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How to Write a Resume With No Work Experience

student writing a resume with no job experience

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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? Why do you need work experience to get work experience? 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, without any work experience needed.

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Do You Need a Resume for Your First Job?

Yes, generally you need a resume to apply for and get any job, including your first one. Your resume for your first job will look different from your resume once you’ve had multiple years of work experience, and that’s OK.

Your resume for your first job will include non-work experiences, such as internships, volunteering, and extracurriculars. It will likely also focus on your education and any courses you took or projects you worked on. This is because your education is a key indicator of your skills at this point in time.


Once you’ve worked for a few years, you’ll naturally start focusing your resume more on your work experiences and less on non-work experiences and your education. 

How to Write a Resume With No Experience: 5 Steps

You know you need a resume for your first job — so how do you write one? You’ll need to write to the job description and highlight experiences that have bolstered your skills.

1. Pull From the Job Description

Every resume you submit should be tailored for the job description you’re applying to. This is especially important when you’re first starting out and may be applying to different types of roles. For example, you don’t want to have one resume that simply pulls every single experience, from your tech programming skills to your creative writing. Instead, you may have different versions of your resume depending on the type of role you’re applying for.

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 it’s 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 Your Education

When you don’t have any work experience, your education can be a helpful indicator of what skills you’ve built and where your knowledge lies. For example, if you want to be a software engineer, showing that you majored in computer science and sharing relevant coursework can help a hiring manager understand the technical skills you have.

In your education section, you should include:

  • School details: Include the name of your school, your major, and your expected graduation date (or your graduation date if you’ve already graduated).
  • GPA: You should include your GPA on your resume if the employer asks for it. If they don’t, you should still include it if you’re been out of school for fewer than three years and if your GPA is higher than a 3.5.
  • Honors and awards: If you’re received any specific honors or awards, list them under this section. 
  • Relevant coursework: Share the names of classes you’ve taken that relate to the job description, especially if they indicate that you’ve learned specific skills the hiring manager is looking for. For example, if the company is looking for someone with proficiency in another language and you took Spanish classes in college, add the name of the highest level course on your resume.
  • School projects: School projects that relate to the job description can be a great way to show you’ve had hands-on experience. You can list this in your education section. If you have multiple projects you want to highlight, you can make a separate “projects” section.

3. 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): Internships are any short-term experiences where you’ve done entry-level work for a specific company. You should name the company you worked for, achievements you had in that role, and any skills you learned — especially workplace soft skills like teamwork, communication, and collaboration
  • Externships: Externships are short programs where you shadow a professional in the workplace. While you may not have as direct an impact as you might in an internship, try to quantify what you learned and include any hard or soft skills you learned along the way.
  • Job shadowing: Like an externship, job shadowing typically involves more following and observing a professional than completing work-based tasks. However, job shadowing still shows initiative, curiosity, and willingness to learn — which is crucial to show on an entry-level resume!
  • Extracurriculars, like school clubs and sports teams: Even though extracurricular activities are often fun things you participate in during your free time, they demonstrate a commitment to your interests and skills. They’re also a great way to show off your soft skills; for example, if you were the captain of your club basketball team, that shows leadership
  • Volunteer positions: Volunteering not only shows potential hands-on experience you’ve had, but also your ability to engage with other people, help your community, and work for causes you care about.
  • Part-time jobs: Jobs like babysitting, lifeguarding, and being a hostess are all incredibly valuable work experiences that can show your dedication and responsibility. Pull out transferable skills that relate to the job you’re applying for now. For example, you may have picked up great customer service skills while you were a hostess, which can translate well to client work in client-facing roles.
  • Independent projects: If you’ve sought out projects on your own, whether that’s designing posters for a friend’s event or doing some independent coding work, you can add this to your resume, too. This shows dedication, drive, and commitment.

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 likes 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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4. 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:

Rather than including them in a separate skills section, the best way to show off your soft skills is in the descriptions of your work experiences. For example, if you want to mention you have good collaboration skills, you might write:

Collaborated with team members to brainstorm, test, and implement new marketing strategies to drive 40% more students to the club’s homepage

Soft skills include:

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5. Include Any Certifications

If you’ve taken any courses outside of school or gotten specific certifications, you should include these in a certifications section of your resume.

If you’ve done a Forage job simulation, this is the best place to detail your work. You can include Forage on your resume in this format:

[Insert Company Name] Job Simulation 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 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. 

Haven’t taken a Forage job simulation yet but want to get experience to add to your resume? Try out top Forage programs across different industries:

IndustryForage Job Simulation
Investment bankingJ.P. Morgan Investment Banking
DataAccenture Data Analytics and Visualization
SalesRed Bull On-Premise Sales
AccountingPwC Audit
Marketinglululemon Merchandising
Project ManagementAccenture Project Management
Software EngineeringElectronic Arts Software Engineering
Human ResourcesGeneral Electric Explore Human Resources
SecurityMastercard Cybersecurity
Health CareThermo Fisher Genetic Sciences
Client ServiceBloomberg Client Service
Designbp Digital Design & UX
LawMayer Brown Introduction to Litigation

Resume With No Work Experience: Sample and Template

Resume Sample

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. 

Resume Template

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 Tips

Now that you know what to include on your first resume, what else should you remember as you start to work on your applications?

Show Your 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.

Stay Relevant to the Role You’re Applying For

When you’re trying to write a resume with no experience, it can be tempting to try and fill up the page with everything you’ve ever done. Instead, it’s crucial to stay relevant only to the role you’re applying for. 

To help you tailor your resume for each role, you can come up with one giant “braindump” resume that includes every experience you’ve had, no matter how relevant it may be to one position or another. Include every project, extracurricular, or internship you might want to put on a resume.

Then, as you apply to roles, create a fresh resume doc and copy and paste the experiences that match that role from your “braindump” resume. This way, you’re only selecting experiences that matter to the role you’re applying for — and you don’t have to worry about forgetting your overall experience.

Focus on What You Do Have

It can be easy to stress about the work experience you don’t have when applying for your first job. However, it’s important to remember that employers aren’t looking for someone with years of experience to fill entry-level positions! 

Instead, focus on the experiences you do have, whether you participated in school projects, volunteering, or extracurricular activities, and how to best articulate your impact. 

Employers look for motivated, dedicated students who can learn quickly and have a growth mindset. They’re not looking for resumes with tons of expertise, but rather people who have  potential. 

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.

Looking to build more experience — without needing to get professional experience? Try a free Forage job simulation to build your skills and get job-ready.

FAQ

What should I put in my resume if I have no experience?

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.

How do I write my first resume with no experience?

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.

How do I write a resume for my first job?

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.

Should you have a resume if you have no experience?

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

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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