How to Craft a Resumé That Shines When You Have No Professional Experience

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Writing a resumé, particularly when you have no professional working experience yet, can seem daunting. What do you include if you lack a slew of jobs in your related field to boast about, especially when companies are asking you to showcase your specific industry experience?

Well, actually, there’s quite a lot you can include on your resumé. And if you’re having trouble piecing something together, there are multiple routes you can take to create a resumé that makes you stand out.

One place to start is to list any internships you’ve had or any work experience. And that means any jobs you’ve held in your college career (there are rare instances where it makes sense to highlight work you did in high school).

Amy Hoover, president at Talent Zoo, recommends listing “any type of work experience, whether it was an odd summer job, etc.—no job is too menial.”

She continues, “Don’t discount the fact that there are also a lot of professional qualities that come from other areas that aren’t necessarily a paying job, like volunteering or any type of leadership roles you may have had in school. In my opinion, none are too big or too small. If it wasn’t chairing a committee in a sorority or fraternity, maybe you were the leader on a class project.”

Which brings up another point: Relevant experience doesn’t necessarily pertain only to work experience. With that in mind, it’s easier to find experiences where you can pull out applicable skills, whether that’s from a project you worked on in class, volunteer work or extracurriculars.

Katie Ramp, director of talent at Muh-Tay-Zik Hof-Fer, says that you want to “[take] those transferable skills from the classes you’ve taken, the internships you’ve had, those experiences that maybe you’ve had in college that will transfer over to that job, and [highlight] those skills.”

“By highlighting areas of collaboration and work that they’ve done in the different industries that they’ve worked in, they can absolutely put that on their resumé and make a pitch for a position within this industry,” says Lisa Rodriguez, chief talent officer at Havas Media.

If you’ve thought through all your coursework and are still coming up empty, then the next step is taking the initiative to seek out resumé-building opportunities and attend networking events. If you didn’t join any clubs or sports in school, that’s OK, but now is the time to apply for an internship, work on a side gig or cash in on one of your hobbies.

For instance, running your own Etsy store could show your creativity, but also your leadership and management skills. And if you’re a musician and write the lyrics to your own songs, that could showcase strong writing skills and innovation.

This step will likely involve doing your fair share of research. Ramp recommends that recent grads “leverage their alumni network, that they get into the industry publications, find out what agencies are interested in and try to find someone at that agency to connect with and start doing informational interviews.”

By informational interview, Ramp means essentially seeking out a connection at an agency that you want to work at. She often sees applicants reaching out through LinkedIn to recruiters and also those who hold a position that they’re looking for, even if the company isn’t hiring. And from there, you just have to establish a connection.

It can be as simple as touching base with a recruiter to ask about open opportunities or asking for a tour of the agency. Once you have an in-person meeting established, you should come prepared with questions as if you’re interviewing for a job—what does success look like at that agency? how would you prepare for a job there? what are some challenges new employees often encounter?—and try to leave an impression so that they’ll think of you when a position does open up.