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What to Write on Your CV When You Have More Life Experience than Work Experience

It has become increasingly difficult to get and maintain a job as a recent graduate especially the kind that suits your qualification. Many fresh graduates often end up at crossroads after they have left the university to seek jobs and they find out employers simply don’t want them. Because an employer is not only looking at what you have done, but what you can do, the truth is that you may have taken the easy way out and presented yourself with no work experience or skillset.

It’s one thing to write a resume when you’ve been in the field for years and have plenty of skillset that demonstrates your expertise, but when you’re just starting out, you may need to get a little more creative.

So before you get drowned in confusion wondering what to write on your CV, turn your life experience into work experience. You’ve got skills employers want – trust us!

General Rules

The best way to start writing your CV is with a short summary of 3-4 sentences that describe who you are and what you can bring to the company if employed, highlighting your skills and qualifications. The sentences should be brief and well written as it could pass as the first impression of you. It would also benefit you to not simply repeat the contents of your cover letter. If you can write a one size fits all summary, good. A better way is to take a look at the job description and find the skills and qualifications they are looking for and include these in your summary. This demonstrates your understanding of the mindset of your soon-to-be employer.

Academic Qualifications

Then you should list the qualifications that you have. As you have no or very limited work experience, it is highly important that you lead with what you do have. Always start with your most recent qualifications and list all in descending order – from your most recent qualification to elementary school.

Give details on the title of your qualification, where you studied, the grade you were awarded and the date you achieved it. If you have professional qualifications that you honestly DO NOT think relates to the job you are applying for, it will be better if you took it off for that one job as it may be meaningful to another.

Achievements

If there are any relevant achievements that you can openly brag about, include that in your CV. For example, you might have been awarded ‘Best Student’ in a particular subject once or twice or you were recognised as hardworking during an internship, you better put that down. Highlighting your achievements gives an employer a sense of who you are. By talking about your achievements, you are also reinforcing your skills.

Experience

Following this comes the part that you may find the most challenging; the experience section. Graduates rarely impress in relating their qualifications and skills in a way that is meaningful to the recruiter. They cannot explain what it means to hire them, and how exactly they can help the company.

When writing a CV the lack of direct work experience may make this section seem redundant; however you can still try to draw on different life experiences with the view of creatively highlighting any direct and transferable skills that you have.

Here are a few pointers:

You wrote a final-year project didn’t you?  The problem about mentioning dissertation writing on your CV is that it is simply not relevant to the employer. But if you say you have the skill to research and write lengthy documents that will make communications easier for the department, you will have a much better response and understanding from the employer. You have to bridge the gap of what you did and how it relates to the job.

Did you volunteer anywhere at any time? Add that. Even if you work-shadowed at a job with a top executive of a company, you can pen that down creatively on your CV. Any summer jobs? It doesn’t even have to be as direct as that. Have you participated in youth leadership programs, or ever been a member of a team? Have you done any mentoring? Just always relate it to the job in question

Have you planned an event in the past? Planning an event takes lots of practice and organisation and you can show off how much money or value (not in terms of money) you got from the event – which makes you look like a superstar!

Are you glued to Twitter and Instagram? Technically, you can be a sought-after candidate for a social media job if you have large number of followers on social media platforms. I bet you never thought that could pass for a job experience!

List these jobs experiences in order of most recent and most relevant first. If you would rather write a skills-based CV, divide your employment history into themes. For example you can write something like this:

Aruoyo Management consultants – Intern      April 2016 – October 2016

Six months internship with management consultancy firm supporting small businesses with guidance on business management and policy development.

  • Time Management: Dedication to effective prioritisation and management of time by allocating tasks and recording activities in diaries and daily to-do lists.
  • Research: Undertook extensive research to develop an understanding of various legislation and regulations relevant to clients’ requirements.

Skills

It’s easier to uncover your skills from your day-to-day life more than it is getting out work experience. So even if you have no work experience, you may have experience volunteering or simply performing a hobby. Make a list of all talents and volunteer experiences that have developed skills for the workplace. Here are a few examples of skills you can add to your CV.

Strong Leadership Skills: If you have ever been the captain of a sports team or a frontrunner in a competition or just like to tell people what to do, you  definitely have leadership skills for the work place.

Creative Abilities: Think of that ‘fine’ drawing or painting or story or meal you dredged up from imagination and BOOM! Everyone has been creative one way or the other in the past.

Problem Solving Skills: If you have solved a mystery before the movie ended, averted real danger, settled an argument or fixed a device, yes, you are skilled at solving problems.

Communication and Networking Skills: If you’re a chatterbox who loves nothing better than a good outdoor hangout, then you’re a great communicator with top communication skills. Employers in PR, media and marketing love people like you. For a particular job, this could also be written as Client engagement and support.

Financial Management Skills: If you have been to the market and returned with change and some quality shopping, that’s something rare. Knowing how to budget, save money and shop around for the best deal is gold to employers, gold.

Teamwork: Well, those group assignments in school have to count for something. Even if you never directly participated, your group scores were top-notch because you paid for the typing!

Presentation skills: Once again, think of all the times you were forced to present an assignment in front of the class amidst sweaty palms.

Social Media skills: That amazing Twitter count is proof that you can easily convince people. Employers are desperate to get their brands out on social media – and who better to help them do that than a social media whizz kid like yourself?

Organisational Skills: If you are a sucker for cleanliness, a well organised room, table or event gives you satisfaction, that’s a great example of your amazing organizational skills. What employer in the world doesn’t want to hire somebody who is organised?

Time management skills: Raise your hand if you have gotten commendations for always sending in assignments at the right time or doing anything way before the deadline.

Self-motivated: Well ofcourse, doing absolutely brilliantly in school is a dead giveaway for how self motivated you are.  Also, volunteering and keeping fit are also examples of being self-motivated. Write that down in your CV now.

Final note: Be Professional

Just because you don’t have any work experience yet does not mean you are unqualified. Maintain consistent tense, style, and font when writing your resume. Do not leave out your experience and skills section. By promoting your achievements, skills and experience, employers will be sure to see you as a perfect fit for their company, even with no work experience.

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