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How to Write a Great CV with No Work Experience

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Guest post: Beth Leslie
 
Embarking on your career after university should be exciting. But many graduates find themselves facing the same frustrating conundrum: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. 
 
Luckily, the skills which employers value most are not only gained through the world of work. The trick to writing a CV with no experience is finding creative ways show you have the transferable skills needed to make you a fantastic hire. 
 
Wondering how to write your CV with no work experience to mention? Read on:

1. Identify your most impressive qualities 

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Writing a CV is essentially about putting together a personal sales pitch. The first thing to do, therefore, is figure out what you’re selling! Make a list of all the things you’re good at, regardless of whether they’re “professional” qualities or not. Then, match each item on your list to one (or more!) of the top skills employers look for
 
Are you a star on the hockey pitch? That’s teamwork and drive. Do you write a blog which always has your friends in stiches? You’re creative and good at written communication. 

2. Open with a personal statement 

 

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This will be the very first thing any potential employer will read, so getting it right is key. Top tip? Keep it as short and simple as possible. 150 words is about right. 
Start by introducing yourself with your education level and a top skill or two (“I am a hardworking and self-motivated recent graduate”). You’ll go into more detail later, so only add in your degree subject or university if you feel it’s particularly impressive or relevant to the role you’re applying for.  
 
Make sure you also set out what you’re looking for. If you’re applying for only one sector, this can be specific – “I’m looking for roles in PR” – but if you want to keep your options open, keep it general: “I’m looking for a role which will challenge me.”

3. List skills rather than roles

 

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Most CVs begin by listing the candidate’s most recent employment(s), but if you haven’t worked before or have only worked in unrelated industries, it’s much better to start your CV with a list of skills you’ve acquired. Employers will see them as much more interesting and relevant than your stint stacking supermarket shelves!
 
This is where that prewritten list of skills and examples come in useful. You can quickly cross-reference different experiences so you have multiple examples under each heading, with the evidence to back up your claims. Using examples makes a skill-based CV much more powerful – and believable! 

4. Don’t forget “obvious” skills

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Do you have a driver’s license? Can you use a range of software packages? Are you social-media savvy? Often, graduates leave out skills employers want because they think they are self-evident or unimportant. 
 
If you can do something which could be useful in the workplace, put it in. Especially applicable are computer programs you can use and languages you can speak (you don’t have to be fluent for it to be useful, but don’t lie about your ability).

5. Treat your extra-curricular activities like jobs

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Just because you weren’t paid for something doesn’t mean you didn’t gain valuable business skills from it. List your volunteer roles as you would a job – detailing the length of time you volunteered, relevant tasks you undertook and the skills you developed. 
 
Often, you’ll find extra-curricular roles are more similar to the graduate jobs you’re applying for than any casual work you undertook. Prioritize them as such. If you’re applying for copywriting roles, employers will be more impressed to hear that you wrote for your student newspaper than that you worked for a local fast-food restaurant.

6. Play up your degree

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Degrees are a great source of transferable skills. If you wrote a dissertation, then you can talk about your research abilities. If you gave presentations as part of your degree, you can claim to have experience pitching. You could also mention skills gained through group project work, independent organization and planning, and any specific knowledge relevant to the role.
 
Don’t make the mistake of leaving blank space in your CV just because you’re lacking in work experience. The experience section of any CV is simply a way to demonstrate how past experiences would be useful to a future employer. You’ll have plenty to draw on from your degree, so use it!  

7. Add some personality

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Run a marathon? Won an award? Skydived? Put it on your CV. 
 
Employers receive many applications for each graduate job. Standing out from the crowd and being memorable is a big boost towards getting called in for interview. 
 
If there aren’t any obvious professional skills related to an achievement or activity, don’t try and crowbar them in. Simply list the hobby under an “other interests” section and don’t bother to go into detail. The aim here is simply to be memorable, not to convince employers that jumping out of a plane has prepared you for their workplace!
 
Beth Leslie is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their blog for more graduate careers advice. If you are looking for an internship or want to explore the graduate jobs London has to offer, head to their website. 

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