How to write a CV when you have no work experience

You’ve finished university, it’s time to enter the real world and find a job. For this you need a great CV, one
that will show how passionate you are, what a great work ethic you have and how dedicated an employee
you would be. We’re sure you’ve been told to relate your work experience to the role you’re applying for, but
what if you don’t have any experience?

1. Show your potential

An employer is not only looking at what you have done, but what you can do. You have to convince them that
you are capable of taking on the job. Make a list of all your relevant experience. If you are a fresh IT graduate,
have you done an internship during your studies? Have you had experience working for a friend or relative’s
company, even for a little while? You can also talk about general experiences you have had. Talk about travel,
and challenges you faced. How did you overcome them and what lessons did you learn? While you are still
studying, record the skills and work experiences you acquire just so you have an inventory of good examples to
draw from on applications and in interviews.

2. Be honest about your skills

Talk about your skills sensibly. Remember, the employer does not expect you to have wisdom and expertise at
this point. Make a list of top your top five skills, and find examples where you demonstrated it. If you want to say
you have leadership skills, you could talk about an event you organised. Are you good at communication?
Provide an example of how this has helped you in work or on your course.

3. Highlight your achievements

Talk about your achievements in different contexts such as study, work or leisure. By talking about your
experiences you are also reinforcing your skills. You could be dynamic and proactive - you are aware of
what is happening in the industry and subscribe to relevant newsletters and participate in discussions in
person or online.

4. Make sense of your qualifications

Graduates often fail to relate their qualifications and skills in a way that is meaningful to the recruiter. They
cannot explain what it means to hire them, and how exactly they can help the company. For instance, you
might mention dissertation writing, which is not relevant to the employer. But if you say you have the skill to
research and write lengthy documents that will make communications easier for the department, you will have
a much better response and understanding from the employer. You have to bridge the gap of what you did and
how it relates to the job.

5. Show interest in the field

Why do you want to work for the company? Do you have any specific reasons that go in your favour? Is there
something about their campaigns/projects/ethos that inspires you? Always do your research before you
applying for jobs; then you can identify skills and experiences that are of a particular importance. This is the
perfect opportunity for you to tailor your application so that it stands out from the crowd.

6. Talk about any work experience

It doesn’t have to be paid work, or even in the same field. Have you participated in youth leadership programs,
or a member of a team? Have you done any mentoring? Just always relate it to the job in questions. Plan to
gain some relevant work experience and voluntary work; have something lined up for holidays and free time.
Remember to get your formal placement and internship applications in early.

7. Mention your transferable skills

Skills like IT, sales, customer service or word processing are enough to get you started in an entry level or
assistant position. Make the most of university life and extra-curricular activities to develop your transferable
skills. Go to careers fairs and employer presentations and ask recruiters questions to find out what they want
and then perfect those skills.

8. Bring your profile to life

This is the opening paragraph of your CV. Keep it simple, concise and to the point. In four to five sentences
describe what sort of position you are looking for, your relevant experience and what you can offer to the
employer in broad terms. Use your university’s careers service and find out what kind of training sessions they
have available. Enrol on relevant courses and workshops, and get feedback on your CV so it showcases your
assets and strengths.

For example, consider this personal profile: “I am a science graduate looking for the position of a customer
service associate in a well established company where I can utilise my gained skills to work efficiently.
Excellent leadership and ability to work in a team can help me in working in the professional environment.”

Or this one: “Graduate of ABC College’s speech communication program seeking a position in training and
development. Offer hands-on experience in classroom teaching, corporate training and communication

Avoid generalised objectives, it needs to be targeted. Remember to emphasise what you know and what can
do; use the personal profile as an introduction to this. Remember to make note of not only your achievements
but skills and personality traits. Employers are often looking for a flexible, resilient and imaginative candidate
as well as somebody who has traditional hard skills. Present what you learned from your qualification in an
enticing manner. Never assume that the employer knows what you gained from it.

Finally, don’t forget to network! Ask family members, friends and other contacts if they could help you get some
work experience and also use them as a resource to see which careers really interest you.




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