No Experience? No Problem.

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As a new graduate, you have strong educational qualifications but probably feel you don't have much to offer in terms of "real-world" business experience. As a result, you might be wondering what to communicate in your resume and in interviews--what can you say and what should you share to pique the interest of potential employers?

In this Section, I'll share advice, ideas, and examples specific to your situation. Let's start with some positives:

  • Employers understand that you don't have much (if any) hands-on experience in the business world.
  • Year after year, employers are eager to hire new graduates because you bring fresh thinking and moldable skills to their businesses. They are happy to teach you what you need to know to be successful within their organization.
  • Quite likely you have more to offer than you think! There is much "gold" that can be mined from your college career, part-time work experiences, co-op or internship jobs, volunteer and extracurricular activities.

Begin with the End in Mind

Before writing your resume you must understand what you're trying to achieve--the general types of positions you're interested in and the skills and competencies you must have to attain the position and succeed once hired.

If you're not clear on your goals, you'll need to do some prep work before preparing your resume. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Talk to your college or university Career Center. Make an appointment to meet with an advisor and ask about their services and suggestions for defining your career target. Your Career Center might offer resources like these:
    • Personality and career assessments instruments that can generate valuable data and insights to help you make good career decisions.
    • One-on-one counseling.
    • Group coaching sessions.
    • Referrals to alumni in positions you're considering.
    • Books, articles, and online resources about career options and job descriptions.
  • Talk to your parents, other relatives, friends' parents, parents' friends--in general, anyone who has a job can give you information about their career, career path, and career recommendations. I think you'll find that most people are eager to help you. Ask them:
    • What their job is like what they do day to day, what they love and don't love about their jobs, the skills they use and the skills they wish they had.
    • What their career path was like how they got where they are today.
    • Roadblocks to career advancement and how they got around them (if they did).
    • Other jobs that are like theirs.
    • Whether their current career is close to what they imagined when they were your age.
    • What they'd do differently if they could.
    • Jobs they can think of that match your skills and interests.
    • Good companies to work for (and why).
    • Best piece of career advice they can give you.
  • Work with a private career coach or counselor. Although this requires a financial investment, you'll get undivided individual attention and specific expertise that can help you reach a decision and create an action plan much more quickly than you would alone.

Whatever steps you take, your goal is to emerge with a clear picture about what you want to do and the types of jobs for which you're well suited. Then, and only then, can you write a resume that positions you for those jobs.

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More Alike Than Different

Any job seeker, regardless of your level of experience, has the same fundamental resume-writing challenge: to demonstrate that you have the skills and competencies needed to do a particular job. As a new grad, however, you cannot cite accomplishments, experiences, success stories, and examples from your professional career as "evidence" of your capabilities. As noted, that's okay; employers don't expect it. What they do expect, though, is that you'll have a general understanding of the kinds of skills you'll need to use on the job and that you possess some relevant examples and accomplishments to share.

Section 1 of this guide walks you through the process of creating a compelling resume. That entire in-depth discussion will not be repeated in this Section, so be sure to read Section 1, become familiar with the strategies, and use as many as possible given your circumstances. I think you'll find much of the information is suitable to you, even though you're a new grad.

But because you don't have the professional experience that is the primary component of most resumes, you'll need to do a few things differently, and this section will show and tell you how.

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Focus on Core Competencies

Start by identifying the fundamental skills that you'll need for your target positions. A good source for gathering this information is online ads. You'll quickly be able to identify skills, terms, and qualifications that recur in many of the positions you're looking at. Make a list of these core competencies.

For example, if you're looking for a job as a Mechanical Engineer your list might look like this:

  • BS in Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer skills: CAD software and business applications (MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a cross-functional team environment
  • Project management
  • Initiative and self-starting skills
  • Creativity
  • Ability to use technical data to sell your ideas
  • Communication skills

For a position as a Human Resources Generalist, this list might be more appropriate:

  • Bachelor's degree in HR or a related field (Business, Communications, Industrial Relations)
  • Ability to handle confidential material
  • Computer proficiency
  • Attention to detail and accuracy
  • Business writing skills
  • Ability to work with diverse personalities
  • General office/administrative capabilities
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Planning, organization, and time management

With your list in hand, you now know what you need to convey on your resume to convince employers you can do the job.

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Mine Your Experiences

Now it's time to dig up evidence to include on your resume. In the same way that experienced professionals look back at their careers to find "proof" of their capabilities, you will look at your experiences--the only difference is that many of yours will not have occurred in the world of work. But that doesn't mean they are any less valuable or any less indicative of what you can do on the job.

When reviewing your background, consider these areas where you might have demonstrated the hard and soft skills you've included on your list of core competencies.

  • Class projects--individual or team. Ask yourself:
    • What was challenging about that project? How did I overcome the obstacles?
    • Did I serve as team leader either formally or informally?
    • What did I do to ensure the project was finished on time and meeting all requirements?
    • What areas of knowledge did that project assess?
    • What did I learn?
    • What grade did I get?
    • What did my professor say about the project, the team, or the total experience?
    • What did my teammates say?
    • What did my classmates say?
    • Was the project reviewed by anyone outside the university (e.g., community business leaders)? If so, what did they say about it?
    • If I were to have a project like this on the job, what would I do differently? What would I do the same?
    • Did this project have any long-term impact?
  • Co-op jobs or internships. Ask yourself:
    • How did I get this job?
    • Why were they interested in me?
    • Was there a particular project or problem I was hired to handle? What did I do about it, and what was the result?
    • What aspects of this job did I most enjoy?
    • What did I learn?
    • What skills did I use most?
    • Did I have the chance to work on team projects? If so, what was my role? What was the outcome of the project?
    • What was my greatest success on the job?
    • Was I invited to return to the company?
    • What did my supervisor say about me?
  • Part-time jobs during college or high school. Ask yourself:
    • How did I get this job?
    • What tasks did I most enjoy?
    • How did I help the organization I worked for?
    • What problems did I solve?
    • What did my supervisor say about me?
    • Did I overcome any unusual obstacles to hold down this job?
    • What did I learn?
    • How did I manage my time and all of my other responsibilities while working?
    • Was I invited to return?
  • Extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, volunteer). Ask yourself:
    • Why did I participate?
    • What did I learn?
    • How did I help other people and the organization?
    • What problems did I solve?
    • What did I improve?
    • Did I demonstrate leadership?
    • Did I start any new programs or projects? What were the results?
    • What was most enjoyable about this activity?
  • Additional areas and activities. Ask yourself:
    • What else did I do? Why did I do it? What was the result?
    • Did I earn any formal recognition for my efforts (academic honors and awards, volunteer awards, leadership recognition, etc.)?
    • Is there anything unusual in my background that helped shape the person I am today or provided a distinctive skill or experience (e.g., living in different countries, speaking multiple languages, working full-time while in college, overcoming a significant obstacle, managing around a disability, unusual depth in a particular area)?

Now, compare your notes to the requirements of the position, and write brief "success stories" that demonstrate how you used and strengthened these core capabilities. These success stories will be useful to you throughout your job search--you can include them in your resume, in abbreviated form, as bullet-point accomplishment statements, and share them during your interviews. You should have multiple stories to support your greatest competencies; and it's perfectly okay to use the same story (slightly shifted for appropriate emphasis) to illustrate more than one core competency.

Insider's Tip: Include Yourself In

One of the easiest ways to strike the right chord with potential employers is to use the language of business in your resume. Consider how much more inclusive you can be by converting common terminology from school to business--as appropriate, of course, and such that you retain the meaning of what you're trying to communicate:

School Language

Class

Class Project

Classmates

School

Students

Grades

Business Language

Group or Team

Project or Marketing Project, Engineering Project, Customer Project

Teammates

Organization

Peers or Teammates

Results or Outcome

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Here's a case study that will help you get started in writing your own stories and creating your resume.

Meredith's Story

About to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a dual-major degree in Biology and Judaic Studies, Meredith was unsure what she wanted to do with her career. She had a lot of very diverse interests and had pursued several of them with success--but nothing stood out as her ideal job.

Meredith did some soul-searching, talked with her advisor and her professors, interviewed several friends of her parents, and briefly worked with a career consultant. As a result of all of this effort, she concluded that she would like a job that involved writing and editing, and she wanted to be in the business world, not the science lab.

She reviewed a number of job postings online and came up with the following list of core competencies for jobs titled Writer, Editor, Communications Assistant, Project Assistant, and Program Coordinator:

  • Strong research, writing, and editing skills
  • Experience with diverse publications and writing styles
  • Ability to work in a cross-functional team environment
  • Project management skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Computer skills

Next, Meredith wrote "success stories" that illustrated each of these core competencies. Here is an example of a story that speaks to her abilities in multiple areas--writing and editing, working with diverse writing styles and people, attention to detail, and communication skills.

In my senior year, I was invited to become a peer writing tutor. This was quite an honor at Penn because the invitation had to come from a team of faculty members. I had to take a special course in editing academic papers, and then I worked two or three times a week in the university's language lab, reviewing the papers of both undergraduate and grad students and helping them improve their content, language, style, clarity, and overall presentation. It was challenging because I had to review papers in everything from accounting to zoology! And I couldn't just rewrite it myself, I had to coach and guide the students to improve their work. That forced me to become better at communicating my ideas in a clear and respectful manner. The benefits of this experience were many: I helped students be better writers (and get better grades); I honed my editing skills; I strengthened my communication skills; and I got paid for my work!

You can imagine that potential employers would be quite interested in this story. It is a microcosm of the work Meredith wants to do in the "real world" as an editor, writer, and member of the communications team.

On the next page you will see Meredith's resume and how she incorporated this story--just briefly--into the "Experience" section.

Note these additional points as you review Meredith's resume:

  • Her experience section is titled just that--"Experience." Some of this experience was unpaid, some was part-time or summer work, and some was on campus. It is all relevant experience and thus can be included in this section.
  • Because she hasn't firmly settled on a job target, Meredith's Summary is rather vague--but it does include the bulk of the Core Competencies she has identified.
  • As with most new graduates, Meredith positions her Education section above her experience. She highlights this section with appropriate academic honors and awards that will distinguish her from less-accomplished new grads.
  • Her resume is a concise one page.

Meredith's search was successful! She landed a program coordinator job that called for her to use all of her writing, editing, project management, and communication skills. It gave her opportunities to demonstrate leadership and initiative. And her major in Judaic Studies was a definite plus!

Two years later, Meredith was ready to look for a new challenge, and you will see her revised resume on the following pages. Note that her professional experience has moved up in length, depth, and importance, while education takes a less-prominent position. Also notice how she proves her capabilities by highlighting the specific accomplishments--not just the activities--of her first job post-college.

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VisualCV Advantage: Continuous Updates/Career Management

It's highly unlikely that your next job will be your last job. In fact, as you graduate from college you can expect to hold 10, 15, or more jobs over the course of your work life. Currently, the median employer tenure for 25- to 34-year-olds is just 2.9 years. Thus, it makes sense to keep your resume updated at all times and be ready to respond when the right opportunity presents itself.

With the VisualCV, it's easy for you to add your accomplishments as they occur, so you don't forget about them or face a major rewrite in a rush situation. Plus, you can target your ideal employers, build a relationship, and keep them continuously updated as your career accelerates and your accomplishments accumulate.

In effect, if you practice lifelong career management, you won't have to repeatedly look for a job. And isn't that a comforting thought?

(NEW GRAD RÉSUMÉ)
Meredith Jones
meredith@gmail.com • 555-555-5555

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • Dual degrees in two challenging majors--consistent record of academic excellence.
  • Strong and diverse research, writing, and editing skills, demonstrated in roles as creative writer, writing tutor, historical researcher, and biology researcher.
  • Repeated selection for special roles and assignments on the basis of academic performance, language abilities, and communication skills.

EDUCATION

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, Philadelphia, PA

Honors College--Double Major, Biology and Judaic Studies

B.S. and B.A. 2005; GPA 3.75/4.0

Academic Honors

  • Quaker State Scholar--2 or more consecutive terms of straight A's
  • University Honors--minimum of 3.5 GPA
  • William Penn Freshman Prize--top 5% of class

EXPERIENCE

Jewish History Research

Research Assistant, Graduate Library, University of Pennsylvania (Sept. 2001–June 2005)


  • Cataloged and identified new Hebrew and Yiddish materials received at the library.
  • Performed extensive database searches to identify rare Hebrew and Yiddish books.

Research Aide to Professor Alex Feldman, University of Pennsylvania (Sept. 2002–June 2005)


  • Hand-picked from 30+ peers to assist Professor with PhD thesis.
  • Researched and tracked Jewish-to-Christian conversion rates in Hungary and Romania as a response to persecution or poverty.

Medical/Science Research

Research Assistant, Biology Department, University of Pennsylvania (Sept. 2002–May 2003)


  • Chosen from a field of 75 candidates (Biology majors).
  • Contributed to research involving senescence of mutant strains of Arabidopsis.

Writing / Editing / Tutoring

Writing Tutor, University Writing Lab, University of Pennsylvania (Sept. 2004–May 2005)


  • Selected for by-invitation tutoring opportunity; required completion of special course.
  • Worked directly with undergraduate and graduate students to improve quality of written materials. Proofread, edited, checked strength of theses, and tutored students to improve writing skills.

Additional Employment

Receptionist, Dewey & Howe, Harrisburg, PA (Summer 2003)

Counselor, Wilderness Camp, Latrobe, PA (Summers 1999–2002)


ADDITIONAL

  • Published creative writing (short stories and poems) in campus and community publications.
  • Proficient in MS Word and Internet applications; familiar with PowerPoint and Excel.
  • Fluent in Hebrew.

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Meredith Jones (2 YEARS POST-GRADUATION)
meredith@gmail.com • 555-555-5555


PROGRAM COORDINATOR / PROJECT MANAGER / ADMINISTRATOR / WRITER / EDITOR

  • Creative, results-focused professional, extremely effective in fast-paced roles managing multiple programs and projects. Track record of initiative and leadership in improving operations, increasing efficiency, cutting costs, and streamlining processes. Strong writing, editing, communication, and teamwork skills.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

  • SENIOR PROGRAM COORDINATOR (2006–Present) • PROGRAM COORDINATOR (2005–2006) Education in Action Foundation, Philadelphia, PA
  • Member of evaluation and program team that investigates, awards, and manages grants supporting creative programming in Jewish education and cultural awareness. Participate in the Foundation's strategic planning process and manage a wide array of projects and operational functions.

  • PROGRAM COORDINATION:  Annually, manage a portfolio of grant semifinalists, serving as primary point of contact and advising on program development. Conduct site visits and prepare recommendations for Board review.
  • Conceived idea for 2 innovative "seed grant" programs to support mini-initiatives that fall below general grant guidelines. Worked with executive director to refine the concept and prepare Board presentation; pilot programs planned for 2008.
  • Created and implemented office-wide a new process to ensure the accuracy and consistency of information given to all potential applicants.

  • ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT:  Ensure smooth running of office and continuously seek opportunities to improve operational efficiency and consistency.
  • Investigated and initiated new purchasing program that cut office-supply expenses as much as 50%.
  • Monitored usage of printed materials and adjusted print orders to eliminate waste and cut cost 7.5%.
  • Created centralized records system that, for the first time, provides immediate and easily accessible information about grants at every stage from application through award and reporting.

  • WRITING AND PUBLICATION:  Write, edit, and publish printed materials including award books and bios, grant and award guidelines, newsletter, and ongoing correspondence with applicants and recipients.
  • Revitalized the Foundation's newsletter, increasing frequency of publication and expanding distribution from a handful to more than 300 people. Serve as chief writer and editor.

  • RESEARCH ASSISTANT, University of Pennsylvania (2001–2005)
  • Selected for 3 diverse research positions; held concurrently while completing dual degrees in 4 years.
  • Researched and cataloged Hebrew and Yiddish materials for the graduate library.
  • Assisted professor with PhD research, tracking Jewish conversion rates in Eastern Europe.
  • Contributed to biology laboratory research involving senescence of mutant plant strains.

  • WRITING TUTOR, University Writing Lab, University of Pennsylvania (2004–2005)
  • Worked directly with undergraduate and graduate students to improve quality of written materials. Proofread, edited, and tutored students to improve their writing skills.

EDUCATION

  • UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, Philadelphia, PA
  • Honors College--Double Major, Biology and Judaic Studies
  • B.S. and B.A., 2005; GPA 3.75/4.0

  • Quaker State Scholar; University Honors; William Penn Freshman Prize--top 5% of class.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • Proficient in MS Office, Photoshop, HTML, and Internet applications. Published writer. Fluent in Hebrew

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