Your resume is a key tool in representing your skills and experience to potential employers. You are entering the job market or looking for a new opportunity and you will need your resume to apply for most roles. Ideally, your resume tells the reader about your career brand including your work experience, soft skills, competencies, education, technical skills and certifications. Many people have so much experience that they have a hard time keeping their resume to the recommended two pages. Conversely, others have limited experience and feel as though they have nothing to include in a resume. What do you do if you feel like you have nothing to write in your resume? Fret not, here are some tips to help you develop content for your resume.
Start with the Easy Sections
Begin with typing up the sections that you feel most confident about. It's important to start somewhere – that will help to kick start the process. Perhaps you have post-secondary education, you can detail that in an Education section. Include the degree or diploma, the name of the institution and if it was recent, the year of completion. It may not be a formal workplace, but projects done within the context of post-secondary education can be compelling to potential employers. You can detail what the project entailed, whether you worked with others and what the outcomes were. If you have a certification, include that section and list the certification and the name of the designating body. When a task feels daunting, it is natural for some people to procrastinate, but you likely have more to include in the resume than you realize, so best to start with the more straightforward sections. Once you have that information on your document, it's time to tackle the more challenging parts.
Make Part Time and Volunteer Experience Work for You
You may feel insecure about applying for roles that are looking for a minimum of 1 year of work experience. You might not have full time work experience, but have you been employed part time? Do you have volunteer experience? Those part time and volunteer roles count – it's all in how you present the experience to the reader. What was your role? Were you helping customers? Greeting people at charity events? Those are both examples of dealing directly with people which is often sought after. Were you responsible for opening/closing a retail store? Were you fundraising? Both involve being responsible, detail-oriented and trustworthy. There is a lot of value in part time work and volunteer experience. Think about what your roles were – what were you responsible for and what did you achieve? You're getting the hang of this. As for where to include this information on the document, consider a functional resume where you can have headings to showcase each key skill.
You might not have work experience that is 100% related to the roles you are applying to. It's time to look at things with a more abstract lens. What are some of the key transferable skills and qualities that you have? Select up to 6 compelling ones and include examples for each skill. This can be from school projects, part time work or volunteer experience. Consider functional headings that are a good match for the majority of the roles you are applying to. If you are applying to a role that requires a focus on detail, then include that along with some accomplishment statements telling the reader about that skill. Be sure to start with an action verb in past tense and tell the reader what you did and what was the result or benefit. You can customize which skills you focus on depending on the roles you are applying to.
Key Words Are Key
You have been thinking about your key transferable skills and qualities and they are captured in your resume. Review postings that are of interest to you and pay attention to the skills and experience they are seeking. Do you possess those? If so, are they in your resume document? If you are applying to large and mid-sized organizations who are likely using applicant tracking software to review resumes, it will be looking for those key words.
Develop and Present a Solid Career Brand
Despite the lack of formal work experience, you should feel good about the experience you do have. Everyone needs to start somewhere. Believe in yourself and you will be more likely to develop and present a solid career brand. Start by selecting a template that is polished, professional and optimized for applicant tracking software. No need to select anything fancy. You want the template to have an appealing font, consider Calibri or Verdana, a good amount of white space, and make sure you select one that is easy to work with in terms of making updates and changes. Every person should make sure their resume is free of spelling and grammatical errors and that the formatting is consistent. This shows attention to detail and it's particularly important if you are making up for the absence of work experience. You are putting in that extra effort to catch the attention of and hopefully 'wow' the potential employer. How you represent your personal career brand can indicate how good you would be at representing that organization's brand – if your resume is sloppy, why wouldn't they assume that you would be sloppy in the work you do for them? Be a good ambassador of your career brand.
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Despite lacking formal work experience, you can develop and present a resume that will highlight your skills, education and experience and capture the interest of employers you are applying to. Before you know it, you will have full time work experience to add to your resume.