Are You Experienced?
Think you don't have a lot of work experience? A close look at your
skills may reveal that you have more experience than you think.
Feeling a bit inexperienced? You may be hurting your chances of getting
the job you want. If you think you're short on work experience, you should
investigate your past. You probably have more skills than you think.
Joyce Lain Kennedy is a syndicated career columnist and author of Resumes
for Dummies. She recommends you use every bit of experience you have
to your advantage. "Your challenge is to maximize every atom of marketable
experience in your background."
Deciding on a Resume Format
The first thing you have to do is to connect the requirements of the job
you want to your own qualifications. The resume format you choose can help
match your experience to the job you're applying for.
Kennedy recommends using a functional format, which describes both paid
and unpaid experience in skill clusters. Skill clusters are used on the functional
resume to group skills and experiences by category.
She also suggests using the term "work history" instead of "employment
"An employment history suggests paid work, while a work history includes
unpaid work as well," Kennedy says.
Kevin Davidson the owner of a resume company in Texas. He also suggests
using the functional format.
"A functional resume, with chronological information, would be most applicable.
The functional section should include an employee candidate's explanation
of their skills and abilities," he says.
Teena Rose is a certified resume writer in Ohio. She notes that a job
seeker with limited experience should be creative when designing an entry-level
"Identifying and highlighting transferable skills within an objective or
unique category, e.g. skills-at-a-glance, will tell prospective employers
what's relevant and present the job seeker as an advanced entry-level candidate."
Are You Experienced?
Don't think that paid work experience is the only experience you've got.
Instead, look closely at all of your past activities and see how they relate
to the job skills an employer is looking for. It all adds up to experience.
"A person's abilities can be developed to make up for the lack of direct
experience. Experience can be viewed several different ways," says Davidson.
Kennedy recommends you use unpaid experience in the exact same way
you use paid experience. She explains, "The fact that you were paid
in psychic satisfaction or school credit is not important. The important
thing is that you learned the skill, not how much you were paid to learn
Are you a volunteer or have you done any volunteer work in the past? Rose
says volunteer (pro bono) work can replace actual work experience if the job
responsibilities mirror the job seeker's career focus. She recommends
getting as much experience as possible from volunteer work.
"If the unpaid position offers no value, request special projects or responsibilities
that will be more of an asset."
Wondering if school-related activities can be used in place of paid experience?
Rose says that activities that would be relevant to prospective employers,
whether paid, unpaid or school related, are perfectly acceptable within a
Potential Isn't Experience
The proof is in your experience when it comes to your resume. You may
know you can do the job and have the potential to achieve great things, but
be careful to back up any claims.
Rose warns, "Today's resumes are avoiding the use of soft skills, such
as 'team player' or 'hardworking individual.' Hiring businesses seem
to be more interested in quantitative results or hard skills that measure
an employee's worth."
Kennedy advises that "have done" is always rated higher than "will do"
because the former is proof and the latter speculation.
"Nevertheless, you can quote statements of outstanding potential by professors
and other professionals who know how you function and that vibrancy will help
lift your resume above the crowd. The technique of getting others to do the
bragging about your potential is more effective than saying it yourself,"
No Experience? Get Some
You've investigated your past and still feel like you're lacking the experience
you need. There is hope. Just get some experience.
Kennedy stresses the importance of experience. She suggests, "Do volunteer
work immediately. Join the Peace Corps. Wait tables. Hide out in grad school
while you major in internships. From now on, your mental campaign button
should read: 'It's the experience, stupid.'"
Rose also offers some hope. "With the resources available today, a person
can obtain hands-on experience through not-for-profit groups, volunteer opportunities,
internships and so on. [Possibilities are] limited only by a job seeker's imagination
and drive to succeed."
Davidson suggests volunteering your services to an organization similar
to the one you want to work for. He says this would give you the opportunity
to understand the dimensions, qualifications, knowledge, skills and abilities
an employer is looking for.
Use Your Experience
Now that you've done a little detective work and found you really do have
experience, you've got to use it to sell yourself. When matching this newly
discovered experience on your resume to the job requirements, you need
to separate your work into fragments and explain each of them.
"Don't say you worked on a digital help desk for an Internet service provider
and let it go at that. Divide the job into such activities as hardware reviewing,
investigating settings, handling protesting customers with courtesy...and
so forth," says Kennedy.
"Where possible, sum up the outcomes and mention outstanding
accomplishments. (Solved 80 percent of troubleshooting assignments, including
three customer accounts saved because of my quick and correct actions.)"
Rose says to analyze which skills are top-ranked in the target position.
Examine your background, she suggests, and see if you can come up with any matches.
For example, if careful control of a budget is important, you might mention experience
as the treasurer of a campus organization and your excellent stewardship of its funds.
Got the idea? Keep investigating your past and keep looking for new ways
to gain valuable knowledge and skills. Then you'll have all the experience
you need to land that job.