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Resume Tips for New Graduates with No Industry Internships or Work Experience

We’ve made it to another graduation season. This one feels a lot different following the challenges of the COVID year. Those college graduates who managed to maintain laser focus and drive to successfully complete a degree certainly deserve to be celebrated.

A few years ago, I wrote a post with resume tips for new graduates to increase their odds of securing an interview. Those tips are still very much relevant today and having recently worked with several new grads, I’d like to share a few more.

Get Clear about your Career Direction

Would you believe me if I told you that many resume writers find new graduate resumes among the most difficult resumes to write? It’s mainly due to the lack of work experience – it’s much more challenging to position someone as a qualified candidate on paper for a job they have no prior experience performing.

It’s important for recruiters and hiring managers to see what type of job you are applying to at a quick glance. Let’s say you’re applying for a mechanical engineering position. Your resume needs to include job-specific knowledge and skills to position you as a qualified candidate – even if you are applying for your first-ever mechanical engineering job.

Identify Transferrable Skills

A few years ago, I was contacted by a recent graduate with a degree in child psychology. She’d been applying for requisite grad school internships for 6 months with no response. I took a look at her resume and immediately identified the problem – she was submitting a resume that emphasized a 5-year waitressing and bartending background. When potential employers received her resume, it was written for waitressing or server positions. The resume that she shared was in no way highlighting the kind of knowledge and skills necessary to secure those child psychology program opportunities.

Most jobs share skills considered valuable across multiple professions. These are transferrable skills. If you don’t have the key skills required to perform a specific job as presented in a job description, your next move is to use that description as a guide to identifying the skills that you DO have and communicate them in the resume so that an employer can see the value as well.

What transferrable skills should you highlight in your resume? Well, it all depends on the job you’re applying for. Maybe you have project management experience from participating in assigned special projects at a previous job, working on a volunteer project with a university organization, or completing a required capstone project for graduation. You could easily highlight other skills from these sample scenarios like communications strategy, team leadership, and collaboration, process improvements, problem-solving, etc.

Highlight Key Coursework Knowledge

As a general rule, many employers don’t put much weight on a graduate’s newly-earned degree because you haven’t had a chance to apply that newfound knowledge in real life. This is where the frustration comes for many new grads – they want you to have the degree AND the hands-on experience, and that can be downright contradictory when you’re just starting out.

One strategy is to position your coursework on your resume as specialized training – especially if the knowledge you’ve obtained is recognized as an emerging trend in your chosen industry.

Identify and Sell Your Accomplishments

Your accomplishments are critical to standing out in a competitive job market. They are also the best evidence of your ability to perform specific functions and exceed expectations at your disposal.

The best accomplishments include measurable results or a direct benefit to the employer. I use the CAR rubric (Cause à Action à Result) to help my clients identify key accomplishments. This methodology also helps craft powerful, compelling stories of your successes that can be shared in an interview.

Connect the Dots

Resumes today are essentially marketing documents. There’s more involved than simply typing your chronological work history on a page. A resume needs a key focus, a unique value proposition, and a strategy that ties everything together to capture a reader’s interest enough to score an interview. Your academic and work narrative and needs to be compelling.

Don’t Forget the Keywords

Yes, keywords are still an important part of the selection process. If your resume is not infused with relevant keywords, it will never make it to the next phase of the decision-making process.

Use a job listing or job description as a guide for integrating job-specific keywords throughout your document so that your resume can pass the electronic screen for further consideration in the hiring process.

I won’t lie to you – getting that first job might require some patience. You’re essentially asking an employer to take a chance on your potential to come aboard a brand new job with minimal experience and quickly learn what’s required to establish a trajectory of performance that will hopefully lead to future promotions.

Image Credit: JodyHongFilms

Now be honest… is the resume and cover letter you’ve been submitting for jobs getting you noticed? What about your LinkedIn? Are you receiving invitations to interview? If not, we should talk! Contact me by phone: 1-866-562-0850 or email: for a NO COST, NO OBLIGATION 15-minute consultation. 

Kimberly Ben is a multi-credentialed Professional Resume and LinkedIn Writer and Job Search Coach. She has written hundreds of resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and other career communications for multiple career industries and professions. Kimberly’s extensive education, training, and experience have resulted in a clear understanding of current hiring best practices and the most effective job search techniques, branding strategies, and insight on what it takes to gain the competitive edge and impress employers in a challenging job market.

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