Finding your first job feels like catch-22: you need a job to get a job.
Recruitment statistics from 2017 suggest that more than 90% of employers expect at least some work experience from freshers. Most of them (65%) require relevant experience.
Don’t worry, you can fix this. Depending on how much time you have, we’ll show you two strategies for tackling this challenge.
1. Get Experience!
Hey! I know you rolled your eyes!
I remember this advice from way back when I was looking for my first job. Trust me, I was worried I’d go full Bruce Banner and Hulk Smash whoever dared share this nugget of wisdom.
If employers want experience, give them some. We’ll show you how you can go from zero to hero in a few minutes of work.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to pull double shifts as an intern to make your resume better:
- Do volunteer work
- Get an internship
Again, you don’t want to be a full-time gofer. You just need to get your foot in the door.
Browse online job boards, college websites, and simply ask around. Even a few days or weeks volunteering for an NGO is way more than an empty experience section on your resume. (Not to mention you’d be making the world a better place, so kudos to you!)
I get it. Landing an internship is oftentimes hard in its own right. In a way, it’s like applying for a job in the first place: you might need to submit your resume, go through the equivalent of a recruitment process, and nail the interview. But you’re not trying to land an internship with Google here. Just enough experience to prove you can navigate the workplace and you’re done.
Freelancing might mean creating a basic website for that mom and pop store down the road, helping some people move house, doing some translation work for a few friends—whatever is somehow relevant to the career you want to pursue.
At this point, your focus is to get some work experience and get a feel of what it’s like to make decisions, take orders, and prove your application is worthy of being considered by the Wizard of Oz (i.e., the hiring manager.)
Still asking yourself, “How am I supposed to get experience if every job requires experience?”
Now, time for plan B—
2. Highlight Relevant Experience and Education
No work experience? No internships? No volunteering? No time to make up for that?
The only thing you can do now is to brainstorm:
What skills you possess
- What education you have and what courses you took
- What interests and extracurricular activities seem relevant
Pro Tip: If you truly haven’t got a single project to showcase on your resume, move your Education section above the Work Experience section. Always put your strongest assets as high up on your resume as possible.
Beef up Your Education and Coursework
Now, when you sit down and write up your education section, highlight any job-relevant courses you took.
For example, if you’re applying for the position of customer service representative, you might want to mention courses which helped you build computer and communication skills.
If the job you’re applying for is something you learned about at school, make sure you mention this—
Perhaps you majored in English Literature, but took a course in digital marketing and caught the bug. Expand your education write-up by including that course.
Make the Most of Your Skills
Next, go through any skills you possess that are job-relevant.
Applying for an entry-level position at a young company? Know your way around G Suite? Put it on your resume.
Will your job require a lot of travel? Have a driver’s license? Great.
Skills like these are referred to as technical skills. Try to prove you possess them—
Let’s say the job ad requires you to update the company’s WordPress-powered website. Do you run a WordPress blog? Put that on your resume and explain what you can do. Don’t just write WordPress in the skills section.
When it comes to skills, you need to quantify whenever possible.
Let’s say your prospective job requires you to do a lot of typing. You could take an online typing test and show the recruiter how efficient you are!
Will you have to drive a lot? The employer will be happy to read you’ve had a clean driver’s license for five years.
What’s more, there are some transferable skills you possess. These are abilities that come in handy no matter what you’re doing—
Perhaps you helped out with organizing a concert or another event? There you go, you’ve got organizational skills. Again, be specific about what you did, and explain why you did a good job of this.
And then you’ve got soft skills. These are so-called people skills like communication.
Pro Tip: Don’t underestimate soft skills. The majority of recruiters expect their candidates to possess them—even in highly technical jobs.
Oh, and don’t forget any licenses or certificates that might come in handy on the job.
If you speak a foreign language, don’t hide that from the employer and put that on your resume.
Use Hobbies to Create Rapport with the Employer
The resume’s Hobbies and Interests section is much contested. Many a recruitment expert considers it—an adorable at best, annoying at worst—attempt at standing out.
Don’t try to prove you’re a team player by talking about your passion for team sports. Being team captain might be fine, but don’t go over the top by talking about a proven track record of leadership skills.
Hobbies and interests make sense if you want to prove your cultural fit.
Some companies have a certain vibe and want newcomers to share their attitude. If you’ve got hobbies and interests the company seems to like, go for it! Add them to your resume.
The Finishing Touch — Write a Resume Objective
Since you have no work experience, you can’t write the popular resume summary. However, you might want to add a resume objective. It goes on top, just below your name.
A resume objective is a snappy intro in which you explain why you’re applying and what skills and attitude you bring to the table.
Again, some HR experts warn against using resume objectives. But it’s not because they hate the idea, it’s because they hate how it’s executed.
A typical resume objective is all about me, me, me. What I want from the job, what I want to do, how I want to grow. Don’t write a generic objective like this one:
Recent graduate with a BA in Marketing looking to gain experience in the role of junior account manager.
Make it more about the employer and how they would benefit from bringing you on board:
Recent graduate with a BA in Marketing and experience working with clients as a freelance photographer. Looking to leverage negotiation skills as a junior account manager at YourDreamCompany, Inc.
Why is it the last thing I’m telling you about if it’s so important?
Well, to make most of it, you first have to figure out what you can do and what job you want to get. You need to carefully read the job ad and make sure you address as many of the requirements as possible in your resume.
A resume objective is the cherry on top.
The cherry goes on last.
Pro Tip: Having trouble keeping up with what we’re saying here? Use this resume checklist.
3. Key takeaway
Here’s the bottom line—
No matter what you think, employers understand that candidates looking for their first job and entry-level positions don’t have years of experience. Sure, they love to see a solid history of employment. Then again, there clearly are jobs for candidates with no experience out there.
In a way, what you have to do is to prove you can be trusted to learn fast on the job.
Make the most of what experience you already have and get more. Leverage your educational background to prove you possess some relevant know-how.
Writing a resume is all about rewriting. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not happy with your first draft.
And, last but not least, applying for jobs is a bit of a numbers game. Don’t give up. The more lottery tickets you have, the more likely you are to win!