Dear December Grads: Here’s How to Navigate the Job Market with the “No Experience” Resume

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By Bianca Flowers

Your dream job just got posted and with a six month head start on the hoard of spring graduates, chances of landing the gig looks promising. But there’s one unnerving problem that plagues all recent grads after donning the cap and gown; you have absolutely zero relevant work experience. While the job market is supposedly optimal with opportunities as companies reallocate their budgets to bring in some new blood for the new year, less competition among your peers doesn’t translate into an job offer, or even an initial phone interview. However, there are still ways to make yourself stand out for potential employers.

Write a Killer Cover Letter

There’s no better way to distinguish yourself as the most viable candidate for a job than writing a bomb cover letter. Some jobs may consider submitting a cover letter as optional, but don't take the chance of being disqualified for not including one. Staying on point professionally as you brand yourself in one page or less can be daunting, however it’s the chance to sell your authenticity without stroking your ego too much. In some aspects, a manicured cover letter is more significant than an impeccable resume because it reveals your work ethic, attentiveness and personality. As the old saying goes, “first impressions are everything.” Keep that in mind as you’re stroking away at your keyboard because it may get your foot in the door. 

Play Up Your Skills, And Don’t Lie

There’s a fine line between highlighting your accomplishments and outright lying—do not cross it. Perhaps you did play a pivotal role at one of your internships that helped the company maximize profits on a product, or you started a small business when you were in school. Definitely toot your horn! Just don’t be disingenuous and embellish your resume to look more successful in hopes of catching a recruiter's eye. The slightest insincerity can be more harmful than helpful and can get your application trashed.

Unpaid Experience Counts

Just because you didn’t bring home a biweekly paycheck doesn’t make your internships or side hustles irrelevant. Highlight how you’ll utilize those transferable skills by including life challenges and real-world examples. Another huge plus is that unpaid experience shows a higher level of commitment to prospective employers. Involvement in extracurricular activities is also something your potential boss will not overlook so don’t refrain from adding project management skills you obtained from student organizations you led.

Include Soft Skills

Hard skills can land you an interview but soft skills may get you hired. During the screening process, recruiters are focused on filtering out candidates with the right technical skills to get the job done. Soft skills are attributes ingrained in our personality which job seekers can overlook at times but it’s certainly not something employers bypass. Hiring managers are adamant about finding the right person to fit in professionally but also want someone who is relatable and can work harmoniously within a team. If you’re not sure which soft skills you possess, make it a point to ask your mentor (if you have one), a former boss or a professor. Acquiring people skills that are aligned with conflict resolution, adapting to changing circumstances and having the willingness to learn from experience can potentially convert an interview into an offer.