Getting a job can be hard for anyone, even a highly experienced professional who has successfully navigated several job changes. But it can be particularly challenging if you have no experience in the field you want to work in.
Here are five situations that describe job seekers who may lack relevant experience:
- The teenager seeking his or her first job.
- The college senior about to graduate and leap into the real world.
- The person who worked in the family business that just closed.
- The stay-at-home mom who wants to enter (or re-enter) the workforce.
- The person making a drastic career change that causes friends and relatives to ask: “You wanna be a what?!? Why??”
With the possible exception of the teenager (whose jobs typically require application forms, not resumes), these people need to prepare and send a resume.
But how do you market yourself effectively with your resume when you don’t have related job experience?
The answer: Focus on transferable skills and volunteer work. Also, it would be a good idea to drop in a recommendation or two from people who can vouch for qualities such as your work ethic, demeanor, or your ability to work as part of a team.
Here are potential sources for all three areas, targeted at each of the hypothetical job seekers above:
- Transferable Skills: Anything learned from odd jobs such as babysitting or mowing lawns; computer skills; leadership and teamwork skills from participating in sports, band, etc.
- Volunteer Work: Charity or community work involving related skills; extracurricular school activities
- Recommendations: Teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, administrators, neighbors, customers from babysitting or lawn-mowing jobs
- Transferable Skills: Anything from school or paid jobs that matches what the employer is seeking (e.g., a semester-long team project from one of your classes); relevant courses; computer skills; leadership and teamwork skills from participating in sports, band, etc.
- Volunteer Work: Soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, or other community work involving related skills; on-campus extracurricular activities
- Recommendations: Professors and advisors, supervisors from previous jobs, recent alumni familiar with your skills and talents
- Transferable Skills: Any skills from the business that match what the employer is seeking, from day-to-day management to menial tasks to computer skills (if applicable)
- Volunteer Work: Charity or community work involving related skills
- Recommendations: Former customers, suppliers, vendors, even employees
- Transferable Skills: Household management and organization (e.g., childcare, food service, housekeeping, budgeting, health monitoring, transportation, schedule management, travel arrangements, event planning, tutoring, advocacy, safety and first aid, care-giving, counseling, mentoring); computer skills; relevant skills from previous jobs, even if they go back many years
- Volunteer Work: Charity and community work involving related skills, school-related activities (e.g., fundraising, event planning, classroom assistance)
- Recommendations: Other parents, fellow volunteers, school administrators, former employers, community leaders
- Transferable Skills: Any skill that transfers easily from one industry to another (e.g., writing, marketing, payroll, project management, tool use, business machine operation); soft skills such as team-building, organizational, and communication skills; computer skills
- Volunteer Work: Charity and community work
- Recommendations: Former colleagues, supervisors
As you write your resume, always keep in mind that it’s a personal marketing tool and you must use it to put yourself in the best possible position to land an interview. Don't be modest! Show each prospective employer that you understand their needs and how you are equipped to fulfill them. Help them see the benefits they'll gain from hiring you. That’s very important in today’s economy, and even more so for the candidate who lacks direct experience.
What other resume information do you believe would help a person lacking relevant experience land an interview and – maybe – get the job? Please share it below.
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