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"No Experience" Resume Tips

Creating a resume when you have little or no work experience can be overwhelming. Use these tips to compose a resume that will open doors with employers by focusing on your skills and abilities instead of your paid work experience.

You may be a recent high school graduate looking for your first full-time job or maybe you waited to look for work until you completed your undergraduate or graduate studies. You may have changed occupations and have no experience in your new field. Whatever your situation, don't let your lack of experience stop you from applying for a job when you are qualified.

Creating a skills-based resume

1. Your summary statement belongs at the beginning of your resume and consists of two to three sentences describing who you are and what you can do for the employer, like an elevator speech. Consider revamping your summary statement each time you submit your resume, matching the skills you possess to the skills requested in the job posting. The following is an example of a summary statement:

Recent college graduate with a BA in accounting. Excellent organizational, time management and people skills and proven ability to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines.

2. Skills-focused experience includes skills relevant to your targeted job that you've acquired through paid employment, volunteer work, community activities, coursework, class projects and odd jobs training.

For a position as a reporter, you might group your skill sets into four categories — oral and written skills, time management skills, research skills and technical/computer skills. Fill in specific examples or skills under each skill heading, highlighting your accomplishments using numbers, if possible. Show where you helped an organization make or save money, save time or increase customers.

You could list the time management skills you gained from school, volunteer and employment situations in the following way:

Awarded On-Time, On-Target achievement medal in 2011 and 2012 for 100 percent compliance with editorial deadlines as Community Editor for school newspaper.

Created and managed project plan to coordinate activities, 10 volunteers and four staff for 5K race. Increased number of race participants from 250 in 2010 to 517 in 2011.

Reviewed checkout processes and initiated steps to save over five minutes per grocery store customer transaction.

3. Work history is the list of positions you have held, starting with the most recent and going backward. You should include organization name, position title or role, and dates of employment or involvement that lasted more than three months. Keep each to a single line, if possible.

4. Education will be near the top of your resume if you have a recent degree, training or certification that is relevant to the position you are seeking. If you have a high school diploma or a degree that is not relevant to the job, your education should be at the end of your resume. Do not list the dates of your education unless they are within the past five years. 

5. References belong on a separate sheet that you provide at a company's request. Do not list family members or friends as references. Work references, such as supervisors or colleagues, are preferred by employers. If you have limited work experience, you may consider listing a teacher or professor, someone who works at an organization where you volunteer or completed an internship, or a community leader who knows you well. Be sure to ask permission to use the person as a reference when you request their contact information and provide information about the job to which you are applying.

Resume format tips and suggestions

Make a good first impression. Organize your resume, leaving plenty of white space and making sure there are no typographical or grammatical errors. Proofread and read again. Have several people review your resume to make sure it is perfect.

Keep your resume simple. Use standard font styles and a font size no smaller than 11. Consider a skills-based format (described above) to highlight your talents and not your limited experience.

Attract positive attention. Don't be tempted to include graphics, fancy fonts or pictures. Use your well-written wording to make your resume stand out.

Print for impact. If you plan to hand your resume to prospective employers, print it on high quality white or off-white paper, using a laser printer. Don't make photocopies or use bright colored paper or paper with background or trimmings.

Include a professional email address. Consider setting up an email address just for your job search. Double-check that you have the correct contact information. Here are some examples of a professional email:

Limit the length of your resume. Keep your resume to one page, if possible, and accompany it with a single page cover letter. Your resume and cover letter are your first impression to the organization, so make sure they shine.

Having a focused, targeted and skills-based resume will open doors for you, even if you don't have a lot of work experience. If you have questions or need assistance, there are resources available to help you.

The employment readiness staff on your installation should also be able to provide you with resume assistance. Visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, select ‘Spouse Education, Training and Careers’ from the list of programs and services, enter your installation and click ‘Search’ to find a program near you. 

You can use the Resume Toolkit to help you create your resume. If you have questions or need assistance with your resume, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to speak with a SECO career coach. You can also speak with a SECO career coach about your unique career or education needs by clicking the 'Live Chat' link at the top of the page.

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