If you’re heading into the job market for the first time (or diving back in after a break), you know how hard it is to get a job without experience. The good news is, you can still land a career you love with a top-notch résumé. A well-written résumé can paint a picture of your experience and skills outside of the working world. You might be surprised to find that you don’t need a ton of paid work experience to get a job you love. So, how do you create a résumé that makes you shine?
Education and Internships
You probably already have a section on your résumé that lists your education and any degrees you’ve earned, but learning doesn’t stop at the classroom. Have you taken a community class or certification? Have you enrolled in an online class? That counts!
Beef up your education section by listing any relevant skills you acquired or industry-specific knowledge you learned. Don’t just list the name of the school. Demonstrate how that education has prepared you for your first job in that field.
If you’ve completed an internship — whether it was paid or unpaid — you can describe it like you would for a job. Ask your supervisor if there’s an appropriate title you could use apart from "intern." Try to describe your internship responsibilities with concrete outcomes or projects you completed. Remember, you’re trying to show that although you might not have tons of career experience, you’re ready to take on that new job.
Volunteer Work and Activities
Although you probably don’t get paid for volunteer work and extracurricular activities, they still count toward your experience. If you’re applying for a job as a veterinary assistant and you’ve volunteered at an animal shelter, that shows your potential employer that you have experience in the field — even if you haven’t studied biology at a prestigious university. When writing your résumé, list out specific tasks you completed or skills you used through your volunteer work.
Likewise, if you were part of student government in high school or college, that’s relevant if you're applying for a political position. If you’re in school, take advantage of extracurriculars. Employers like to see you’ve been interested in their field for a long time.
Don’t sell yourself short just because you weren’t paid for your time and effort. Did you run a Facebook community group? List “social media management” on your résumé! Did you volunteer at your kid’s school? Make sure you include “childcare experience.”
What if you don’t have relevant volunteer experience? Now’s a great time to get it! There’s probably a community organization related to your chosen career path that could use some extra help.
In today’s digital world, most employers use keywords to search for and recruit potential employees online. If you use LinkedIn or Indeed, make sure your résumé is updated to include keywords for your desired field. You might find yourself getting more responses or eyeballs on your application.
However, make sure you don’t overuse keywords on your résumé that don't apply to your experience. It might show employers that you know the name of the keyword game, but don't have much knowledge in the field.
It might not matter for keyword bots, but when a real person is reading your résumé, they don’t want to read a laundry list of accomplishments. Implement strong action words to describe yourself and your skills. "Managed, coordinated, led, improved, accelerated, designed, amplified, integrated" are all powerful words that will paint a clearer picture of your potential to a hiring manager.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Making sure your résumé is free of grammatical and spelling errors might seem like common sense, but many people still forget to give their résumé a final edit. Make sure you proofread your résumé several times and have a friend look it over to catch any errors you might miss.
Use a professional and technical tone and be respectful — especially if you include a cover letter in your application. Avoid using slang. Although most application materials are submitted online these days, use traditional formatting for a résumé and a cover letter. Format your résumé so that it’s readable and organized. Don’t use fancy fonts. Do make sure the words are large enough to read, but not so large that you can’t fit your information on one page.
Your résumé is your first impression on a potential employer. It should be as professional as you can make it. Use any expertise you have to show the recruiter why you’re the best person for the job despite your lack of paid experience.
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