A formal resume provides a simple, time-tested platform that allows jobseekers to show off their professional experience and their proudest accomplishments. But what if you're a jobseeker with no professional experience of any kind? What if your proudest accomplishments include surviving high school or college and not much else?
Just because you're too young to have logged a long list of career victories doesn't mean you're disqualified from the race. Every climb starts at the bottom, and every successful career begins with a young person reaching for the first rung of the ladder.
Here are a few ways to grab the attention of employers and send a clear message: Your journey is amazing and impressive, even if it hasn't officially started yet.
Recognize that the field is more level than you think.
You may feel hopeless and overwhelmed when you think about your competition, but don't worry. If you're applying for entry-level jobs, it's easy to forget that your peers have resumes that are equally thin, and your target employers are searching for candidates just like you: young, affordable employees who can be trained from the ground up and encouraged to adapt to the company system.
Showcase your ambition.
You can't show off your track record when you have no track record, but you can certainly show off your ambitions, passions, and plans. Since you can't leverage your past, focus on the future. Use your resume summary statement to deliver this message and present yourself as a valuable long-term asset with strong future growth potential. Make it clear that you're going somewhere specific and that you plan to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way.
Offer what your peers can't and won't.
Look at the candidate field from your employer's perspective, and consider the expectations that are often attached to 22-year-olds. As a group, they're assumed to be energetic, but not especially articulate, wise, poised, or assertive. Defy those expectations and you'll be more likely to stand out.
Showcase your education.
You haven't spent much time in the workplace (if any), but have you spent any time in the classroom? Make the most of your educational accomplishments by offering plenty of detail about relevant coursework you've completed and by giving this section a prominent position on the page.
Include training, not just education.
Your degrees and diplomas aren't all you have to offer in terms of showing off what you know. Don't forget to include ALL of your training programs, including certifications, night classes, three-day courses, and all forms of training related to leadership, management, software skills, and public speaking.
If you lack experience, get some experience. Don't accept any unpaid job or internship for a for-profit company (like a bank, law firm, or publishing house), but actively seek unpaid work with non-profit groups that make the world a better place. Blood drives, shelters, food kitchens, animal rescue centers, and clean-up groups can all use your help—and they'll provide valuable experience in return.
Polish your reference list.
Sometimes great references can make up for a lack of professional experience. The teachers you've learned from and the volunteer coordinators you've worked with can vouch for you—if you give your all and ask respectfully for their support. A list of references may be optional, but if you attach one, you'll add a little more substance to an otherwise thin profile.
Describe your transferable skills.
As you draft your resume and cover letter, list and discuss any of your skill sets that can be considered transferrable or related to the requirements listed in the job post. You may not be able to prove that you have certain technical abilities, but explain why you believe the skills you do have can help you succeed in the position and acquire the know-how you do need to get ahead.
Find out everything you can about this company and this job before you apply. Employers tend to be impressed and flattered by candidates who target them specifically. You'll get more attention and your resume is more likely to be considered if you tailor it to the needs outlined in the specific job posting.
Turn to the job search guidelines and resume building tools available at MyPerfectResume. You may not have much experience, but we do, and we're happy to share what we've learned from years spent partnering with job seekers just like you.