How to write a CV with no experience

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You’re applying for your first job.

It’s entry-level, doesn’t require years of experience, and all you have to do is send your CV. Great – but what exactly do you fill your CV with if you have little to no work experience?

Writing your first proper CV when you haven’t begun in the world of work yet can seem like an impossible feat.

To help you conquer the dreaded task, Tom Laws, careers adviser from the National Careers Service, has some pointers…

You may feel as if you don’t have anything to include in the Experience section of your CV if you haven’t had any jobs so far, but that certainly won’t be the case. Experience doesn’t just come from the workplace. You may have gained experience through some of the following.

Involvement in a club or society, either at school or in your own time, can certainly be included as experience, especially if you have had some role of responsibility, such as completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award or the National Citizen Service Scheme. This can demonstrate problem-solving skills and motivation.

Membership of a school or local sports team shows good communication abilities and skills relating to working well in a team.

Academic awards can also be highlighted. This includes attendance awards or certificates for writing, maths or sports.

Volunteering always looks good on a CV, so definitely include it if you can. If you haven’t got any volunteering experience, it may be worth considering giving a few hours of your time a week. Not only will you get something to add to your CV, but you’ll get a better idea of what ‘work’ is actually like.”

Create a skills CV

With all this in mind, the best approach is to make you as an individual the focus of the CV, rather than the work experience (or lack of) itself. A skills CV is the ideal way to do this.

A skills CV reverses the structure of a traditional work experience CV. Instead of listing chronologically whatever work history you have, pull out your main skills and qualities into a list, and describe how you’ve demonstrated those in your volunteering and other work-related history.

So you might want to think about a structure that looks like this:

  • Name and contact details – Include a link to your LinkedIn profile, as it shows you’re putting yourself out there as a professional.
  • Profile and career goal – A brief few lines explaining your strengths, what kind of professional you are, what role you are aiming for and why you’d be great for it.
  • Education and qualifications – Institutions, dates, summary of grades. Don’t forget to include any distinctions or other special awards.
  • Skills and achievements – Detail any relevant skills you have developed through club membership, volunteering etc. Examples include leadership skills, communication, problem solving, event organisation and much more. Add achievement recognition where applicable, and describe the successful outcome of your efforts.
  • Experience history – Finish with a very brief chronological list of jobs, volunteering or intern experience (you will not have to provide a great amount of detail you will have referred to already in your skills section).

Always remember, the skills we learn in everyday life are applicable to our work.

Tom says, “Transferable skills, such as communication skills and independent working are valuable to all employers, but you’d be wrong in thinking you can only acquire these skills through employment. Anything which shows you have learnt a new skill, or developed an existing one is worth including, so talk it over with your parents, teachers, friends, siblings, or fellow AAT members, or speak with an adviser at the National Careers Service for more ideas.”

Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland.

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