In most situations, experience is required to get a job after college, and employers are hesitant to make an offer unless you have previous experience—but what if you don’t have experience? This is a common catch-22 for college students. Whether you are a recent graduate or a current college student, here are some tips to overcome the lack of experience.
Include an objective or qualifications summary
The objective is optional, but can help if you don’t have a lot of experience, and would like to explain your background to a potential employer. Use this section to cover any suitable employment interests, yet be specific enough to give an element of sound career direction to your resume. This section is especially helpful because it describes your career goals to potential employers.
Focus on transferable skills
The term experience is often associated with paid work. However, transferable skills can be developed in various ways, including campus involvement, volunteerism, or leadership activities. When it comes to the importance of candidate skills, employers are looking for team players and candidates who have strong verbal communication skills (NACE Job Outlook Survey, 2012). Many of these skills can be developed in the classroom, through academic projects or presentations.
Integrate your transferable skills into all of your job descriptions. College students fall into the “it was just part-time work” or “that job was worthless” trap. In a resume, it’s all about how you communicate the information.
Pro tip: Try to integrate the following transferable skills into your resume descriptions as action verbs: communication, creativity, critical thinking, leadership, life management, research/project development, social responsibility, teamwork, and technical skills.
Don’t hesitant to list experiences that seem “out of the box”. If you worked on a fraternity project that required you to fundraise $2,000 for a local charity…tell employers about it!
If you didn’t gain experience during college because you focused on academic studies, be sure to highlight this to employers. College students can include academic achievements, scholarships, fellowships, and specialized honor societies on their resume. If your grade point average is a 3.0 or higher, go ahead and include it in the education or honors section of your resume.
Include relevant coursework
A relevant coursework section can show employers what you have studied thus far. If you are majoring in business, but also took courses in entrepreneurship and psychology, it may be advantageous to include them! Be cautious when listing relevant coursework – you want to include classes that stand out to an employer, not ones that are required for the degree.
Gain experience – if you still have time!
According to the NACE 2013 Student Survey, nearly two-thirds of graduating seniors from the Class of 2013 took part in an internship or a cooperative education assignment during their years pursuing a bachelor’s degree. If time is on your side, seek a meaningful internship experience relevant to your major or career goals. It’s never too early to start—many college recruiters want to see students engaged in internships as early as their freshmen year. Other opportunities for experiential learning include:
- Part-time work
- Job shadowing
- Summer jobs
- Study abroad
So most of all, just be mindful of your experiences, and make sure to include them. A lot of what you did in college is probably more useful in the job market than you think!