Finding a job without work experience might seem like a daunting task, but it’s by no means impossible. In fact, entry-level positions are everywhere. From call centers to food service and clerical work, there are plenty of employers who target first-time jobseekers. Breaking in is easy. All you have to do is learn how to promote yourself, and in order to do that, you’re going to need a killer resume—one that stands out from the rest of the pack.
Format to Perfection
The process of writing a resume begins with choosing the proper format. There are four different formats: chronological, reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid. Each one is used to emphasize strengths and downplay weaknesses by focusing on the most important sections. Most employers prefer the reverse chronological format because it lists your most recent jobs first.
Entry-level job seekers should choose this format if they have relevant experiences, such as extra-curricular activities or volunteer work. But as a first-time jobseeker, you might be better off going with a functional format, which focuses more on skills instead of previous positions. Those who’d like to emphasize both skills and experience should go with a hybrid format.
This article focuses on the functional format, but it can easily be adapted to fit any of the formats listed above. If you’re still unsure which format works best, go through ads and job postings. They should contain a list of qualifications. Once you’ve found out what those qualifications are, choose the format that focuses on them first.
When an employer picks up your resume, they start at the top and skim their way down. For that reason, you’ll start with your contact information. You should list your name, address, phone number, and a professional email. This is designed to help them remember who you are and how to contact you.
Next, you’ll write a basic summary, focusing on your most important assets, from job skills to relevant experience. Keep it short and simple. The last thing employers want is flowery language and fluff. They’ll just roll their eyes and move on to someone else.
Show Off Your Skills
Skills can be just as important as work experience. Say you’re applying for a job as a customer service representative at a call center. Someone who can type fast and work with computers might be better qualified than somebody with six months of customer service experience in a different field. Sure, they might know how to talk to a disgruntled customer, but they’re not a viable candidate if they can’t navigate the computer system efficiently.
There are two types of skills on a resume: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are often taught and easy to quantify, like familiarity with word processors, or knowing how to operate a deep fryer. Soft skills are harder to quantify, but they are still valuable. If you want to work in a restaurant, you need to know how to work in a high-stress environment.
If you want a job in housekeeping, you should know how to work fast and get things done. This might sound vague and difficult to prove, but employers take soft skills very seriously. They make or break the hiring process. Try going through job postings and choosing which of the skills listed fit you best.
List Your Relevant Experience
If you want to learn how to write a good resume with no experience, you have to remember that work history isn’t everything. Occupational training, volunteer service, and extra-curricular activities can be just as relevant as previous positions with other companies.
Many schools offer work programs like lunch service, library work, and basic IT. There are non-profits, like thrift stores, where you can learn how to operate a cash register, or soup kitchens where you can learn how to manage industrial equipment.
Not everyone can boast those kinds of qualifications. They might be just what you need to get to the top of the candidate list. If you can’t think of anything relevant, list what you have. Employers like to hire entry-level workers that have taken the time to focus on something more than just their basic school curriculum.
Boast About Your Education
Work experience is nice, but education really is key to landing a job. Most companies require their workers to have a high school diploma or GED; others won’t even look at a resume unless the candidate has an associate’s degree or higher. Someone with 20 years in their field could get left behind if they’re competing against recent college graduates.
Certifications are also important. They’re a great way to prove that you have the necessary skills and some industries require them. Lay it all out and don’t hold back. This section can be integral to landing a job in your chosen field.
Prove That You Have More to Offer
There’s more to the resume process than just the basics. As a first-time jobseeker, you might have to try harder to prove that you’re qualified for your chosen position. If you have worked on relevant projects, say so. If you have any extra-curricular activities, list them. Stretch if you have to but not too hard. You don’t want to compromise the professional tone of your resume, and you don’t want to add in meaningless fluff.
Don’t Forget Your References
References might seem trivial, but there’s a reason that employers ask for them. They need to know that someone in your life is willing to speak up in your defense. If nobody is will do so, that is a clear red flag. It looks terrible. Typically, employers require you to list someone that isn’t a family member.
Try asking teachers, mentors, or tutors—someone with authority, a title, or credentials, who knows your experience and skills. Only list them if you know they’ll give positive feedback. A bad reference is just as bad as no reference. If you’re having trouble finding someone, use a friend. They will usually work when you’re out of options.
Know Where You’re Going and Don’t Stop Trying
A lot of first-time jobseekers go with old cliches: food service, retail, manufacturing—things that most of us can’t handle. Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you do your research, you will find that many industries regularly advertise entry-level positions. You don’t have to settle for less. Decide where you want to go in life, find the road to get there, and keep trying until you do.