10 Ways to Improve Your Resume If You Have Limited Experience
We have all been there. Staring at a blank word document with a blinking cursor reminding you of the work experience that you don’t yet have, just hoping that somebody will give you your first chance. Blink. Blink. Blink. When will the blinking stop? Most importantly, when will your work experience start?
Although a resume doesn’t have red eyes or spikes growing out of its back, it can still be intimidating to think about writing when you don’t have any relevant work experience. However, everyone has experience. It’s just a matter of how you bring out that experience to determine whether you or your competition lands the job interview.
Whether you are a recent college graduate, current professional facing a career transition, or even just someone looking to add touch-ups to your existing resume, knowing how to formulate your experience to reflect relevancy can be broken down into the following steps.
Volunteer your skills where they’re needed.
There’s no downside to volunteering. The experience that you acquire from being in the sometimes uncomfortable position of “free labor” speaks volumes on a resume, and of your character. Plus, the relationships that you form with leaders and fellow volunteers can be one that mirrors how relationships formulate in the workplace. The key is finding ways to serve your community that will be relevant to the type of job you’re seeking.
For example, if you’re a software developer, volunteer to build a website for a nonprofit. This will give you double points because you can link the site on your resume to show hiring managers what you can do. If you want a job in human resources, volunteer at your
or spend your free time doing administrative duties at a local shelter.
Hone in on specific academic and/or personal projects.
Group projects. It’s a love/hate relationship really, but you should learn to love them because they give you insight into what it looks like to work on a team and complete a task. The key is to be specific about which courses you participated in and what your specific role was.
Personal projects could include anything that is qualified as “side work” or simply unpaid work you completed such as a photography project or a website you built for fun. If you do have technical skills, make sure to create a profile on a site like
to show off your code – and don’t forget to add the link to your resume. Keep in mind that the personal projects you include on your resume should be relevant to your experience, or at least the role you are seeking.
Providing a metric is also beneficial here. By providing something that is measurable such as a percentage or a statistic will not only “woo” the manager by your use of metrics, but also by how much you actually improved something. This will be sure to get their attention as managers love to see actual performance and see how you contributed to something, much like a report would – and managers love reports.
Public speaking never hurts to include in your resume, and neither do extracurricular activities.
Your palms might get sweaty when you do it, but public speaking improves your self-confidence. Including your public speaking experience is something that screams, “I can be a great member to your team because I put myself in uncomfortable situations!” Employers will appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there when they come across these types of endeavors on your resume.
Extracurricular activities show potential employers that you invest your free time into something other than going out with your friends. If you are not already involved in any organizations, then getting involved in social meetup groups can really boost your appearance of being social (whether you attend regularly or not).
Skills, skills, and more skills.
Everyone in the 21
century assumes you are skilled in Microsoft applications. If you feel that you are above average, perhaps on the same level as Bill Gates himself, then definitely state that by labeling yourself as a “guru”. Really, the only application that is worth mentioning yourself as a “guru” is Microsoft Excel because those pivot tables and formulas are definitely not for beginners.
Communication, leadership, bilingual proficiency, adaptability, problem solving, and time management are a few examples of skills that are adequate for a resume. If you have a more hands-on, technical type of skill set, then include what those skills are. This section of your resume is really just for employers to be able to see some extra qualities that you have that other candidates may not.
“Doctor” your resume to resemble that of the position you are going for.
…and no, I am NOT talking about lying. I like to call it tender loving care of your resume. You may have some vital experience in extracurricular activities, group projects, volunteer work, etc. that can be relevant to the position you are applying for, so mention that.
I also don’t mean to change your resume every time you apply for a role, but if your career goals are to be in Human Resources, then relationship management is a skill that you really want to bring out in your experience. Match the job description to your resume to see if your resume lines up with what the company is looking for. If it isn’t, then get creative in how you can re-word things to show that you would be the perfect fit. This will only work if you are actually qualified and able to perform the role.
Along with building your resume, building your LinkedIn profile is equally important.
LinkedIn is the professional social network version of Facebook – take advantage of this free tool that you can truly benefit from. However, keep in mind that social professional networking is NOT Facebook – so don’t post pictures of your food or cats.
You should have a profile picture that says, “I’m qualified, polished, and professional – hire me!” Selfies, mirror pics, and cropped out pictures do not pass this test. Investing your time, energy, and sometimes your wallet, towards professional headshots expresses to the employer that you are serious about your career.
Obtaining connections, professor or employer references, and skills on your LinkedIn profile is equally important to having a resume. In addition to your connections, including fortune 500 companies and influential people as “people you follow” can make your profile stand out. Managers want to see that you look professional and that you are social – two things that can help you land the job you want.
Including your LinkedIn profile URL as well as your professional contact information can make or break your resume.
Some question whether or not you should include a picture of yourself on your resume. Rather than doing that, your LinkedIn shows a hiring manager that you are plugged into the world and are serious about landing a role. Adding your LinkedIn link is acceptable to include within the same area as your address and contact information. That way it is easy for the manager to locate if and when they decide to look at your profile. And more than likely, they will.
Above all tips and tricks about resume writing, make sure that you have a professional email address because “fluffybunny92” as a handle does not make a hiring manager feel compelled to give you a call to schedule an interview. Also, skip including your address, but rather include the city, state, and zip code that you reside in only because your residence is not relevant.
Cover letters are a good secret weapon to have on hand.
If you are one of the few that actually enjoy writing a cover letter, then congratulations to you. Not all employers require this but it is good to have one on standby for the just-in-case moments. Writing something enthusiastic and specific to your experience, or in this case, inexperience, can give you the extra boost you need.
The point of the cover letter is to convince the manager why they should hire you and what you have to offer – not something to sum up your work experience. Including things in your cover letter that are not apparent in your resume can contribute in your chances of landing at least an interview. Not to mention that most applications ask for one whenever you upload your resume, so having one within reach is a a good idea in general.
“Objective” sections are so last season.
Skip the once-was key principle of including the “Objective” section on your resume. Nobody really pays attention to that anymore… plus you will keep having to change it if you apply to several different positions. The objective of your resume is obvious if you are applying for a job.
If you want to lead with some kind of intro, opt for a Summary instead. This is where you highlight the most relevant and important factors about you in 50 words or less. It shouldn’t be too general because that can be boring for a hiring manager who’s sifting through resumes. Just remember to keep it relevant to you.
Include your achievements and publications.
Not to brag but… you actually do want to brag. Achievements such as an award in school or maybe even in your personal life can be and should be included on your resume. Do you write a blog? Do you have any publications? And no, your college essays do not qualify as publications. Include your writing expertise in your resume by simply providing a link and title to what you have out in the interwebs. These things go hand-in-hand with your public speaking experience and send the same message to the hiring manager; that you are all about self-improvement and serious about your career. Only work-appropriate content is permitted in this arena.
Once you do finally get your first “real job” experience, be sure to update your resume to reflect your new role. Also, you can finally remove that older pet store retail and the time you spent a week volunteering to plant trees. As you gain more experience, continue to update and polish your resume. Meanwhile, if you are currently on the market, check out our jobs to see if MATRIX has a fit for you.