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How to Write a Resume if you Don't Have Formal Job Experience

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Hey you, think about this:

EVERY person you admire started where you are now - the beginning. So remember, even if you don't have work experience yet, you still have other experiences and value that you can bring to any job! This article will provide tips on how to craft your resume even if you have little to no formal work experience.

This article will focus on four main sections of a resume for beginner resumes: Education, Experience, Skills, and References.

When you're ready to start creating your actual resume, Sign up with the Member Community to access FREE templates for Resumes, Cover Letters and more!


Education is a key highlight on any resume and the good news is that you have many options to highlight your educational background. If you are high school age (15-18yrs old) you won't need to have any specific diploma or certificate. However, many job openings that apply to people ages 18 and older request a High School diploma or a GED as proof of a base level of educational experience. If you need to pursue a GED, make sure you check with your state and local resources for the process required AND possible cost savings. For example, the State of Minnesota is offering a discount for GED testers (as of Feb 2020).

Other educational options:

* Post-secondary degree

* Graduate degree

* PhD

* Certificate program

* Continuing education programs

* Technical certifications

* Licenses

* Other certifications


There are many ways that you bring experience to any job situation. Even if you haven't worked in a formal job before, you already have experience! So, what are some examples of experience that you might have already? Take a look at the list below. It's not a comprehensive list by any means but intended to help you think about types of experience you might already have.

Military Service

Many people who serve in the US armed forces do so soon after high school and while they are in service, they do not need to work through a civilian job application process. If this applies to you, keep reading! There are great resources available to help our veterans transition from the military into the civilian workforce. While I can't cover all of the necessary details in just one blog post, I'd like to point you to a great resource by Military One Source, which is part of the US Department of Defense. This site provides helpful tips focused on veterans entering the civilian workforce and includes links to additional resources such as consultation options.

Team work

Examples team work experience include school-sponsored groups such as Drama Club, Debate Team, Language Club, Band, Choir, Orchestra, Student Leadership group, and more. School projects can also be a good example of your experience working successfully in a team environment.

Independent work

Special school projects or research work are both great options to highlight for successful independent work when applying for jobs. While most jobs require working with other people or in a team setting, being self-sufficient and self-motivated are also key attributes many employers look for with their applicants.


Giving your time and services to others is not only a good thing to do but it also helps you learn and grow as an individual. Volunteer experience shows prospective employers that you have good work ethic and that you have worked in either a team or individual (or both) setting while taking direction from a leader or manager.


You don't need to be a seasoned professional to have good leadership experience. Being a leader with a student group or sports team are great ways to build your leadership experience and you should highlight that experience in job applications and interviews!


Even if you haven't had a formal job yet, you still have learned skills that would be beneficial for an employer. And these skills could be highlighted on a job application or resume! A couple examples of skills include technology/program knowledge and 2nd language understanding.

Technology/Program Knowledge

We live in a tech-focused world and so no doubt you interact with many types of technology on a daily basis. Some of that technology use is applicable to the career world and here are just some examples of technology and programs that could be highlighted on job applications and resumes:

* Microsoft Office suite - Document creation/editing

* Adobe Acrobat suite - Document creation/editing

* ArcGIS platform - Mapping and analysis

* Python - Scripting

* Javascript - Programming

Here is a list of additional technical programs & skills estimated to be in strong demand in 2020.


Good communication is key no matter what job or profession you work in. On that note, being able to communicate in more than one language can be VERY beneficial to an employer. From Spanish to Manderin to American Sign Language, any level of understanding of another language can be highlighted as part of your overall experience. Make sure to note the type of language comprehension you have - verbal, written, or both. Also note the general level of understanding you have - Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, or Fluent.


Don't underestimate the power of your references! References provide information to your prospective employer about you such as your work ethic and how you work with other people. References can play an even more vital role if you have little or no formal job experience yet. Read more about getting started with references in this blog article.

Below is a basic example of how your resume can look when including references.


Sarah Marie Schrader - 123-456-7890 - City, State, Zip Code


ABC High School - Expected Graduation June 2020

GPA 3.5


* High School La Crosse team - 2017-Present

* Orchestra member - 2016-Present

* Habitat for Humanity volunteer - 2018

* Student Leadership Vice President - 2018


* Jane Doe, La Crosse Coach - - 123-456-7890

* John Doe, Youth Group Leader - - 123-456-7890

* James Doe, Volunteer Coordinator - - 123-456-7890


The above example provides a quick overview of what your resume could look like if you're just starting out and don't have formal job experience.

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In summary, you don't need a formal job to build experience. (though it helps) You already have experiences in your life so far that make you a great asset for any job! When just starting out (or restarting) in the job world, make sure that you leverage your professional references. They are there to help support your efforts as well as to confirm your qualities for the job world.

Next Step:

* Join the Member Community to access FREE Templates for Resumes!

* Reach out to 5 people and ask them to be references for you

* Track the name and contact information for each reference

* Purchase a Resume Review Service from That Purple Book - See Shop for more details

Also Read:

* Get your Peeps Involved in Your Career Process - Build Your Career Team!

* Craft your Digital Professional Brand!

Stay tuned for more advice and tips from That Purple Book! Connect with That Purple Book across social media @ThatPurpleBook

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