How do I make up for lack of experience on my résumé?


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Welcome to “Pressing Questions,” Fast Company‘s mini-advice column. Every week, deputy editor Kathleen Davis, host of The New Way We Work podcast, will answer the biggest and most pressing workplace questions.

How do I make up for lack of experience on my résumé?

It feels like the biggest catch-22 of the working world: You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. The good news is, it’s not as impossible as it sounds.

You just need to expand your definition of “experience.” For example, when I was looking for my first journalism job, I had never held a full-time position at a publication, but I had written for my university’s newspaper, served as editor-in-chief of the literary magazine, and had a summer internship at an alternative weekly paper. That experience (along with the recommendation of one of my journalism professors) helped me get an evening part-time copy editing job at a daily newspaper. It was a stepping stone, and, while it didn’t lead me directly to the job I wanted, it helped get me closer.

Gathering these kind of part-time, freelance, and sometimes volunteer opportunities is crucial to getting experience before you have a full-time job. But there are other ways to think about experience, too. Later in my career, after I had several full-time jobs under my belt, I started writing my own blog and included a link to it on my résumé. One of the posts, about the time of day people are most and least productive, caught the eye of a hiring manager, because it was exactly the type of content they were looking for on their site. It was likely the thing that put me over the edge and got me the job offer.

Another way to think about experience is to consider your transferable skills. After sending my résumé to 100 newspapers around the country post-graduation (don’t do this!), I didn’t get any job offers (no surprise!), so I took a job in London at an investment bank, which led to another job at at another investment bank in New York doing corporate communications, which I finally, two years later, was able to spin into my first magazine job by highlighting my transferable skills.

Finally, once you’ve figured out what skills you have that you want to highlight, move them up on your résumé. If your work experience isn’t as relevant to the role you’re seeking, move it lower and move the skills section to the top. Same thing goes for your education, volunteer experience, or whatever it is that’s most important. 

Want some more advice? Here’s some further reading:

  • How to sell yourself when you don’t have enough experience
  • How to get a job in an industry you have no experience in
  • Career experts mercilessly revised my entry-level résumé
  • Education or experience: What does it take to land a job?
  • 4 things many job seekers get wrong about finding (and landing) the right role


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