What to do if you don’t have job history

Every standard resume template seems to include a “Work Experiences” section. But as a student or new graduate, you don’t have work experience! What’s your next step then?
Elliyani Mohamad Ali
Chief Editor

As someone who has spent almost all your life in school, it’s understandable not to have had a job yet. However, for almost every standard resume you come across online, there is typically a “Work History” section that lists past employment. You don’t have that. All you have are your qualifications, and that is going to take up less than half a page.

You can’t, however, send in a half-page resume and expect it to impress someone to give you an interview. Instead, you can replace your currently non-existent job history with other information to help you push for that coveted job.

Internship

To start off, don’t be restricted by conventional section titles. While you may not have had a formal job history, chances are, you have had at least one internship. Replace the section header with “Internship Experiences”, even if it’s only three-month long. Similar to the “Work History” section, include your job position and a brief description of your role. This is your chance to show off what you’ve learnt and achieved as an intern.

What to do if you don't have job history_Internship

Volunteer

Having volunteer experiences speaks volumes not just about the type of employee you’ll be, but also the kind of person you are. Taking up volunteer works will almost certainly boost chances of you being noticed. Even if it’s something as simple as volunteering to be a tutor to your neighbour for two hours a day, three times a week for an entire school year, it shows your level of commitment and your ability to teach someone.

What to do if you don’t have job history_Volunteer

Relevant activities

If you don’t have any of the above, including the right hobbies or extracurricular activities can help your resume too. For example, if you enjoy writing and have an active blog, this can be an ideal focus point for your resume, especially if you’re applying for a field that involves writing or editing. Alternatively, if your blog is about saving the world and you’re applying for a position as a biochemist, your recruiter may be impressed by your passion being translated into your work.

The keyword is still “relevant”. You don’t want to include your passion for skydiving when you’re applying for a job at the library. Additionally, enjoying watching Netflix is fine, but don’t include it (unless, maybe, if you’re actually applying for a job at Netflix).

What to do if you don’t have job history_Relevant Activities

If nothing else, use your cover letter

So maybe you’ve been slacking off on developing skills that are not related to your schoolwork. You still have your cover letter as your lifesaver. Most job applications include an option (if not a requirement) to submit a cover letter along with your resume. This is where you can explain why you don’t have a job history.

What to do if you don’t have job history_Cover Letter

Ultimately, there is no one size fits all approach to job-hunting. Use what experience you have to your advantage. If you’re currently still studying, look at taking up internships or developing your extracurricular activities to prepare for when you graduate. If you’ve already graduated, consider taking up volunteer work or part-time jobs if you’re unable to get a full-time employment. There are always opportunities out there to help you succeed in your job-hunt.