Experience

Have you ever had an internship? Volunteered somewhere regularly? Tutored? Mentored other students?

Yes, these are all acceptable forms of work experience you can put in a section titled “experience” versus “work history.” It’s all about the framing, folks. If you are still feeling uncomfortable about the blank space under your experience section, start filling it up. Yes, you read that right — find some new experience to put in the experience section.

If you are facing a resume deadline that is quickly approaching, gathering experience might not be feasible. If you know you will be applying for a job in the next few months and don’t have any experience, then it’s the perfect time to be on the lookout for short-term work opportunities.

There are many short-term opportunities that are open to freelancers. Anyone can become a freelancer. It is essentially a position that you get paid to do contract work with no benefits and rarely guaranteed hours.

But that’s okay — because you don’t need all the perks of a full-time job yet. Think of doing freelance work as your stepping stone to a full-time job or internship. So work a few extra hours to bulk up some small gigs to add to the experience section.

Other options include volunteering, writing articles, and internships. Anything to help make it look like you’ve been putting some effort into getting real-world experience for this type of job.

What to Do if You Don’t Have a College Education

If you were reading the advice above about highlighting your education but don’t have a college degree, you may be starting to worry right now. But don’t worry — you can still land jobs without a college degree and little to no formal work experience.

If you are in college currently and have not graduated, include your expected graduation date on the resume.

If you do not have a college education, list your most recent education experience, like the date of your HS graduation or when you received your GED.

Maybe you have a college education or a high school diploma, but you are worried about your GPA. If you do not have a competitive GPA (a GPA of 3.5+) you can opt to not include your GPA on your resume. If you are many years past your graduation date, you can also consider not including your GPA.

How a Career Objective Is Different Than a Career Summary

When writing a resume for a first job with little or no experience, you will want to write a career objective instead of a resume summary statement. You are probably wondering what the difference is between the two. And yes, there is definitely a difference.

A career summary is a statement that summarizes your work history section and gives some details about what type of worker you are and how you will fit the role. A career objective, on the other hand, is a statement that summarizes what you have to offer the company and why the position fits well into your career goals.

Examples of Career Objectives

  1. A dedicated worker with a BA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut. Looking to join the XYZ Inc. marketing team to aid in developing digital marketing campaigns that drive traffic and increase conversions. Background in consumer psychology and collaborative projects, including creating materials for UCONN’s writing center.

  2. Highly motivated graphic designer hoping to obtain an entry-level position to leverage skills with Adobe Suite. Trained in modern graphic design elements and integration.

  3. Recent graduate with a degree in Finance seeking a position at a reputable financial institution. Strong skills in mathematical modeling, market research, and personal finance tools like Quickbooks and Excel.

Resume Skills Section

Your resume’s skills section is where you can really line up your background with the job, even if you don’t have any formal experience. First, review the job description and highlight all of the action verbs and skills.

Then, try to incorporate those same skills into your resume. It’s good to include a healthy mix of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are generally things that you must be taught to do through schooling or on-the-job training. These skills are measurable.

Soft skills are the intangible interpersonal qualities that make you pleasant to work alongside. They cannot be taught, but you can certainly improve your soft skills through experience.

For a resume with no work experience, you likely have more soft skills than hard skills. That’s okay — just be sure that you’re highlighting the soft skills that the employer values most, based on what you find in the job description (time management, collaboration, and communication are popular ones).

Include a Cover Letter

If you’re worried that your resume doesn’t tell a particularly impressive story or paint you in the best possible light, sending a cover letter can help boost your application’s chances of success. The only time you shouldn’t send a cover letter is if the company specifically asks applicants not to.

Cover letters follow a standard format (more on that here), but the main takeaway is that a resume answers the “who, what, where, when” while your cover letter answers the “how” and “why.”

If you can describe how you’ll do the job better than the competition, as well as show off your intrinsic motivation, you’ll be one step closer to getting a call for an interview.

Just as you should customize every resume for each job application, you should tailor each cover letter as well. Do some research on the company’s culture, mission, and values, and try to show how you’re the perfect cultural fit. Plus, you can use this space to give the hiring manager a better idea of your personality.

Just keep your cover letter to under one page long and about 200-400 words (shorter is usually better).

Final Thoughts

Many hiring managers want someone who has the experience to prove a candidate has a good work ethic, but not too much experience that they can’t be molded to the job. Luckily for you, with the tips listed in this article, you will be able to show hiring managers that you are just that person.

It can be scary to apply with other candidates who have a lot more experience, but when it comes to applying for jobs, one of the best skills you can learn is how to frame yourself as the perfect candidate.

Emphasize what you can bring to the position. Be honest but don’t sell yourself short. Highlight what you have accomplished and your enthusiasm for the position and you will be one step closer to landing the perfect job. In the meantime, check out Zippia’s resources for finding your first job.

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Heidi Cope

Heidi Cope is a former writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog. Her writing focused primarily on Zippia's suite of rankings and general career advice. After leaving Zippia, Heidi joined The Mighty as a writer and editor, among other positions. She received her BS from UNC Charlotte in German Studies.

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