How to Write Your CV If You Lack Relevant Work Experience

If you’ve just left school or college you may not have any relevant work experience to include on your curriculum vitae (CV). This situation may concern you when you start looking for your first job.

There are probably lots of activities you’ve undertaken in and outside of school or college that you can draw upon that you haven’t given a second thought to include on your CV. Many of these activities can demonstrate transferrable skills and behavioural competencies that fit with many different job roles. In fact sharing these experiences will give the reader a rounded view of you as a person and your values.

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Having no relevant work experience shouldn’t be an excuse to throw together a word document. Start as you mean to go on and make sure you follow the same basic principles when it comes to writing your CV – particularly if this is your first CV.

Here are some basics CV rules:

Contact Details – make sure it’s easy for the hiring manager or the agency to contact you by several different methods. Today email tends to be the biggest method used to contact candidates so make sure it’s a professional email address. Recruitment agencies will often call you on your mobile in the first instance so again make sure you have a professional voice mail and / or answer the phone professionally. You are now on the job market so should act and behave accordingly.

Personal Statement – normally this is a brief summary outlining career aspirations and some key information about your attributes and what you can bring to the position and company. If you have just left school or college you might include more information on your career ambitions and back this up with some evidence. You may have several different statements because you may be open to different sectors and career opportunities. We’ll go into more detail later.

Related: Top 10 Things Better Leave Off Your CV

Education – if someone has an established career they might just include the basics (Name of school or college, type of qualification, dates of study, grades achieved etc). However if you don’t have much or any work experience to share you may want to include a little more detail about the modules and subjects covered. Courses and qualifications are constantly changing and the hiring manager will be interested in the subjects you’ve covered during your studies. This will certainly give the interviewer an idea of the knowledge you have albeit theoretical.

Hobbies & Interests – this section might disappear later in your career if it’s no longer relevant or you may want to include this section if you are changing career direction. We’ll go into more detail below.

Here are some other ideas to consider when you are writing your CV.

Career Ambitions and Goals



It’s really important to let the reader know where you are planning to go in your career. You can do this in the personal statement section of your CV. If you don’t have any work experience you need to demonstrate a general idea of what you are looking to do and what you are interested in. It doesn’t have to be a long term plan set in stone at this stage. Employers understand you are just starting out in your job search and may not have a 10 year career plan mapped out in detail. However, you do need to demonstrate a general path for example, retail, banking, catering, design, marketing, finance etc.
It’s no good making statements like “I’ve always wanted to work in garden design” if it’s not even one of your hobbies or interests. Employers want to see you’ve made some effort to gain knowledge in this area. Do you read specialist journals or trade magazines? Do you subscribe to websites and updates in that sector? Are you a member of a club or association?

Interview styles are likely to be very different for junior level roles or apprenticeships or for candidates with no work experience. The questions will focus mainly on the information you’ve put on your CV. So don’t get caught out by copying and pasting the standard hobbies and interests from a template as you’ll be asked lots of questions about these topics.

Voluntary Work



If you are a regular volunteer in the local community this is great experience to include on your CV. There are lots of transferable behavioural competencies to demonstrate to your future employer as long as you communicate this effectively.

Related: 5 Great Tips for Writing a Successful CV

I’ve been supporting Race for Life for a few years now and we often attract graduates or school leavers with career aspirations to work in event management and they want to gain some work experience in that field. Fundamentally this is a great opportunity to raise awareness, support a cause and help out in the local community. It’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate common behavioural competencies essential for most jobs.

So what does this all mean for your CV? Sticking to the Race for Life example, there are lots of different roles on the day, helping to set up and de-rig the course over 5k and 10k areas, course marshals, managing enquiries and administration, meet and greet volunteers and many more. Volunteering involves working as a team, listening to instructions or delegating tasks to ensure everyone is kept busy. This is what true team work involves – not just you doing all the work yourself. It involves being able to listen, understand and follow instructions. It involves being able to communicate clearly and concisely face to face and on two way radio and work with a diverse group of people. It’s a great way of demonstrating lots of different behavioural competencies (communication skills, team work, time management etc).

As volunteers we also need to be encouraging, supportive, and sympathetic, respond quickly and calmly to incidents and accidents and at all times take responsibility for health and safety. Think about your role as a volunteer and what behavioural competencies are required to perform your tasks and duties.

Hobbies & Interests



Not all hobbies will be appropriate to put on your CV – so think carefully which ones you’d like to share with your future boss. Think about the team related hobbies you are involved in – this will demonstrate you are potentially a team player and employers like this competency. Even better if you have been a team captain or you’ve been involved in organising sporting events or other community events.
Remember if you don’t have any work experience to share then you’ll have some space to give a little more detail about hobbies. Eventually when you’ve carved out a career or have an employment history to include on your CV then this section will be replaced by other information such as training certificates or professional memberships.

Related: How to Write a Winning CV

Work Experience



You may have had some work experience but it’s not relevant to the sector you want to start your career. Even if you have helped out in the family business or your school work experience placement – include this on your CV and add some detail. Again focus on the potential transferable skills and behavioural competencies. Here are some questions to ask to help you generate some ideas. Did your work experience involve managing customers face to face or over the telephone? Managing clients and customers is a useful competence. Did you have to manage a high volume of calls? Was your workload high? Think about your planning and organising skills at the time. Did you have to plan your time during the day to meet all the tasks? Did you work under pressure or have targets to meet? Was it a regulated environment? Did you have to read policies or procedures? What did you learn about the company and the products and services?

When you start writing your CV think about all those transferable skills and how you’ve executed this knowledge. Think about the information you’ve learnt and how you’ve previously used this information and applied this knowledge.

Good luck in your current job search!!

Photo by: archi trujillo
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