What “Experience” Really Means

I don’t have any work experience, what can I put on my resume that will help me get an interview?

This is a common situation with many college students. For some students they have limited work experience, which is usually unrelated to the field that they will pursuing after graduation. Some students do not have any work experience, often opting to focus solely on their studies. In either case, students can still write a well-developed resume that can impress employers. While students may not have professional work experience, almost all students have some kind of community, campus, or leadership experience. These experiences through organizations and clubs are just as beneficial as “professional” experience.

When you are listing any kind of experience it is vital that they make all experiences connect with the internship, or position, that they hoped to be hired in. You can do this by making sure that they have strong descriptors of their past experiences. Strong descriptors include what are known as “power verbs” and “transferable skills.” By using these statements, you can better highlight their qualifications. For example, the statement below is a common statement on many students’ resumes:

  • Worked as a waiter/waitress, provided friendly service

This statement is a great start, but it could be made more relevant; thus stronger. The statement above represents more of a job description, but doesn’t set the students apart from their colleagues. An example of a statement that is more appealing would be:

  • Worked effectively in a fast-paced environment, providing quality customer service

Notice that this statement is still concise; however this statement gives the employer a more concrete knowledge of how your past experience can benefit their company. No matter what experiences you are noting, the best thing you can do is show the employer that you are, without a doubt, qualified for the position they are hiring.

If you are limited in experiences in general, students can also highlight academic achievements. Note related courses that you have taken. If you are in technical field, like engineering, list class projects that you have done. For students who interested in research fields or graduate school, listing significant papers and research you’ve done can help give the employer or graduate school a better idea of your interests and background knowledge.

When writing your resume, the most important thing to remember is that the resume is your chance at a good first impression. Market yourself well, but don’t embellish or lie. When describing your background use power verbs and transferable skills to show the employer your qualifications, don’t expect them to read inferences. If you are still unsure, it is always helpful to have someone else look at your resume. Stop by the Career Center for a drop-in to have a Career Advisor look over your resume, and make recommendations. In the end, make sure that you are comfortable with the final product, be proud of your experiences and confident in your abilities, and you will be one step closer to that interview! –ebs

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