You’re flipping through the job advertisements online because, well, you’d like some money to pay for your mobile phone bill, and have a decent social life. Of course, Mum and dad have been all over you to get a job now you’re finished high school and frankly, if the truth be known, you’re pretty keen to start your life.
It’s easy to get discouraged. Job after job asks for experience and you have none. Well, none to get excited about anyway. You’ve tutored a few kids in maths, helped with some fundraising a couple of times, and in Year 10 you completed a two-week work experience placement where you sat around at a computer and added names and addresses to the database.
So here you are with no experience, no qualifications and you need to write a resume to sell yourself and give yourself half a chance of getting an interview. The question is, how?
Forget Clichés: Everyone writes “excellent communication and interpersonal skills” and “reliable and trustworthy”, “a team player”, “a people person” or an “innovative thinker”. When you describe yourself in this way, you’re only giving an opinion. And unfortunately, it’s your opinion. You may as well say “I’m the most fantastic, wonderful person in the whole world” because that means about as much and has as much value! If you’re going to sell yourself properly, then give an example of how you have used your skills to benefit others.
- Won the trust of teaching staff to retain the keys to the school sports administration area. Monitored inbound and outbound sports equipment, recorded names, and ensured the security of the area through a special authorisation/validation process.
Work with what you have: Don’t discount what you have achieved or done in the past. People don’t expect school leavers to have worked on a million-dollar merger and acquisitions. Our example showed that you have helped with fundraising, tutored some other students in maths and completed a two-week work placement. Check these out and think whether you think they sound impressive. (Hint: You should, because others will).
- Raised more than $2,000 as a regular fundraiser and contributor to the annual Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal. Door-knocked and provided a compelling case for donations, brainstormed a fun costume event to achieve sponsorship, and volunteered at the change counting centre throughout the 24-hour telethon.
- Devised easy-to-understand methods to train students struggling with Year 10 Advanced Mathematics. Students previously failing, progressed to complete the course with a “B” average—crediting improvement to the quality of assistance provided.
- Selected as only Year 10 student to complete two-week work experience program at the ABC Corporation. Initially an observation role, initiative and willingness to learn was rewarded with hands-on task in entering customer data into the database used to generate revenues for the business.
Sounds great doesn’t it? Who would have thought that those little items you disregarded as meaningless could look like e-x-p-e-r-i-e-n-c-e. You know that word you thought you were missing?
Now that’s all very nice I hear you say, but what I have nothing? No fundraising, no tutoring other students, no work experience placing? Nothing! zero, zip, nadda.
If that’s the case, we bring out the secret weapon. Your academic experience.
There are all different types of experiences. Life experiences, work experience, academic experience. Just getting through some days can be a lesson-learned!
So your secret weapon to combatting the “lack of experience” is to show your knowledge.
Think back over your last year of studies and think of projects that you worked on either by yourself or in groups with other students.
Think of projects that will showcase your knowledge and show how you used your problem-solving skills and team spirit. It would be a good idea to look first at the subjects you particularly enjoyed and for which you received the best results. Out of those projects you worked on, choose three or four that really stand out in your mind for either being interesting, demanding and hopefully, where you received a good score!
Now write down this information on a sheet of paper so you can work this out.
- To what subject was this project related?
- What (briefly) were you required to do for this project (such as write a report, for example)?
- How many team members worked on this project in addition to you?
- What were the most difficult aspects of the project? In other words, were there any specific challenges that impacted on the project’s progress or problems you had to overcome? These could be personal and/or professional. For instance, research may have been difficult to access, or one of your team members may not have worked as much as you thought they should have, or perhaps everyone’s timetables clashed. So what, if any, challenges did you have to overcome with this project?
- What action did you take to overcome those challenges/problems?
- If it was a team project, what specific part did you play? Were you assigned a certain area to research and write about? What was your direct input?
- Did you have to present this project to the class? Or was this project presented to a real-life employer as a solution to a real-life problem?
- What feedback did you receive for this project (such as a grade or award)?
So how would this look? Here are a couple of examples:
- Marketing: Key contributor to team of five researching the local café market and assessing how major players dominate with products, services, and brand names. Project explored the challenges new entrants to the market faced when pitted against retail “goliaths”. Team members’ competing time demands prompted a resolution to produce each component two weeks prior to deadline, allowing time to fine-tune the presentation prior to tutor’s review. Personally developed SWOT analysis on four major cafés in Australia. Result: 87%—one of the highest across the entire marketing level.
- Economics—Markets: Produced report exploring the issues surrounding Europe’s anti-trust case against Microsoft USA, and drew connections with the impact of monopoly power on the markets and consumers. Sourcing unbiased information proved a challenge, and disseminating complex information into graphs necessitated meticulous planning. Praised for report’s easy-to-understand format, which balanced the economic aspects of a monopoly with the anti-trust case. Score: 95%.
- Management: Composed 3,000-word report on the key components of being an effective manager. Scanned volumes of information to mine appropriate data, while simultaneously juggling a demanding schedule of competing project deadlines. Scoured Internet resources and traveled to several libraries to secure up-to-date reference material. Defined the functions and attributes of a manager and explored the challenges faced. The project received a score of 93%—a significant success in light of the lecturer’s high-expectations and stringent scoring methods
Powerful? Hard-hitting? You bet! Employers would have a hard time overlooking a resume that describes this kind of experience. Yes, I said experience. Look how each example also describes how you have solved problems to get a result.
You just need to think a little creatively as to how you can best describe yourself in a way that meets the requirements of the job.