Almost everyone dreads compiling a résumé and searching for a job. If you have work experience in your field, you need strategies to stand out from other applicants. Those who are shifting focus mid-career need to focus on transferable skills and past records of success (stay tuned for a future post on this topic). And if you’re new to the workforce, you may have no idea how to market yourself as a professional.
As a manager, I have hired interns and entry-level hires many times. There are definitely ways to catch a hiring manager’s eye, even if you have no work experience. All it takes is a little creative thinking.
Why do I need a résumé for an entry-level job?
Every employer wants to hire the best candidates possible. For entry-level positions, work experience requirements are usually flexible. The recruiter or hiring manager probably doesn’t expect you to have relevant experience. Instead, he or she is looking for indicators that you will be a good employee. This definitely includes:
- dependability, responsibility, and integrity
- ability to manage your own time and tasks
- experience contributing to team goals
- communication skills appropriate to the position
- willingness to learn
A hiring manager may also want you to list references, or people who will say that you are reliable and honest.
What if I don’t have work experience?
If you are a student or recent student, you can probably demonstrate these characteristics through activities other than work experience.
Unpaid and “odd jobs” are still jobs
- Have you done yard work, housework, babysitting, or odd jobs for neighbors or family friends? Guess what! You have work experience. Ask these friends and neighbors if you can list them as references.
- Do you have family responsibilities that demonstrate responsibility? Taking care of younger siblings, an ailing family member, or significant household chores can be work experience. Be aware, however, that references from family members may not carry much weight. Instead, you may wish to rely on family friends who can speak to your work ethic and character.
- If you have volunteered within the community, say so. Volunteering shows that you have taken initiative and are willing to learn. In this case, your volunteer coordinator or a community contact (such as a librarian or church leader) might serve as a reference.
School activities count for a lot
- Involvement in organized sports, school clubs, and other extracurricular activities shows that you can fulfill your commitments. And if you’ve been in a leadership role, such as team captain, be sure to include that in your resume or job application. List your coach or club sponsor as a reference.
- Think about significant projects you’ve completed during your coursework. If you’ve contributed to a successful group project, list that experience. Did you ace a solo research paper or “business simulation” project? If so, you can list self-direction and time management among your strengths. Get creative, and always be honest.
Hobbies can count, too!
- Generally, you should avoid listing your hobbies on your résumé. I suggest a slightly different approach. If you build websites, produce podcasts, or build spreadsheets to manage a household budget, you have marketable skills. List these under the Skills & Expertise section in your résumé, but only if they are appropriate for your target position.
If you’re still unsure how best to market yourself, consider asking for help.
- You can use sites like Fiverr to find résumé writing services on the cheap.
- If you are a student, your school may offer free assistance. Find out if your guidance department, job placement services office, or academic adviser can point you in the right direction.
- If there are no formal programs at your school, consider asking an instructor or Marketing major for some pointers.
- Check your local library. Libraries frequently have staff members or access to community resources who can assist you in your job search.
- Consider engaging a mentor. A mentor can help you far beyond your résumé. He or she can help you prepare for interviews, guide you through the hiring process, and keep you motivated during your search.
Wherever you are in your job search, remember this: Everyone had to start somewhere. Where you go from here is anyone’s guess!
Best wishes, and let me know how you’re doing.
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