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Applying for that dream job? But you think you have no experience to talk about, and don’t know what to do about it…
I’ve been asked about this many times in recent weeks, so be rest assured you’re not the only person to be stuck! I can help you with some tips on how to overcome this, and I have used these successfully with the folks I have guided through their graduate job applications.
Before we look at those, I just want to say that as long as you’re not applying for a job way above your capability, and that the job is considered as ‘entry level’ then, chances are, your recruiter is not expecting to see heaps of experience in your resume. So you’re in a level playing field. That is, until you send in a kick-ass resume that puts you head and shoulders above the rest.
- College projects are very relevant, because you started with a ‘business case’ (why do the project), you will have had a plan (even if it wasn’t formally documented), you had resources allocated to you (your time, your mentor’s time, skills, tools and apparatus) and you had a measurable objective. And then you had the achievements – the impact of completing the project in terms of time, money, capability, art or science.
- Voluntary work you have done is also very relevant. Just because you didn’t get paid for it, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain experience and new skills. Treat voluntary work like any other job.
- Responsibilities and achievements gained when participating in college clubs or associations are also important, as long as they’re relevant to your career. Especially if you were involved with organizing people, events and committees, or managed finances, or coached/mentored other people.
- Clarify your involvement in the achievement: Use powerful words that describe your contribution. For example, ‘created’, ‘reorganized’ or ‘initiated’. Passive statements like ‘did’, ‘performed’ or ‘was involved in’ don’t indicate your level of involvement – they’re worthless, so don’t use them. Words that show that you actually made a difference are what you’re looking for.
- When describing your achievements, you may get stuck when trying to accurately represent them from a numbers perspective. Probably because you weren’t given the information in the first place. For example, say you were instrumental in improving the membership of a college society, but you don’t know what the financial improvement was. You can describe the financial achievement using a reasonable estimate. I am not suggesting a lie, as any over-inflated estimates you make may be challenged, and you become exposed.
- Don’t forget any awards or honors you have received
- Include supporting evidence: have your achievements been highlighted in reports, college newspapers, or online? Then why not include them in your resume? If they’re independently verifiable, even better
This is your golden opportunity to shine – so don’t hold back
Don’t be shy or bashful about describing what you’ve achieved and experienced from within non-work environments or voluntary work – they’re all relevant. And don’t think that talking about these things as arrogant or boastful. You’re expected to do this