Knowing how to write a resume when you don’t have any work experience can be confusing and even frustrating. How are you supposed to fill a whole page if you’ve never had a job to begin with? Luckily, not all hope is lost — even if you’ve never stepped foot in an office or had an official manager.
So, how do you write a resume with no work experience? Here’s a step-by-step guide that will showcase your skills and wow employers with your potential.
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How to Write a Resume With No Experience
1. Pull From the Job Description
Before you even pull up your Google doc, resume template, or whatever program you’re using to write your resume, look at the job description. You’ll want to focus on three things:
- Relevant experience the employer’s looking for
- Hard and soft skills the employer’s looking for
- Any education or certification the employer’s looking for
These three elements will likely be sprinkled throughout the job description, both in the main description of the role and responsibilities, and in the “qualifications” section where the employer outlines what kind of experience they’re looking for.
Once you’ve identified these three things, you’ll better understand what types of experiences and skills you should prioritize on your resume. For example, suppose you’re applying for a software engineering position at a gaming company. The company might say they’re looking for someone with programming skills. In that case, you might want to prioritize adding the gaming project you worked on in class to your resume instead of the writing skills you picked up working for the school newspaper.
The job description is a preliminary set of guidelines for how you should approach your resume. However, this doesn’t mean you need to have every single experience, skill, and education requirement they’re looking for. You can still apply for — and land — the job even if you only have most (not all) of the requirements.
Use each job description as a starting point. Then, you can draft your resume by finding the overlaps between what the hiring manager is looking for and what experiences you have.
2. Include Any Experience You Already Have
I know, but you’re reading this article because you don’t have any experience! Yet just because you don’t have professional work experience doesn’t mean you don’t have relevant experience. Other types of experience you can include on your resume include:
- Internships (both virtual and in-person)
- School projects
- Extracurriculars, like school clubs and sports teams
- Volunteer positions
- Part-time jobs
- Independent projects
If the experience is relevant to what the employer’s looking for, it’s OK to include it, even if it’s not a traditional work experience.
How to Include Non-Professional Experience on Your Resume
Now you know that you can include non-professional experience on your resume — how do you actually write a resume with no work experience? For each experience, you’ll want to include your position, where you worked, and when you did it.
Then, you’ll write a few clear bullet points that explain what you did in that position. For each section, aim to:
- Use strong action verbs that communicate how you contributed
- Show your quantifiable impact by using numbers
- Include any hard or soft skills you used (more on skills in the next section!)
For example, maybe you worked at a local ice cream shop over the summer and decided to revamp the business’ Instagram. Now, you’re applying for a marketing position that’s looking for candidates with a design background. You can include your social media experience and focus on the images you posted to market the business.
- Increased brand awareness by 300% by refreshing and redesigning the business’ Instagram
- Boosted like and comment engagement by 200% by creating five unique graphics weekly
In this example, we used strong action verbs like “increased” and “boosted,” showed quantifiable impact by including how much reach the Instagram posts got compared to before, and demonstrated social media and graphic design skills.
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3. Show Off Your Skills
Hard skills you’ve learned from college courses, certifications, and Forage job simulations are not only relevant but critical to a resume without work experience. You can list these skills in a separate “skills” section. You could also describe how you’ve used them in your “experience” section if you’ve done a project or worked in a position where you applied them.
Hard skills examples include:
- Data analytics
- Programming languages
- Foreign languages
- Graphic design
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Soft skills include:
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4. Include Your Education and Certifications
Your education, especially if your degree is relevant to the job you’re applying for, counts, too. At the minimum, you should include the name of your college or university, degree type (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D.), and major(s). You can also include:
- Relevant coursework: courses you might have taken that taught you relevant workplace skills (e.g., Software Engineering II for a software engineer position)
- GPA: if above a 3.5, or if the employer requests it (learn more about when to put your GPA on your resume)
- Study abroad: the name of the college or university you studied at and where
You can also include any accolades or certificates you’ve gotten at school, like Dean’s list, honors, and graduating summa cum laude.
If you’ve completed a Forage job simulation, you can add it to your certifications section using this template:
[Insert Company Name] Virtual Experience Program on Forage – [Month and Year of Completion]
[Insert detail on what you did and the skills you learned]
Adding Forage to your resume shows recruiters that you have experience with real-world work scenarios in the industry and that you’ve built key skills for that role.
For example, if you completed the BCG Strategy Consulting Program, you could write:
BCG Strategy Consulting Job Simulation on Forage – March 2024
Conducted market research, consumer needs analysis, and data analysis to create a client recommendation.
5. Show Your Self-Initiative
When you don’t have any professional work experience, it’s crucial to show how you’ve demonstrated drive and passion without working in the industry. Have you done a project related to something in the field? Started a club that gave you transferable skills? The best resumes for people without professional experience show how you’ve built skills and cultivated interest even despite not having that experience.
“Showcase what you can do now and how you see it growing into something else with the help of the job or company you are looking to work for,” Elisa Pineda, recruiting and human resources professional, says. “I know a developer that created a mini-maze game for fun while learning and teaching himself to code. He had no actual work experience outside of his projects and self-initiative to see what he could do. He presented that maze to the interviewing team as a small two-minute tidbit and asked if they could solve it and how long it took them. It was a creative way to showcase what you can do.”
If you’ve done any side projects or have an online portfolio, your resume is a great place to showcase this self-initiative. You can include a separate “special projects” section of your resume to describe what you’ve worked on — and even include links if you’re sending the resume virtually.
Resume With No Work Experience: Sample and Template
Here’s a sample resume for someone who is applying for a UX designer role. While this person doesn’t have any professional design experience, they’ve done some independent design projects and have learned about UX design at school.
So, how can you write a resume with no experience that looks like this? We talked to hiring employers to learn what they’re looking for from student resumes — and made a template that you can use to help you stand out.
Writing a Resume With No Work Experience: The Bottom Line
Overall, the worst thing you can do when writing a job resume with no experience is show that you have no experience.
“This is a huge red flag and does not demonstrate any effort that you at least tried to do something,” Pineda says. “You have little to showcase, do not make it seem so little. Get creative with your resume to showcase what you can already do.”
Just because you don’t have work experience doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable knowledge, experience, and skills to bring to the table. Consider how what you’ve already done fits into what the employer is looking for.
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If you don’t have any experience, you can include non-professional work like internships, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, volunteer work, and even school and personal projects on your resume.
To write your first resume with no experience, focus on experience and skills you’ve built from activities, school work, and even independent projects. Make sure you can demonstrate how your experience and skills are transferable or applicable to the job you’re applying for.
When writing a resume for your first job, be sure to look closely at the skills and experience the employer is looking for. Then, include skills and experience you’ve built that match that — whether they’re from internships, volunteer work, school projects, or other non-professional activities.
Yes, you should have a resume if you have no experience — because you do have skills and experience, even if it’s not professional! There are still ways to be creative and show off what you can do, whether you’ve built skills from a class, Forage job simulation, volunteer position, or a sports team.
Image credit: Pexels / Artem Podrez