Whether you are looking for your first ever job, have recently left university and want to secure a graduate role, or you are in the middle of a career change – there are many reasons why you may be staring at your CV, wondering what you can include as relevant experience.
Even if you don’t have experience in a specific industry, there are still plenty of ways to showcase your aptitude for a role.
- Focus on what you have done, not what you haven’t
- Write an impactful personal statement
- List your relevant skills
- Don’t forget your portfolio
Focus on what you have done, not what you haven’t
If you don’t have that all important work experience, it can be easy to get weighed down in what you haven’t done, rather than what you have done. But there are still plenty of things you can include on your CV that count as experience.
If you have been through school, college or university then saying you have “no experience” isn’t true. Education provides people with a wealth of experiences:
- Group projects are examples of communication and teamwork
- Presentations improve your confidence and public speaking skills
- Essays, exams and coursework demonstrate how you can meet deadlines, understand and adhere to briefs, follow instructions and work well under pressure
- Studying multiple subjects shows how you are effective at managing your time, including organising and prioritising your workload
If you went on to study A Levels or have a degree, then the subjects you specialised in should also give your CV a boost. If you are applying for a job in IT, then mention that you studied this at GCSE or A Level. If the job is in the creative sector, include that you have qualifications in creative subjects like media, graphic design or art.
Reflect on your education and think about the skills and interests you developed while studying – there will be a lot more than you think!
Extracurricular activities and hobbies
Another good talking point for your CV when you don’t have any work experience is what you do in your spare time.
Extracurricular activities are the things you do as part of your education aside from your formal lessons. Are you part of a club at school or college, or a member of a society at university? Perhaps you’re a member of a sports team?
Hobbies are things you do in your spare time and often aren’t organised in the same way as extracurricular activities. For example, perhaps you enjoy reading, painting or photography? Maybe you write a blog, play video games or play an instrument?
Extracurricular activities and hobbies help you develop soft skills like verbal and written communication, teamwork, using your initiative and organisation. They also demonstrate your interests, giving the employer a sense of your personality, and show you have commitment and enthusiasm to take part in activities outside of your mandatory lessons.
You should definitely include any voluntary work on your CV. On top of gaining practical skills and experience, volunteering is often a similar experience to what it’s like to have a paid job: you need to turn up on time, have a list of duties to carry out before the end of the day, work within teams and independently, and represent an organisation.
If you have never volunteered but are struggling to secure a job, it’s a good idea to consider volunteering somewhere once a week to build up your knowledge and skills. This could be the difference between securing an interview or not.
Write an impactful personal statement
Your personal statement is a short paragraph that comes just after your personal details. It’s one of the first things a potential employer will read on your CV, so it’s a great chance to show how you would fit well within the role and company, even if you don’t have work experience.
Don’t write a generic personal statement to use for every job application, as nothing will stand out to the person reading it. Look at the job description and note down some of the words used in the advert, as you can include these in the personal statement.
For example, are they looking for someone with good time keeping skills? Say you are punctual. Perhaps part of the role will involve helping customers? Mention that you are friendly and polite.
Your personal statement is also a good place to demonstrate your passion for the industry or sector. If the position is in a library and you enjoy reading, make sure to mention this. In a lot of industries, employers look to hire people that have a genuine interest in the sector – skills can be taught, but enthusiasm can’t.
You can also show you have the right kind of personality for the job. There are lots of personality traits that can help in certain roles:
- Being a people person can help in customer or client facing roles
- If you have good attention to detail, this will be great for jobs that involve cleaning and tidying, proof-reading, taking notes at meetings, double checking spreadsheets, and much more
- Are you an early riser or a night owl? That will come in handy for roles that involve hours outside of 9am – 5pm, such as bar work or cleaning
- Being a quick learner is a useful attribute to have when working in a fast-paced environment
- Patience and remaining calm are helpful in the education and care sector, as well as customer facing roles
List your relevant skills
If you don’t have anything to put in the ‘Employment history’ section of your CV, then we would suggest replacing it with a ‘Skills’ section.
If a recruiter has a lot of CVs to get through in a short space of time, submitting a CV that has a ‘Skills’ section makes it easy for them to see how you are a good fit for the role.
It’s a good idea to list your skills succinctly, with a short explanation for how or where you gained them. For example:
- Teamwork – developed through university group projects and being part of a football team
- Communication skills – developed through written coursework, exams and presentations
- Organisation and time management skills – managing my time between studies, social life and extracurricular activities
- Attention to detail – ensuring my university work is high quality through proof reading and fact checking before submitting
- IT skills – proficient in Microsoft Office programs, such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel
Don’t forget your portfolio
Are you applying for creative jobs, for example in media, journalism, or art and design? With these industries, you can boost your CV by including a link to an online portfolio. Your portfolio should display the variety of work you have done during your studies or in your own time.
This will demonstrate the practical skills you have, for example your writing ability or whether you are proficient in programs like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. On top on this, it will showcase your creativity and eye for design.
Still need more help with securing a job? Take a look at our article on how to get a job with no experience.
Last updated on 13 September 2022Share this article