How to Write the Right Resume When You Lack Experience
Show that your seemingly random summer jobs are relevant to your desired career.
Though life happens chronologically, many great stories don’t—think Pulp Fiction or Ulysses. Lots of resume guides advise listing your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first (it’s like the movie Memento! … Except not). Though your resume may not be a masterpiece memoir, it also doesn’t have to adhere to a strict chronology, especially if you’ve held a random smattering of jobs that aren’t relevant to what you’re hoping to land now. Look at standard resumes for how to make your story pleasing to the eye, rather than how to tell the story itself.
You want to be a public relations assistant for the mayor of your hometown.
Your experiences have gone thusly: You were born and raised here and played on the youth soccer team and—no, wait, that’s adorable but way too far back! Instead, let’s look at the stuff you’ve done in college:
1. As a freshman, you joined the weekly newspaper as a news reporter. You eventually became News Editor.
2. In sophomore year, you decided to major in English lit.
3. You played on the intramural soccer team all four years, scoring many glorious goals.
4. You were an active member of your school’s Democrats club, where you started rallies that thankfully disrupted classes.
5. During the summers, you worked as a camp counselor (you were totally the coolest counselor).
6. And now, as you’re looking for work, you’ve been delivering pizzas part-time for Pizza Hut.
Find Your Relevant Experiences
Out of those experiences, only two are directly relevant:
1. Your democratic club work (for the government activism)
2. Your newspaper gig (for the writing and leadership skills)
You fret because neither of those was paid and they’re not your most recent endeavors. But it’s okay! We’re sure you make people smile when you hand them their pizza, but that’s not going to get you to the mayor’s office. The right way to organize your resume is to put your most applicable skills up front, in a “Relevant Experience” section.
Target Your Skills
Target your bullet points to the wording of the job listing to help show your fit. For example, a common qualification desired is “excellent communication and writing skills.” You have a whole portfolio of published writing samples for the newspaper! As editor, you oversaw 15 other reporters! So your bullets could read:
— Wrote 100 stories on tight deadlines on a range of topics, including politics.
— Led a team of 15 newspaper staffers and had one-on-one editing meetings for each article.
Spin the Rest
Even your Pizza Hut and camp counselor experiences, which you’ve shoved to the bottom of your resume and reserved only a bullet point or two for (it sucks that you can’t write “delivered pizzas because I needed some money”), can become applicable. Does the mayor need someone who can work independently? You were trustworthy enough to watch and entertain other people’s tiny humans day after day, and to get in a car with boxes of pizza that all look the same on the outside, yet never ruin a dinner by confusing an order. If left to your own devices, you sure seem pretty trustworthy from all that!
Since you’ve already introduced yourself through an informational interview, or otherwise reached out about the position you’re applying for, shaping your story should be easy. You’ve probably already mentioned your relevant experiences to them to show your qualifications. Your resume just expands that story and shows that you have what it takes for the job, even if you didn’t spend all your summers working specifically towards this career.
Written by Ashley McDonnell