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Preparing a Resume When You Have Limited Experience

November 20th, 2020

You’re launching your job search, and you’re ready to create and edit a winning resume. You plan to shine a bright spotlight on everything you can do and all the ways to you plan to make your potential employer proud. But there’s just one problem. As you build your resume and make your case, you’ll have to do so without mentioning your past jobs and professional accomplishments…because you don’t have any. You’re fresh out of the gate, full of ambition, and ready to work! But while your future is bright, you can’t say very much about your past.

What should you do?

Highlight your education

You may have a high school diploma, a college degree, or a post-graduate education of any length. Place this information in the “education” section of your resume and position this section close to the top of the page. In addition to the hard facts, like where you took courses and how well you performed academically, add some additional bullet points related to your awards, scholarships, interesting and relevant projects, theses and dissertations, and leadership roles. These will step in to paint a picture of your potential if your actual work experience falls short.

Highlight special projects and volunteer work

Under the “education” section, create a section for work experiences that don’t necessarily qualify as jobs. Were you an eagle scout or girl scout gold award winner? Did you join the toastmasters? Did you help out with your family’s business? Most important: did you volunteer in any capacity with charity groups, non-profits, neighborhood initiatives, blood drives, or anything else? Have you tutored young children? Have you been a babysitter? Have you helped out with a firehouse fundraiser or sports team carwash? Even if you weren’t paid a dime for these experiences, your employers will want to know about them.

Highlight non-work recognition and achievements

Did you win a county fair prize for your garden cucumbers? Did you win an award for your science fair project? Did you run a five-K to support disease research? All of these are interesting, noteworthy accomplishments that demonstrate your willingness to commit yourself to something. And they have little or nothing to do with past jobs and workplaces.

Recognize that employers are reasonable.

Most employers and hiring managers recognize that young people have not accumulated a long work history—and neither have those who are entering the workforce for the first time regardless of their age. Smart employers also understand that some people hold a single job for a single company for a very long time. This should not be counted against you, and in fact, should be considered a sign of your loyalty and reliability. If your employer judges you harshly for any of these three things (being young, being new to the business, or having forgone a wide range of experiences in exchange for one long, steady tenure) they may not be the right employer for you. Keep looking.

For more on how to find the perfect job for the perfect company, contact the job search experts at Merritt.

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