The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume with Little to No Experience

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Resume with Little to No Experience

If you’ve read anything online about writing a resume, the examples can appear a bit daunting if you have little to no experience:

Won the O. S. Card award for journalistic achievement...”

Optimized administrative processes to save 15% on annual costs…”

Uncovered $25,000 in annual savings through cost analysis…”

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve never done anything like that and I don’t have that kind of experience.”

Job hunting is already, well… a job in itself. 

Add on top of that the conundrum of getting a job before you have any experience to help you write an awesome resume and win the job…

And it gets harder. 

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to format and write your resume in a way that pulls from what you do have.

(And you’ve got a lot more to offer than you might think.)

The result?

A resume that will help you get the job, even if you have little to no experience. 

Whether you:

  • Just graduated high school and are looking to get your first job
  • Are fresh out of college and want to know how to position yourself to compete against people who have more experience than you
  • Or you’re making a career change and need to know how to write your resume using what you have to make a smooth transition

No matter what you’re starting with or where you’re at in your career, the guide below will show you how to craft a resume that makes you look like the best person for the job.

So, let’s get started.

What this guide will cover

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to format and write a resume when you have little to no experience
  • The best tool for hooking recruiters the moment they look at your resume (and how to write it)
  • The #1 most important step before writing your resume (that can be completed in under 5 minutes)
  • A step-by-step method for writing a cover letter
  • How to use your education experience and other relevant details as assets on your resume
  • Tips for formatting and writing your resume if you’re making a career change
  • How to get your resume past ATS
  • And much more

Putting together a killer resume takes work, so don’t waste the time and energy you invest in crafting it by using a bad resume design. Save hours of hassle by choosing from one of Resumebuild’s ready-made and professionally-designed templates.

Check out our full library of template examples here.

Part 1: How to write a resume when you have little or no work experience

There’s a lot you can do to write a great resume even if you have little to no work experience.

However, you need to know the right tricks to employ, particularly ones that allow you to shift the focus from your lack of experience to your abundance of other positive qualities such as:

  • Quality education
  • Relevant skills
  • Unpaid experience
  • Additional training and certifications
  • And other details

Let’s start with how to format your resume, where every good resume should start, but especially if you don’t have much experience.

1. How to format your resume so you stand out, even with limited experience and achievements

Formatting your resume in a way that displays your strong points is key, especially when you lack experience.

Typically, most resumes use a reverse chronological order.

Which looks like this:

  1. Summary or objective statement
  2. Experience
  3. Education
  4. Skills
  5. Other details (Certifications, accolades or honors, additional training, hobbies and interests, etc.)

In a reverse chronological structure, it’s your experience that is displayed most prominently immediately after your profile (whether that’s a summary or objective). 

Clearly, that’s a problem. 

If you don’t have much (or any) experience, you need to shift things around, even potentially doing away with the experience section altogether.

That pretty much comes down to one of three different formats, each shifting a different section of your resume up above your experience section:

  1. Skills-first
  2. Education-first, or
  3. Other details-first (such as certifications or special training)

Which is the best fit for you depends on your situation and strong points:

  • Are you just out of high school/not yet started college? Skills-first is probably best unless you’ve picked up a few bits of volunteer experience (and even then). 
  • Currently in college? Use your education and completed coursework thus-far as a selling point. 
  • Recently graduated from college? Education-first is best.
  • Making a career change and you don’t have much relevant experience in your new industry? Skills-first can help you show recruiters what relevant skills you’ve picked up from previous jobs.
  • And if you’re going into a career where certification or special training is important (such as a firefighter), making a special section titled “Certifications”, “Special Training” or something similar and putting it above your experience is probably best.

We’ll be talking about strategies for both recent grads and career changers later, so let’s go with another example. 

Let’s say you’re currently in college, so you don’t have your degree just yet.

If that’s you, list your education but with the date section as: “[Date Started] – Present” so you make it clear you haven’t graduated yet.

Like this:


University of California

Accounting / 2018 – Present

GPA 3.75

Relevant coursework:

  • Payroll management
  • Accounts receivable/payable
  • Account analysis
  • Tax management
  • Profit and loss

List out all relevant coursework you’ve completed so far so they can see what skills you’ve learned. 

That allows you to get most of the benefits of listing out your education, which will really help your case if you don’t have any relevant experience yet.

We’ll talk later about how to format your resume if you’ve just graduated or are making a career shift and don’t have any relevant industry experience.

But before we do that, let’s talk more about what you can do in general to amp up your resume if you have little to no experience.

And no matter how much experience, education, or relevant skills you have, that always starts in the same place: learning how to target your resume to each individual job post. 

2. How to customize your resume for each job you apply to

Want to know one of the single most important keys to writing a great resume?

Find out what recruiters are looking for (and how they’re wording it) and include that in your resume.

No, I’m not saying to lie or make things up. Rather, I mean that you should include points for those things which:

  • They mention wanting
  • And you have

The below is taken straight from the job description for an administrative assistant:

Duties and Accountabilities:

  • Efficient handling of the quote and sales order processes
  • Provide information, reports and support to outside sales representatives
  • Compile and create sales reports for sales and management team
  • Compose letters and emails as needed
  • Manage calendars and schedules for sales teams
  • Book travel as needed
  • Answer phones and direct questions to proper team member

Interpersonal Skills:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Effective relationship management
  • Self-motivated
  • Bi-lingual is a plus

Great, that gives us a lot to work with, even if you don’t have relevant experience yet.

How to target your resume: An example

Let’s say you’ve done some volunteer work acting as an assistant to the person in charge of running a fundraiser, special event, or in some other capacity.

Point is, you have relevant skills and experience that match much of what they’re asking for here.

That’s a big selling point.

Let’s say you’re going with your skills section first, right after your objective.

You might write it like this:



  • Wrote 50+ emails per day for OC5k
  • Answered 75+ phone calls and managed multi-line phone for local charity, helping direct questions to proper team members 
  • Provided technical information and support to participants during local volunteer event
  • Used interpersonal skills to manage relationships with charity managers and participants
  • Bilingual (Spanish, Fluent)

Imagine starting your resume off like that?

It certainly doesn’t look like you have no experience to me.

Let’s break down exactly what we did there. 

First, we went in and cherry picked some of the experience they got from their past volunteer work that was relevant to the job post and included it.

Specifically, these points:

  • Provide information, reports and support to outside sales representatives
  • Compose letters and emails as needed
  • Answer phones and direct questions to proper team member


  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Effective relationship management
  • Bi-lingual is a plus

But we didn’t stop there.

There’s a second very important step that helps you communicate those relevant skills to the recruiter:

Why you should use recruiter’s own language

What do I mean by “using a recruiter’s language”?

I didn’t just write:


  • Averaged 75+ daily phone calls and managed multi-line phone for local charity 

Typically, that’d be fine.

It’s written using specific numbers and is relatively compelling.

But to make it even better, pull in some of the exact language the recruiter used in their description to speak directly to them.

So, instead, write it like this:


  • Answered 75+ phone calls and managed multi-line phone for local charity, helping direct questions to proper team members 

(Bold used to point out where we used exact wording)

Just two small changes, but the difference it will make is sizable.

Particularly the addition at the end, “helping direct questions to proper team members”, taken almost word-for-word from the original description.

You don’t want to get too crazy and start doing this on every line, but a few times in each key section can really help communicate that you have what they want. 


Because you’re speaking their language

People respond best when you speak in a way that they’re familiar with, which is what we did above. 

And if you’re worried about the amount of work this might take, don’t be.

A resume targeted to a specific job post is worth 10 blindly sent out in mass (or more), so it’s well worth the effort.

Plus, in your research if you notice a common trend, you can modify your base resume to include those phrases you keep seeing pop up across different job posts, making any mass sends you end up doing that much more effective. 

Now, let’s jump into the actual writing of your hotly anticipated new resume, starting with your resume objective.

3. Why an objective statement is key and how to include it in your resume

Every good resume starts with a resume objective or summary, and that’s no different here.

As opposed to a resume summary, which is best when you have lots of experience/accomplishments, a resume objective is specifically good when you have little or no experience. 

So, that’s what we’ll be using here.

An objective includes:

  • A short summary of your relevant experience, education, and/or skills
  • A statement expressing your interest in obtaining a position and applying your skills with the company

No matter how good your resume is, a recruiter is only going to skim over it for a few seconds.

That means you need to hook them fast– which is where your well-written objective comes in.

What does a good resume objective look like?

Let’s look at some examples:


New programmer with knowledge in programs like Java, CSS, and Ruby. Seeking to apply my coding knowledge in a position with your company. 

Well! They’re definitely trying. 

Let’s give that objective a bit of a makeover:


Entry-level programmer skilled in Ruby, Java, CSS, and back-end design. Won local programming competition creating an app that allowed community volunteers to schedule and map time for city events. Seeking to apply my growing coding knowledge in a position with Machina Digital. 

Are you sure that’s the same person?

Big difference, right?

First, “New” sounds bad. “Entry-level” means essentially the same thing, but sounds much more professional. 

In other words, be careful what words you choose when you’re writing your resume and what effect they might have on how recruiters view you. 

Next, the first example really needed some more meat.

Fortunately, that doesn’t have to mean industry experience. So, they went with an example that showed the application of some of their relevant coding skills in a real-world context.

Lastly, the addition of the company name in your objective statement is a super simple edit that can make a very good impression.

Why? It tells them you tailored your resume specifically to them and weren’t just spamming it out to 100 potential employers.

Next, let’s talk about whether you should include an education section in your resume. And, if you do, how to do it right.  

4. Should I include an experience section? How to list internships and other relevant experience

Only you can decide if it makes sense to include an experience section.

However, if you have any of the following, the answer is likely yes:

  • Internship experience 
  • Relevant volunteer experience
  • Other experience

Internships are ideal. 

After all, whether paid or unpaid, experience is still experience. 

And you can list it in exactly the same way as any work experience.

For example:


Marketer Internship

June 2019 – June August / Rocket Funnel

  • Assisted in putting together marketing campaigns for a new product launch
  • Managed 15+ daily email correspondence with influencers and outreach candidates
  • Wrote daily content (3+ blog posts a week) for several of the agency’s clients
  • Crafted a list of suggested changes to apply in the marketing department as a whole

The recruiter called– they’re listening. 

Any aspiring marketer would be proud of that experience on their resume. 

However, internships are the easy part.

The truth is, most aren’t so lucky to have snagged a nice internship, the valuable experience and resume fodder that comes with it. 

That’s where volunteering comes in (as long as it’s relevant experience).

By relevant volunteer experience, I mean volunteering you’ve done where you’ve applied skills that are relevant to your profession.

For example, if you’re an accountant and you managed the cash generated from a fundraiser event or the finances used to pay for the event, that’s relevant experience. 

That kind of experience is great to include in a resume, either in a separate “Volunteer work experience” section below your work experience or within it and clearly labelled “Volunteering” or “Volunteer work”. 

Let’s say you didn’t get that coveted internship afterall, but you picked up a bit of volunteer (plus personal life) experience applying your newfound skills in anticipation of your job hunt.

Your experience section might look like:



  • Managed a small team taking payments and answering customer questions at the gate during the Sherman City Summer Fair
  • Helped a local church create marketing materials for its annual event
  • Ran a fan-based Facebook Group for 2 years, including managing new members, interacting with the community, resolving issues, and putting on several online events
  • Helped craft a marketing plan for the family business to draw in more foot traffic to its restaurant

If you look through your own life experience, chances are you can find a few things worth mentioning that are relevant to your field.

And whether you do or don’t, it’s easy to pick up a few pieces of experience in a volunteering, pro-bono, capacity within a few months time.

That should give you enough to fill out a nice volunteer work experience section that makes your resume look way more impressive. 

Of course, if you’re leaning more on your education and have built what you feel is a nice list of relevant skills, you might not feel the need to include an experience section at all (more on that later).

Next, let’s talk about how to list your skills and achievements.

5. How to list your skills and achievements (even if you think you have none)

You might not have much, or any, industry experience.

But chances are, you already have enough relevant experience from various places to pull together a good skills section.

So then, where can you pull these skills from? 

All kinds of places, including:

  • Volunteer work
  • Internships
  • High school experience (clubs, classes, sports, etc.)
  • Current college experience (Coursework, clubs, etc.)
  • Non-relevant work experience. 

Each of these areas offers an opportunity to develop skills that are relevant to your industry, whether that’s becoming a marketer, financial analyst, teacher, or any other profession.

The great part about your skills section is it’s a place where you can pull from all your relevant experience without having to worry about citing where the experience comes from.

That’s key and why having your skills section at the top of your resume can be so effective.

Sure, they might read further down and see you don’t have much experience, but they’ll also know you understand the essential skills needed to succeed in your profession and that you’ve invested time in developing them before you even officially started your career. 

However, don’t be fooled into making the same mistake that 90% of applicants make and thinking this will get you the interview:



  • Team player
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Critical thinker
  • Leadership skills
  • Positive attitude

Virtually everyone writes their skills section this way and (mostly because of that) it just doesn’t work

(Especially the phrase “team player”. Whatever you do, don’t ever include that phrase in your resume. You’ve been warned.)

You should be reading through the job description and taking down all the skills they mention which you have to list on your resume.

However, don’t just put down the phrase, “Leadership skills” and call it a day. 

Also, don’t just mention vague soft skills either.

Let’s look at a better example, this one for a project manager:



Hard Skills

  • Product validation and iteration
  • Ideation leadership
  • Product design
  • Forecasting 
  • Scrum
  • UX

Soft Skills

  • Applied leadership skills in managing a small team to create new marketing plan for a local church
  • Used problem-solving to identify and solve pricing that saved 10% on product sales for Ajenson
  • Showed strong collaboration and interpersonal skills as a team member working with a small SaaS
  • Used time management skills in internship with Ajenson to take care of the ideation, design, and launch of a new product within a 3-month window

We did a few things here, so let’s break it down.

First, it’s arguably more important to mention your relevant hard skills than it is to mention soft skills.

That’s because hard skills are more specifically relevant to the profession and harder to come by.

Any hard skills you have that are relevant to your profession should be mentioned, whether they’re:

  • Technical skill-based: Such as product design, project management, or cost analysis.
  • Or technology-based: Such as Microsoft Suite, Quickbooks, Scanners, Faxes, Oracle, Trello, Slack, etc.

Both types of skills should be placed into a “Hard Skills” section and mentioned first above your soft skills. 

Second, let’s talk about what we did with the soft skills.

How to list soft skills in your resume

For soft skills, you never want to just drop empty phrases like “leadership skills” into your skills section like we did in the first example.

Why? It’s not believable because everyone does it

In fact, it’s just shy of an empty page. 

Instead, you want to add context for every one of the soft skills you mention.

That means instead of, “leadership skills” you use a real example to clarify what you mean and show you actually have those skills.

For example, “Applied leadership skills in managing a small team to create new marketing plan for a local church

When you say it that way, it sounds much more believable.

Plus, it adds weight to your skills section, which can often seem empty. 

Not sure what kinds of soft skills you could have to mention on your resume?

Here’s a list of soft skills you might be a match for:

  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Interpersonal/Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Time management
  • Analytical
  • Management
  • Oral and written communication
  • Organization
  • Presentation
  • Positive attitude
  • Quick learner
  • Strong morals
  • Welcoming

6. What to avoid mentioning and common mistakes of no-experience resumes

In general, if you follow this guide you’ll be well set up with a professional resume that’s not only memorable but effective. 

Still, there are some things you’ll want to avoid that are easy mistakes to make.

So far, we’ve touched on:

  • Don’t just drop soft skills into your resume. Add context.
  • If you have little to no experience, don’t just throw your college and high school experience into your resume without clarifying relevant details such as coursework and relevant projects, conferences you went to, etc. Add those as points and other relevant experience such as work you’ve done in a club or on a sports team.
  • Refrain from dropping whatever you feel like into your resume. Read the job description and see what they’re looking for. Write to those points in your objective, experience, and skills sections.

But there are other mistakes that, while less impactful, are still very easy to make and could affect your ability to get the job.

That includes:

  • Listing references: Old practice, don’t do it unless requested.
  • Including a photo of yourself: It’s not common to include this. Again, only include this if the employer or recruiter requests it. Otherwise, skip it. 
  • Using an unprofessional email: If your personal email is something like “[email protected]”, you’ll probably not want to include that on your resume. Just saying. Take 5 minutes and sign up for a new email on Gmail (or anywhere else) using something basic like your full name. For example: “[email protected]”. 

Another mistake that resume builders sometimes make that can hurt your chance of landing that coveted role is including a social profile that isn’t clean.

That means a Facebook, Instagram, or other social account that has content on it that isn’t reflective of the personal brand you’re trying to show potential employers.

Generally, you should only include your LinkedIn profile on your resume. There are exceptions to this, such as if you’re applying to be a fashion writer or editor, but in general that’s best practice for most professions. 

Part 2: How to write a cover letter if you have little or no work experience

You’re off to a great start.

You’ve got your resume started, maybe even completed, and you already feel leagues better about your ability to convince recruiters you’re a solid candidate for the job. 

But there’s another step you can take which can give you yet another advantage– something most job hunters never do.

Include a cover letter with your resume. 

A cover letter, done right, is a powerful asset because it helps place your resume in context to you and your positive traits.

That’s why it’s so useful if you’re lacking experience.

Even if you have little to no experience, you can include a cover letter that tells more about you and your enthusiasm for joining said company, further helping your chances. 

Maybe the problem is it’s a bit nebulous.

  • What do you include in your cover letter? 
  • How long should it be?
  • How should you start it and what should you highlight?
  • And how should you end your cover letter? 

Fortunately, we’re going to cover all of that and more below and show you how to craft the perfect cover letter in a few basic steps. 

So, it’s time to gear up and take notes.

1. How to format your cover letter to perfection

What does the perfect cover letter look like?

It’s a pretty simple formula, despite the common confusion around how to craft one:

  1. Greeting: Include the recruiter’s name if you have it: “Dear Robert”. Otherwise, “Dear hiring manager” will suffice.
  2. Opening paragraph: This is where you hook them so they read on.
  3. Second paragraph: This is where you explain why you’re the best fit for the job.
  4. Third paragraph: This is where you communicate your interest and excitement to join the company.
  5. CTA ending: Every great cover letter ends with a “call to action” that gently nudges the recruiter to reach out. 

A good cover letter should be no more than a single page (about 250-300 words), so between that and the straightforward structure, it’s relatively easy to craft one in under an hour. 

And, considering it can help your chances of getting noticed, it’s a no brainer. 

First, let’s talk about how to craft a great opening paragraph that reels in recruiters.

2. How to write an opening paragraph that will hook recruiters

Your first job with your cover letter is to hook the recruiter.

What does that mean?

It means your first paragraph needs to immediately catch the eye of the recruiter and make them want to read more.

If you succeed at this, you’re golden.

If not, they’ll be much less likely to read through the rest of your cover letter and resume. 

Because of this, you need to make a great first impression, the kind that makes recruiters say:

“Wow, they sound promising.”

Here’s an example of what your opening paragraph might look like:


I’m excited to have the opportunity to respond to your post for the position of Programmer. I’m confident I’d be a key member of the team for upcoming projects. I’m a new programmer, but I’ve applied my skills to attain several notable achievements in my short time in the industry. 

What’s wrong with this?

First, while there is promise, it’s painfully generic.

There are no numbers, no specific examples, just a lot of, “I’m this” and “I’m that” without any real proof. 

Here’s a better example: 


As a programmer passionate about amazing design and a fan of MailChimp’s, I’m excited to have the opportunity to respond to your post for the position of Programmer. I’m confident I’d be a key member of the team for upcoming projects. I won the 2019 West Covina City Programming Challenge with my unique app idea. I also helped launch one of the most successful iterations of management SaaS Lighthouse’s new product while interning. 

Now that’s an amazing opening paragraph for someone without any experience. 

They’re enthusiastic about the company, mention specific quantifiable achievements, and they used strong words to describe it all. 

Keep in mind that you don’t need to highlight specific experience in this way.

Instead you could study the employer’s needs and impress them by showing them how well you know them:

I’ve been an avid user throughout the years, but I’ve always felt the reports U.I. and some aspects of the editor were lacking. I’m excited to lend my insights to helping improve design elements for the company.

The important part is that you start your cover letter out strong with some personalization showing the employer that you’re writing your cover letter to them and impressing in some way whether through your achievements, experience, or knowledge. 

3. How to show you’re the perfect fit for the job

Now that you’ve hooked them with your opening paragraph, it’s time to dig in and show them why you’re the ideal candidate. 

Remember when we talked earlier about targeting your resume to each job post?

That’s exactly what you’re going to do here. 


After all, how do you show that you’re the best person for the job? 

Show them you have exactly what they’re asking for. 

For example, if they’re looking for:

  • Creative problem solving
  • Understanding critical objectives in development
  • Create automation’s with API’s
  • Develop internal software

With experience using:

  • GitHub Services
  • Javascript
  • HTML

You could write your second paragraph like this:

In my recent internship at Lighthouse, I worked with the design and programming teams to understand project objectives while helping develop internal software and automations. My last objective was to create an automation within 14 days to place on GitHub for constructive feedback. 

During my internship, I applied several additional skills including:

  • Javascript
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • And lots of creative problem solving

Notice how this second paragraph is all about backing up the impression you set in the first paragraph.

You start off by showing your experience or relevant skills and talk about how you actually used them in a real setting.

Then, you further back up that initial statement with whatever you have that’s relevant to it or the other items they asked for. 

Now, let’s move on to the final paragraph, where you express to the recruiter why you want to join the company. 

4. How to tell the employer that you’re excited to join their company 

This final paragraph is a lot like the objective statement in a resume objective, which we talked about earlier:

You’re communicating to the recruiter your passion and excitement to work at the company. 

Remember when I mentioned how important personalization is? 

Like when you mentioned the company in the objective statement of your resume? And the name of the hiring manager in the greeting on your cover letter? And in the opening paragraph?

I hope you’re seeing a theme, because it’s one of the most important lessons there is when it comes to crafting a great resume and cover letter

The reality is, companies get a lot of general, cookie-cutter resumes.

What they really want is to receive a resume and cover letter that was clearly written for them

In this final paragraph, you go all-in on that one lesson and explain why you’re excited about the prospect of working for their company. 

One way you could do this is by mentioning a recent update, project, or product launch and how your skills and experience would be a perfect fit for that initiative.

Doing that will show them that you can be of value to them specifically, as opposed to just being a professional looking for a job with any random company.

Like this:

I’ve been paying close attention to the updates you’ve made revolving around your help center experience. My skill set would be a great match to help further develop that project and others like it in exciting directions. I would be eager to apply my knowledge of front-end design to realize tangible results with it and similar projects. 

Great, but you’re not quite done yet.

Lastly, let’s add a CTA to the end of your resume to really compel them to take action on your cover letter and resume. 

5. Why ending your cover letter with a call-to-action is key

CTA stands for “call to action” and it typically refers to the moment where the writer nudges the reader to take a particular action.

Throughout your first 3 paragraphs, you established a clean, logical flow: 

Introduction -> Hook -> Sell -> Connect (emotionally)

Now, we’ll finish that sequence with your call to action, which puts a nice cap on your cover letter and makes sure you don’t leave without compelling them to reach out. 

Generally, this takes the form of:


I look forward to the chance to discuss your design goals with you and show why my skills and experience would allow me to make a positive contribution towards achieving those objectives. 

However, it’s easy to write this part in a way that makes you seem a bit too enthusiastic, to the point of being desperate. 

Like this: 


Eagerly awaiting the chance to discuss your design goals with you and show why my skills and experience would make me a great addition to the team. 

A good effort, but phrases like “eagerly awaiting” and “make me a great addition” are a bit too self-centered. 

Instead, you want to focus on what you can give to them, not the other way around. 

It might seem odd to include a CTA like this in your cover letter, but the reality is without it, it’s too easy for them to read your cover letter and forget about it, even if they did like it. 

A call to action gives just enough of a nudge in the right direction without being pushy. 

Once you’re done with that, all that’s left is to close it out with a simple “Thank you,” or “Best regards” and your cover letter is good to go. 

Now that you understand the basics of how to write an effective resume and cover letter with little to no experience, let’s dive into writing a resume if you’re fresh out of college.

How does that change how you can and should structure and write your resume to get the job?

Read on to find out. 

Part 3: How to write a resume when fresh out of college

You’ve finally got your degree.

Congratulations– and welcome to the world of job hunting. 

If you read the previous section, you know you’ve got a plethora of options to make your resume look impressive even if you have little to no experience.

But as a new graduate, you have another tool at your disposal: your education experience.

Make no mistake, you got a whole lot more than a piece of paper while going after your degree, possibly including:

  • A list of skills relevant to your profession
  • Experience applying those skills through participation in clubs or special projects
  • Special training or internships you acquired as a result of your coursework
  • Possible honors and achievements
  • And more

Now, it’s time to learn how to apply that and any other relevant experience and skills you’ve acquired throughout your life to snag your first professional role.

First, let’s talk about a useful strategy for formatting your resume that lets your education and extracurricular activity shine. 

1. How to format your resume education-first

So far, we’ve talked about how you can make things like relevant skills more prominent to make up for a lack of experience.

But if you’ve just acquired your degree, there’s another route you can take which may be even more effective: putting your education section first.

That might sound weird if you’ve been looking at resume examples, but it’s actually pretty common.

So, instead of putting your experience section first, you’d format your resume something like:

  • Objective
  • Education
  • Other details (Additional training/Extracurricular/Academic projects/Hobbies/Etc.)
  • Skills

That structure may look a bit questionable at initial glance, but when you see it in practice, it works. 

Also, we’ll talk later about how you can still include an experience section with a different spin if you have any internships, volunteer work, or have done any special projects whether inside or outside college. 

In that case, your resume would be formatted something like this:

  • Objective
  • Education
  • Other details (Additional training/Extracurricular/Academic projects/Hobbies/Etc.)
  • Experience
  • Skills

No matter how you format your resume, there’s one last and very important detail that makes this structure work.

Include this and your education becomes almost as compelling a selling point as a swath of relevant experience and effectively takes the place of your work experience section in a new graduate resume.

2. Why effectively listing your education and ed-related achievements is key 

You know that bright, shiny new degree you just got? 

Sell it. 

No, I don’t mean put your certificate up on eBay to the highest bidder. 

What I mean is, when it comes to being a new graduate, it’s your education section that should be the real selling point on your resume.

But not like this:



2019 BS in Computer Science

St. John’s University

Salt Lake City, Utah

GPA: 3.78

That’s an atypical education section for someone who likely already has some professional experience under their belt.

For you, it’s your education which needs to take center stage.

So, level it up to something more like…



2019 BS in Computer Science

St. John’s University

GPA: 3.78

Relevant Coursework:

  • Machine learning: Wrote AI-based app that scored 93/100 for class final.
  • Cloud computing: Created 2 separate virtual machines as part of cloud computing unit. 
  • Software/Game development: Created 3D models and several scripts for a game design project. 
  • Cybersecurity: Created an encrypted app and tested it against the class’s invasive software. The software was never broken.  

Alright, now we’re talking. 

Let’s talk about what we did and why

As a new graduate, you don’t have a list of duties and responsibilities from a previous employer that you can show off to prove you have the necessary skills.

But remember what we talked about earlier with considering putting your skills section first: 

Chances are, you picked up a swath of valuable, relevant skills through your education, whether that was coursework or a project where you applied part of what you learned. 

The first example is: “I went to school at X.” It doesn’t tell us anything about your education experience.

The second example tells us you learned X, Y, and Z valuable skills through the coursework and completed these projects with these results (if you cite something like project results or the completed work, it can be useful to include a link to it somewhere on your resume). 

You could even expand each of the bullet points to a section of its own with 3-4 bullet points each, but be careful as you risk making your resume too long that way. 

You never want your resume longer than 1-page unless you’re applying for something like a federal government job. 

Also, if you have any special education-related achievements, make sure you include these here as well. 

Numbers, data, or achievements you can cite are the best way to prove your skills and abilities, so they’re the most convincing thing you can include on your resume.  

You could put that in a bullet point within your corresponding line of education or, better yet, include it as a separate section below (or even above) education like this:


  • Kaladin Sanderson Futurism Award, 2019 for the creation of an app that uses basic facial recognition to unlock Google Chrome keychain information for logging in


Now, let’s jump into a related topic: using your education and life experience to distill out relevant skills to include in your skills section. 

3. How to highlight skills developed through your education and life experience

Think you have nothing to list in a skills section?

Think again.

The reality is, you probably picked up a good collection of skills throughout your education experience, from soft skills to hard, as well as throughout your life whether through freelance or volunteer work or elsewhere. 

It can be hard knowing where to start, however, so be intentional about what skills you look for when you think back to your education and life experience.

For example, a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that these soft skills are valued most by employers (in this order, based on percent):

  • Problem-solving skills: 82.9% 
  • Teamwork/Ability to work in a team (the latter is better wording): 82.9% 
  • Communication skills (written): 80.3% 
  • Leadership: 72.6% 
  • Strong work ethic: 68.4% 
  • Analytical/quantitative skills: 67.5% 
  • Communication skills (verbal): 67.5% 
  • Initiative: 67.5% 
  • Detail-oriented: 64.1% 
  • Flexibility/adaptability: 60.7% 
  • Technical skills: 59.8% 
  • Interpersonal skills: 54.7% 
  • Computer skills: 48.7% 
  • Organizational ability: 48.7% 
  • Strategic planning skills: 39.3% 
  • Creativity: 29.1% 
  • Friendly/Outgoing: 27.4% 
  • Tactfulness: 22.2% 
  • Entrepreneurial skills/Risk-taker: 19.7% 
  • Fluency in a foreign language: 4.3%

For soft skills, peruse through your life and start thinking about times where you might have developed these various skills.

You might have volunteer experience, experience working at the family business, or did freelance or personal projects by yourself or with friends/group members. 

Pull hard skills from your coursework and personal study

Some argue that hard skills are more important while others say that employers value soft skills more because they translate no matter what work you have been or will be doing for the employer over time.

The truth is probably more nuanced than that, in that some employers value one over the other.

Point being, try to also pull out whatever hard skills you can related to your profession.

If you’re an accountant, that might be:

  • Account analysis
  • Accounts receivable
  • Account reconciliation
  • Collections and account management
  • Payroll
  • Taxes
  • Software-specific knowledge, such as Microsoft Suite (can mention whichever you have individual experience in, such as Excel/Outlook/Word, or just say “Microsoft Suite”), Quickbooks, Oracle, or SAGE

Just because you don’t have work experience doesn’t mean you can’t list that your coursework included learning these hard skills. 

Plus, while you might not have real on-the-job experience with something like Oracle, you could always get a hold of the software yourself and take online tutorials to learn how to use it on your own time (if your coursework didn’t include this already). 

Now, let’s talk about how to put this all together and talk about how your skills section should look.

How to write your skills section

The most important thing with any good skills section is to include context.

What that means is, instead of listing your soft or profession-specific hard skills (like account analysis) like this:



  • Problem-solving skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Written communication
  • Resourceful
  • Strong work ethic


  • Accounts receivable
  • Collections
  • Account management
  • Intuit Quickbooks
  • Microsoft Excel (Expert)
  • Microsoft Outlook

You expand those single words and phrases to elaborate on the skill.

Like this:



  • Skilled at solving workplace problems whether technical (software), accounting, or HR-related 
  • Ability to work well in a team setting, both through strong written and oral communication
  • Resourceful– efficient use of time and resources to accomplish tasks under any circumstance 
  • Strong work ethic and ability to stay on task until the job gets done


  • Accounts receivable
  • Collections
  • Account management
  • Intuit Quickbooks
  • Microsoft Excel (Expert)
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • 82 WPM

Your hard skills speak for themselves, but soft skills like “Problem-solving skills” and “Teamwork” are way too generic and overused for recruiters to pay any attention or even believe what you’re saying.

Instead, add a little context and watch them come alive– and catch attention, instead of diverting it. 

Another bonus: notice how this added several lines to their resume.

If you’re fresh out of college and you don’t have much to add to your resume, expanding your skills section in this way can help fill up the page in a nice way. 

Okay, next, let’s talk about 4 different sections you can include in your resume to replace your work experience if you have little to none of it.

You can include any or all of these various sections, but go with the ones that are most relevant to the job and appropriate for you and your experience.

4. How to list internships and why they’re just as valuable as paid experience

Not everyone has internship experience.

But if you’ve got it, sell it– big time.

In fact, it’s worth about as much as paid work experience on a new graduate resume.

After all, you were doing relevant work, and that’s what really matters to employers. 

Likewise, the way you show it on your resume is almost identical to work experience:

  • Position
  • Date
  • Company
  • Location
  • Duties/Responsibilities

Take this example of an aspiring marketing manager: 



Marketing Intern / June 2019 – Sept 2019

Single Grain / Los Angeles, CA

Key Responsibilities:

  • Oversaw the launch of a new Summer ad campaign
  • Created new weekly video and blog content for company blog
  • Managed company Instagram with daily content updates

Nice. That looks about as good as any employment experience and includes super relevant skills.

Plus, they wrote about those skills with context.

They didn’t write, “Social media”, they wrote, “Managed company Instagram with daily content updates.”

That doesn’t just sound way more impressive, it’s actually believable. 

Way better than this:



Marketing Intern 

June 2019 – Sept 2019

Single Grain / Los Angeles, CA

Sure, if you have other experience you’re trying to highlight more than that internship, maybe you want to include it but save a little space.

However, if you are including it, you might as well use it as an asset by dropping some compelling bullet points in. 

After all, that’s what everything you put on your resume is– an asset. 

If you have one of more nice internships, consider putting those above your education to replace your work experience section. 

You could do the same with the next several sections, but they’re generally better relegated to being after your education section. 

5. How to include volunteering like a line of work experience

Earlier, we talked about how you can include volunteer experience in your resume.

We used a kind of collective list format, but this time we’ll show you how to list out your volunteering like work experience.

This is especially useful when you have volunteer experience that’s super relevant to your field or you picked up a number of relevant skills from it. 

Let’s say you’re looking to get into human resources.

You knew you’d need to build up a little experience outside school, so you volunteered over the Summer to help put on a big local 5K/fundraiser.

You helped manage the entrant’s information and the volunteer’s time and other details that had to do with making sure they were taken care of while working on the project. 

The event took about a month to plan and went off without a hitch. Now, you’ve got some great volunteer experience you’d like to put on your resume.

However, you want it to really shine. 

Not like this:



Human Resources Manager

Go Pink for 5K / June 2019 – July 2019

Instead, expand it with bullet points detailing some of the skills you applied and the items you were responsible for.

Like this:



Human Resources Manager

Go Pink for 5K / June 2019 – July 2019


  • Managed volunteer onboarding and created a welcome packet for seamless integration into the team
  • Collected and archived files for all team members
  • Handled questions and concerns for volunteers

Alright, now that sells your volunteer experience.  

It’s amazing what a few bullet points can do.

Make sure that whatever you put down are real skills you developed during your volunteering.

Lying on your resume can be tempting when you don’t have much experience. 

It’s not only wrong, though, it will get you into hot water later when the employer sits down with you for an interview and asks you to elaborate on your experience. 

But also: make sure they’re relevant.

Just because you handled some of the marketing doesn’t mean you should mention it on your resume.

If you’re applying for an HR position, mentioning your marketing responsibilities is just going to detract from your relevant experience, so resist the temptation to mention everything you did there and stay with the relevant stuff. 

Next, let’s shift gears and talk about two additional sections that function a bit differently from volunteer experience and internships. 

However, which can be just as valuable. 

6. How to list extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs

Our third additional section, listing extracurricular activities is something most first-time resume builders don’t think about but which can really help beef up your resume.

What do I mean by extracurricular activities?

That could include all kinds of things, but most notably college and/or high school:

  • Clubs you participated in 
  • Sports you were a part of
  • Or groups you founded or were a part of in or outside of school surrounding a hobby, especially if you put on events and learned relevant skills

For example, you might have been a part of:

  • The debate club at high school
  • A fashion or business club in college
  • The track team in high school
  • Or the Boy Scouts outside of school

Depending on what field you’re going into, each of those could be relevant to your profession and worth mentioning on your resume. Or not. 

Take a few minutes to think back about any and all relevant clubs, teams, or groups you participated in on a regular basis throughout your life and which might be useful to mention on your resume.

Again, keep it relevant. You shouldn’t be throwing just anything onto your resume to fill up the page. 

You want whatever you put down into your resume to help display you as a perfect fit for the job. 

However impressive, anything you put down that isn’t relevant to the position itself will be ignored and give the recruiter one more reason to stop reading your resume. 

How to write an extracurricular activity section

Once you’ve got one or more things to put down, it’s time to write.

But instead of this:



Futurism and Tech Club


Mar 2018 – Sept 2019

Futurism Sci-Fi Facebook Group


Jan 2016 – Jan 2019

If you need a little more umph on your resume, you can expand that same example into this:



Futurism and Tech Club


Mar 2018 – Sept 2019

  • Organized a “Future of Tech” showcase for campus students and community members
  • Ran projects surrounding creating and brainstorming new digital tech advancements
  • Managed memberships, from

Futurism Sci-Fi Facebook Group


Jan 2016 – Jan 2019

  • Managed group projects of 10+ members
  • Maintained positive group environment

You’ve now single-handedly taken what would otherwise have been an easily forgettable section on your resume and amped it up to ten. 

Now, let’s talk about our final section: academic projects.

7. How to list academic projects relevant to the job

Our 4th and final additional section you can choose to add to your new graduate resume, academic projects are more focused in scope than the previous sections but are super relevant.

This can include class projects, studies you took part in, journalism, or other similar project-related tasks.

For example:

  • A write up on the effects of Facebook and other social networks on marketing
  • A project where you create your own basic AI and program it into robotics
  • Or a study you performed using your college peers to find out the psychological effects of recent political events

Each of these is an example of a project-related task you might work on as part of your coursework.

However, instead of just mentioning that coursework in the bullet points of your education section like this:



B.S. Hotel Management / Sept 2016 – June 2020

Colorado State University / Fort Collins, Colorado

  • Sales and marketing management-focused coursework including sales flow and digital marketing studies
  • Extensive business law study
  • Food and beverage and kitchen management knowledge
  • Catered a successful event project for course final in third year (<— See here)

You can pull it out of there and give it the A+ treatment:



B.S. Hotel Management / Sept 2016 – June 2020

Colorado State University / Fort Collins, Colorado

  • Sales and marketing management-focused coursework including sales flow and digital marketing studies
  • Extensive business law and ethics study
  • Food and beverage and kitchen management knowledge


  • Catered a successful event project with 75+ guests for course final in third year

What if you can’t really, or prefer not to, refer to your project as an “academic achievement”? 

That’s just fine, you can list it like this and even add some more detail:



Perception and Reality: Is the World Getting Healthier?

B.A. in Journalism Finals Project

UCLA / Apr 2018 – May 2018

  • Interviewed several scientists and historians to write a feature piece on perception and reality of well-being through history

Which of these routes you go all depends on how much you want to highlight said project.

If it’s one of your best selling points, use the second. 

If there are other areas you want to feature more and you’re having a hard time fitting everything you want onto one page, consider the first. 

Also, for a section like this in particular, it’s key that you include a link to whatever you have connected to the project, be it a document, software, artwork, photos, or summary of results. 

Whatever you do, make it a link. Don’t bog down your resume by including said document/artwork/etc. in your PDF resume (yes, even if you’re a journalist or photographer– link to your portfolio website). 

Now, let’s talk about some of the other additional sections you can include in your resume (yep, that wasn’t all of them!). 

8. Additional sections you can add to your resume as a recent graduate

So far, we’ve covered 4 sections you can add to your resume as a new graduate that can help take the place of and make up for your lack of work experience.

But there’s a lot more you can mention.

In fact, we’ve just covered the tip of the iceberg, the most common sections.

Here’s a list of some other sections and information you could include to make up for your lack of experience:

Certifications and other special profession-related training

If you’re an aspiring firefighter with a paramedic certification or have CompTIA A+ and you’re getting into IT, sell that big time. 

Any profession that requires additional training outside college is often:

  1. Essential, OR
  2. Highly sought-after

In many cases, this can be the best section to put at the top of your resume right after your objective.

That way, they click on your resume and… BAM, you hit them with the good stuff right off the bat. 

Plus, it’s the easiest section in the world to write, no bells or whistles required.

Do it like this:


  • Certified CompTIA A+

Boom, nothing else needed; it speaks for itself. 

Also: Make sure to sell the heck out of that throughout your resume (add it to your objective too even if that section is right after your objective, for example).

That includes the next section– honors and awards– too. 

Honors and awards

We’ll talk a bit about how to really make your resume stand out in the next section, but for now know that any kind of awards, honors, or achievements you have are some of the best things to include in your resume. 


It’s simple: they’re proof you know what you’re doing.

Compare that with some of the bad examples we’ve looked at so far, such as the typical skills section:



  • Resourceful
  • Initiative
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Communication skills

Most recruiters will see that and immediately pass over it without giving it much weight.

Now, you can add context to those skills to make them more believable, and that’s a big improvement.

However, you can take this a step further by showing relevant awards and achievements that prove you know your stuff. 

Plus, this is a super basic section that just lists the award, so it takes no time at all to write:


  • Valedictorian, BA in Life Sciences, Penn State 2018
  • Awarded the Braddock Scholarship for the study of biology

Language skills

Another section that’s virtually a sure-fire win if you have it, if you’re bi, tri, or whatever lingual than consider highlighting it separate from your skills section.

When you do, make sure to include the standard terminology for how well you know the language:

  • Native or Fluent: You can read + write in the language
  • Proficient: You can use the language pretty comfortably, but you’re not yet at a fluent level
  • Conversational: You can hold a basic conversation, but many words still escape you and you can’t read or write in the language

Anything below that is typically not worth putting on your resume (sorry).

That is, unless the job specifically calls for it and you want to express that you have a beginner-level understanding of a particular language and are willing to learn more quickly. 

Include this section below your skills section (unless you put that at the top, in which case keep it toward the bottom of your resume) and structure like this:


  • Spanish: Fluent
  • Mandarin: Conversational
  • French: Beginner

Most companies will be stoked that you’re so… lingual, so be sure to sell it, especially if they have international operations. 

Hobbies and interests

While never considered an essential section on any resume, a hobbies and interests section can help show you have a passion for activities related or valuable to your profession. 

Plus, it shows them a bit about who you are as a person, which can be endearing (a quality not typically conveyed by resumes without it). 

Here’s a quick example for a nutritionist:


  • Run 1-2 marathons annually 
  • Healthy food junky
  • Avid reader of non-fiction related to diet science and nutrition

Consider adding any personal interests, long-time passions, or even old hobbies if they relate to your profession (though skip this section first if you already have a full page of relevant experience/accomplishments and need to save space). 

9. How to stand out from the crowd as a graduate student

One of the biggest mistakes new graduates make when crafting their resumes is to not include quantifiable results or achievements. 

Results and achievements are similar to honors and awards: they’re a form of proof that you have the skills you’re saying you have.

It’s a lot more compelling when simple numbers are listed vs. when they’re not. 

Plus, it’s easy to do. 

What do I mean?

A lot of new graduate resume points look like this:


  • Greeted clients
  • Answered phone calls
  • Handled emails
  • Took care of conference room

That’s basic and uncompelling.

Now, you can expand and add a little context and it really lights things up:


  • Greeted clients and managed the check-in process
  • Answered phone calls using a multi-line phone system
  • Handled outgoing emails 
  • Maintained central conference room so it was always prepared for regular meetings

But if, in addition to this, you do a little creative digging, you can often come up with statistics or specific numbers you can mention.

For example:


  • Greeted 50+ clients per day and managed the check-in process
  • Answered 60+ phone calls per day using a multi-line phone system
  • Handled 25+ outgoing emails per day
  • Maintained central conference room so it was always prepared for regular meetings

Now that is powerful.

The more numbers and specificity you include, the more believable and compelling it is. 

That will go a long way toward helping you get the job (longer than most other simple changes you can do to your resume). 

Next, let’s look at how to write a resume if you have experience but you’re making a career change. 

Part 4: How to write a resume when changing careers

Making a career change? 

It can be tough reassessing your life and your career and realizing that you’re not doing what you want to do (or going where you want to go).

For the same reason, it can be tough writing your resume in anticipation of that career change.

  • What do you leave in? 
  • What do you take out?
  • How do you use what you already have to help position yourself for your new direction?
  • How do you write it so recruiters in your new field can tell you’re one of them?
  • And how do you write an effective objective or summary that frames that career change in a positive light for recruiters reading your resume? 

Below, we’ll cover that and much more to help you craft a career change resume that sets you up– so you can knock ‘em out. 

1. Invest time in identifying your transferable skills

Before we get writing, it’s important that you do something first:

Get to know your new industry and profession-related job posts to identify transferable skills. 

Throughout this part of the guide, we’ll talk about making the most of your transferable skills.

But before you can do that, you need to know what those transferable skills are. That way, you can promote them on your resume in various ways to help them (and you) shine.

To do that, spend some time reading job posts for your new profession.

  • What skills do they ask for most? 
  • What common patterns can you infer from reading 10+ job descriptions?
  • What do they list as “essential” or “required” and what are “preferred”?

These are all things you want to be thinking about as you do your research.

For example, this is straight from a recent job post looking for a medical assistant:

“One to three years experience in medical field, physician’s office/direct patient care; ability to perform spirometry, EKG, use centrifuge, microscope, pulse oximeter, computer skills; ability to read, write and comprehend medical terminology; ability to effectively communicate, and excellent customer service skills.”

From this paragraph, you might be able to pull out that:

  • You have previous customer service experience you can cite (yes, even if that was working at McD’s– still counts!)
  • Or you have written/oral communication skills you can show (X emails/calls per day or experience working in a team assisting in some way, even if it was just at college through your coursework)
  • Maybe you even worked as a receptionist at a doctor’s office before you got your new degree and, working on your career shift to a medical assistant, can cite a bit of experience working in a physician’s office through an internship

Chances are, there’s something you have that you can use as an asset to get the job. It all comes down to finding out what they want and what you have to offer

This is important, so make sure not to skip this step

To make this even easier, you can open your resume in Word, Docs, or print it out.

As you’re going through job listings, highlight/bold/or color the text for the skills you see listed frequently or make marks for each time they’re mentioned.

This will help visually chart how to adjust your resume based on your transferable skills. 

Here’s a quick list of some of the more common transferable skills to help get you started in the right direction:

  • Decision-making
  • Strong work ethic
  • Communication skills (both written and verbal)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Resourceful
  • Disciplined
  • Good judgment
  • Self-motivated
  • Customer service
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability

With that said, let’s dive into the first decision you need to make: how to format your resume.

2. How to pick the best resume format for a career change 

Why start with formatting your resume?

Because it has everything to do with how you present your skills and experience, and that’s what a career change resume is all about. 

Your resume should be formatted in a way that it displays your strongest selling points prominently. 

When it comes to formatting for a career change, there are really 3 routes you can go to achieve that, all depending on where your strengths lie:

  • Work experience first
  • Education first
  • Or skills first

Let’s talk a bit about why you’d use one formatting strategy vs. another.

First, a skills-first resume is pretty straightforward and likely most useful for about half of career changers.

Skills-first is best if you have a collection of relevant skills perfect for the job… but from irrelevant professional experience.

For example, you’re a front desk clerk-turned programmer and you really don’t want to put your experience first.

However, you do have some great programming-relevant skills you built up on your free time outside of work. 

In that case, those really should be at the top of your resume. 

Second, an education-first resume is ideal for anyone who just completed a new degree but who has previous work experience in another field. 

Again, let’s say our clerk went back to college and got a degree in computer science. 

In that case, putting her education at the top of her resume would typically be an even better idea than putting her skills first.

Lastly, you’d put your experience first if your previous roles weren’t so far off from your new field and you feel like your duties and responsibilities would impress recruiters and lend to your hiring.

If some of the responsibilities you held at a previous employer are closely aligned with your new profession, experience first might be the best route to go. 

Which of these 3 routes you take really all depends on your available professional assets.

Use this basic guide to help you decide: 

  • A brand new degree in your new profession?: Go education-first
  • Relevant skills, irrelevant work experience?: Go skills first
  • Semi-relevant experience or responsibilities from previous experience?: Go experience first

That last one can be a bit confusing, so let’s go over an example.

Which just so happens to bring us to our next section: 

3. How to use previous work experience to show up transferable skills 

Remember what we talked about earlier with regards to identifying transferable skills?

It’s going to come in handy now, so be ready with them. 

There are a lot of places you can use relevant, transferable skills on your career change resume.

One of the most important of those places is your previous work experience

If our clerk from earlier managed the finances for a small doctor’s office for several years, that could be a great bit of experience to highlight on her new accounting resume. 

Just make sure you write your bullet points based on those relevant skills and leave out anything not relevant to your new profession.

Like this:



Front-desk Clerk / Dec 2016 – May – 2019

Dr. Jarrod Phein, PhD Practicing Physician / Lakewood, CA


  • Managed Medi-Cal payments and sorted alternative payment methods for customers
  • Balanced books including payments, supplies, and wages
  • Issued weekly payroll deposits to staff


And while she was probably responsible for a lot more than that, it’s those bullet points in particular that sell her experience in key accounting-related areas. 

In other words, where it matters.

If you can do something similar with previous experience, consider putting your experience first on your resume.

However, regardless, you want to make sure any previous work experience is written like this.

Whatever transferable skills you can get in there will be well worth the digging, so think hard about anything you did at your previous jobs that is relevant to your new profession. 

What you don’t want to list is irrelevant experience.

What skills and job experience you should avoid mentioning when changing careers

So far, we’ve talked about various strategies for formatting your resume based on what assets you have to sell on your resume, be it skills, previous responsibilities, or a fresh new degree. 

But there are some things you should avoid mentioning altogether.

Take the example we just gave above, but written like this:



Front-desk Clerk / Dec 2016 – May – 2019

Dr. Jarrod Phein, PhD Practicing Physician / Lakewood, CA


  • Answered phone calls
  • Managed appointments and made follow-ups
  • Greeted patients and answered questions

No, no, no. 

That won’t help her one iota toward getting that coveted accounting job. 

There’s nothing about that bit of experience that’s relevant to being an accountant, so no value in mentioning it (aside from filling in the page). 

Instead, go with example #1 and dig out whatever relevant skills and responsibilities you can from your previous experience.

That way, your previous work experience will (ideally) show highly relevant bullet points that display to the recruiter you have the skills and experience they’re looking for. 

Similarly, toss out any hard skills on your resume that aren’t relevant to your new profession.

You might be tempted to put everything you can down, but more is not more. Relevant is more

Be discerning about what makes the cut and you’ll have more success than if you just threw every bit of experience you have into your resume.

Speaking of relevant, there’s another critical step you need to be mindful of when crafting your career change resume.

4. Write to ATS systems

Earlier, we talked about the importance of targeting your resume based on the job post.

That’s critical as it allows you to speak directly to recruiters and show them that you have what they’re looking for (even if it’s only some of it). 

Not to mention you’re literally speaking to them through your resume using their own words like a mirror, which is a powerful– and proven– form of communication. 

But it’s also important for another reason: it helps you get past ATS systems

ATS stands for “applicant tracking system” and it refers to the type of programming job boards use to filter applications for employers. 

When an employer posts a job online, they get swarmed with resumes. 

To help them sort through it all, job boards will automatically filter out the resumes that don’t appear to match the criteria that the employer stated they were looking for in their job description. 

How exactly does that work?

The system looks to see if your resume has certain keywords that the employer has written on their job post

Fortunately, this is an easy puzzle to crack if you know where to look.

First, go back to the last job post you were looking at.

Take a look at their “qualifications” or similar section. 

Read through their points and pick out from the list the ones that apply to you.

Now, make sure you use their wording in your bullet points.

For example, let’s say they’re looking for someone with these skills that are relevant to you:

  • “Strong communication skills (written and oral)
  • A welcoming personality with experience greeting customers
  • Knowledge of Quickbooks, Microsoft Suite, and task management software (Asana preferred)”

In the corresponding bullet points, you could say:


  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Experience greeting customers in a hectic, fast-paced environment

(Hard skills)

  • Quickbooks
  • Microsoft Suite
  • Asana and other task management software

(Soft skills)

  • Warm, welcoming personality

Keep in mind that those bullet points would be spread throughout your resume in the notated sections, but that doesn’t matter.

ATS systems will pick up on those keywords and phrases throughout your resume and match them up with the same or similar phrases in the job post, helping you get filtered in instead of filtered out

Whatever you do, don’t even think of skipping this step.

After all, you don’t want to spend hours crafting a knock-out resume only to have recruiters never see it. 

If you follow these steps, however, you’ll be all but guaranteed to get through the ATS. 

5. How to use your education as the ultimate career-change asset

Earlier, we talked about the potential value of placing your education first.

If you just snagged a brand new, shiny degree for your career shift, it’s time to sell the heck out of it

That’s because a relevant degree is easily one of the best things you can put on your resume, especially in the event of a career change.

Writing your work experience in a way that sells your transferable skills is key, but a fresh new degree in your new chosen field is even more important. 

Just make sure you sell that experience effectively.

Whatever you do, don’t just do this:



B.S. in Business Administration

University of Miami / Miami, FL

GPA 3.71

The purpose of putting your education first is to show that you’re knowledgeable in the various relevant skills required for the job. 

Placing your education first ensures you show recruiters right off the bat that you’re trained in each of those relevant areas.

But that example doesn’t communicate any of that.

So, instead, write your education including your coursework. Like this:



B.S. in Business Administration

University of Miami / Miami, FL

GPA 3.71


  • Financial and management accounting
  • Marketing and microeconomics
  • Communications
  • Computer science
  • Sociology and consumer behavior
  • Business management

If you want to make this even better, consider adding in relevant clubs you were a part of, conferences you attended, or projects you worked on in connection with your education.

For example:



B.S. in Business Administration / 2020

University of Miami / Miami, FL

GPA 3.71


  • Financial and management accounting
  • Marketing and microeconomics
  • Communications
  • Computer science
  • Sociology and consumer behavior
  • Business management


  • Performed on-site business assessment (4th year), placed top in class for identifying tangible and significant improvements to management and various business processes. 


  • Future Business Leaders of America (Vice President)


  • 2019 Startup Grind Global Conference
  • 2019 SXSW

See what we did there?

It was a small addition, but those additions help show you’ve really gone the extra mile and are investing everything into your new career.

First, the projects add gives more weight to your education in the form of proof of your skills.

Second, the clubs addition shows you went above and beyond just your coursework toward your chosen profession and did it while assuming a leadership position.

Third, in the case of any business-related degree especially, showing conferences you’ve attended in connection with your education displays a few things, namely your drive to learn and grow as well as hinting at your ability to network and build valuable connections.

6. How to create the perfect resume objective or summary when changing careers 

Your resume objective or summary is the first thing recruiters see (besides your cover letter) when looking at your resume.

So then, why did we leave it for last? 

That’s because, particularly with a career change resume, you can’t really know how you’re going to position and sell yourself until you go through the motions.

Identifying your transferable skills and crafting your education, experience, and skills sections are all important steps to take before writing your objective or summary in this case.

That’s because what goes into those sections influences what you mention in your objective/summary

So, which should you use?

Here’s a quick breakdown of why you might use one vs. another:

  • Objective: A summary of your key selling points along with an objective statement expressing your interest in the position. Good if you don’t have much in the way of impressive achievements/results/relevant work experience from a previous job.
  • Summary: A more extensive display of your work experience and other selling points. Good if you have some relevant experience or notable achievements/results to mention from a previous job

In most cases, a resume objective is going to be better suited for you if you’re making a career change.

So, let’s start with an example objective.

How to craft an eye-catching resume objective

One of the most important aspects of crafting a career change-oriented objective or summary is to not shy away from mentioning you’re making a career change in the first place. 

Likewise, you also then want to clearly communicate what has motivated the change.

Though keep in mind, you want to preferably do both of these things in the same sentence and in as few words as possible.

For example:



A new software engineer looking to shift careers as a web designer to develop a career in SaaS. Not fulfilled as a web designer, so decided to follow my passion as an engineer. Have led design teams and worked solo to accomplish team goals. 

Let’s unpack what’s wrong with that, because it’s a lot.

First, you want to mention you’re making a career shift, but you don’t want to actually include the word “new” as an adjective for your new profession. 

Instead, use something like “dedicated” or “energetic” in front to convey some positive quality (new just says, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”).

Next, you also don’t want nor need to elaborate any more than you already have.

Mentioning that you were fulfilled in your previous career doesn’t tell the employer what you can contribute to their company, so leave it out. 

Next, this person really needs to think of at least one other specific example of an experience/skill/accomplishment they can mention that’s relevant to their new profession. 

Let’s put it all together and see what we get: 



Dedicated software engineer seeking to leverage experience as a web designer to develop a career in SaaS at OwlFund. Experience leading design teams with a set of objectives and deliverables. A resourceful self-starter who can work solo or in a team to accomplish goals. 

Night and day. 

This objective succinctly describes that they’re making a career change without hanging around and focusing on it.

Mention it then move on and communicate what you can offer to them. 

They also mention the company name, which is always an easy win that proves you took the time to customize your resume for their job post (even if it only took you a minute).

That objective doesn’t even mention anything particularly impressive. It’s simple and effective and gets the point across.

But what if you do have a thing or two you can mention, say a new degree, some semi-relevant experience, or accomplishments?

For that, let’s look at how to craft a great resume summary. 

How to craft a resume summary that sells your relevant experience

A summary isn’t all that different from an objective.

The difference is that one essentially trades an objective statement for more details regarding career experience, results, or accolades. 

Let’s say our software engineer friend decides he actually has a few things he can mention and would prefer to use a summary.

His summary might look like this:



Dedicated software engineer leveraging 4+ years experience as a web designer to develop a career in SaaS. Lead design team to launch new app wireframes for development on a tight schedule using Agile, including several 6-figure app launches using our original designs. Was made team lead for delivering crisp, clean design prompts that took into account Java, C++, and other programming languages to make translating into code simple and pain-free for the programming team. 

As you can see, this is a bit longer and clearly has some more detail to it.

The opposite is a summary without enough detail or no real compelling, memorable points:



New software engineer with 4+ years experience as a web designer looking to develop a career in SaaS. Lead design team to develop app wireframes. Experience with Java, C++, and other programming languages. 

That’s altogether uninspiring

Notice the lack of detail when explaining key accomplishments.

For example, instead of just saying you have experience with Java and C++, the first example says it without directly stating it while at the same time explaining how you used that knowledge to help your previous employer

Whether you use a resume objective or summary, remember to always bring it back to how you can help them.

Now that your resume is complete, it’s time to give it the finishing touch by going over some keys to keep in mind when crafting a career change-oriented cover letter. 

7. Specifics of writing a cover letter when changing careers 

Earlier, we did a deep dive into how to craft a killer cover letter.

All of that applies here, but it’s also important to take into consideration a few other points unique to a career change resume. 

First, if the recruiter/employer spends enough time looking at your resume (the better it’s written, the more likely this will be), they’ll naturally be able to tell that you’re making a career change.

Don’t hide this fact in your cover letter.

Instead, come right out and say it. 

Explaining why you’re changing careers and display your passion for your new profession and how you believe you can communicate that as results for their company (always bring it back to them).

Explain what unique skills you bring to the table as a result of your career change, perhaps a set of useful skills that the typical candidate in the profession doesn’t have, as well as what makes you a great fit for the position.

Your cover letter is a place where you get to communicate who you are and what you bring to the table, framing your career change and your assets before they lay eyes on your resume.

Because of this, crafted well, a cover letter is arguably even more of an advantage for a career changer than it is for someone looking for a job in a preexisting career. 

Make sure to highlight some of your more impressive transferable skills, especially if you can site numbers or achievements alongside them, such as:

  • High marks on X unit of your college coursework
  • X results in a previous job
  • Grade or achievement from an academic project
  • Or a special award or honor

Proof in the form of results is always better than dropping vague mentions of “good communication skills”.

However, if you don’t quite have anything like that which you can mention yet, don’t worry. 

The most important thing is that you’re clear, straightforward and that you communicate your passion, your selling points, and how you can apply those to help their company. 

8. Why avoiding terminology from your previous field is important 

As a final bit of advice to polish up your career change resume, let’s talk a bit about the language you use throughout it.

This is especially relevant with regards to 3 sections. Your:

  1. Objective or Summary
  2. Experience, and your
  3. Cover letter

In each of the above places, you’re doing more than just reporting basic facts about your career or education.

And, because of this, that opportunity to elaborate with description can lead to a mistake that career changers often make: 

Using terminology from your old industry. 

It’s an easy mistake to make: you were in the field for X many years, and it was likely your first profession, which can make it hard differentiating which terms are universal and which are jargon specific to your old profession. 

Why is this bad?

Because using words that someone from your new field wouldn’t typically use can quickly peg you as an outsider and make you look bad in front of recruiters. 

Fortunately, it’s a problem that’s pretty easy to fix. 

There are really 2 things you can do to make sure you’re avoiding terms from your previous field:

  • Read job posts for your new profession, and
  • Read forums and content from professionals in your new industry

For the first, do exactly what we talked about earlier: take some time to read through the job descriptions for openings in your field.

The people writing the job posts are likely the owner, manager, or a key person in the company. 

They’ll write the job post employing language that’s typically used in your profession, so you can use them as a guide. 

Second, you can also take a bit of time and either seek out forums, look through Quora, or search for content from professionals in your industry.

Read their comments and see how they talk about the profession in general to get an idea of common phrases and language used. 

Generally, the first step is more than enough, but if you want to go the extra mile, this step can be really useful too.

Plus, as a bonus, doing this can really help you during the interview as you’ll need to hold your own in a conversation with your employer. 

Create the perfect resume design in minutes with Resumebuild 

Throughout this mega-guide, we’ve equipped you with the tools you need to score that coveted dream job, even if you have little or no work experience.

We covered:

    • How to format your resume so your unique selling points stand out (and how to find what those selling points are)
    • Tips for customizing your resume to each application, to make sure you’re giving recruiters what they want
    • A step-by-step method for crafting an awesome cover letter
    • How to write a resume when you’re fresh out of college with no previous experience
  • And how to write a resume when changing careers, including tips for identifying and utilizing transferable skills to get the job.

It can feel like an uphill battle to jump into job hunting with little or no relevant experience in your pocket.

But with this guide, you’ve got everything you needed to craft a stellar resume that doesn’t just pass, but positions you as the ideal candidate for the job.

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