What to Put on Your Resume When You Don’t Have Much Relevant Experience

By Kailey Walters on June 22, 2018

You’ve probably done it before: opened up the job application for a company, scanned the page for the job’s basic requirements, and stopped at the word “resume.” Your heart started to beat a little faster. Even without looking at your resume, you already knew that you probably didn’t have enough relevant experience to make the cut. Your mind started to wander around in circles, like a dog chasing its tail: what do I do now?

Even if you haven’t been faced with this particular situation, but still have wondered generally how your past jobs as a dog walker and a babysitter could ever count as relevant experience towards your future career, you probably feel as if you’re faced with a bit of a dilemma. How do you know what to include on your resume? What looks good to prospective employers? How can you portray yourself in the best possible light even when you don’t really have enough, or the right, experience in the field you’re interested in?

The whole situation can undoubtedly seem a bit daunting at first. Yet, before you decide to curl up in a corner and hide from the rest of the world, take a deep breath and consider your options. There are tools you can use to position yourself as someone with relevant experience, even if your past experience is not necessarily the most obvious fit for a certain field. In many situations, it can really come down to not necessarily what you say, but rather, how you say it. Knowing how to utilize these tools can help both you and your resume stand out in a unique way.


Include any relevant and transferable skills.

The fact that you’re even considering applying to this job must mean that — somewhere in the back of your mind (even if it’s buried way, way in the back) — you think you have what it takes. Scour your brain and any old versions of your past resumes for some inspiration. It’s entirely possible that a job or task you did in previous years imparts some kind of relevant skill or experience that you can use towards the new job you’re applying for.

Perhaps you’re going for a teaching assistant (TA) position at a high school but don’t have any directly relevant experience that involves teaching. However, maybe one summer you spent a few months working as a camp counselor with kids … which, in some ways, can be useful. Even if you didn’t spend time strictly teaching the kids academic subjects, but instead focused your energy on arts and crafts, that “teaching” experience can still prove valuable in allowing you to get a feel for instructing others and practicing patience. And, even though you were working with younger children rather than with high school teenagers, those interactions are still important for the interpersonal skills you gained throughout the process.

To help yourself brainstorm specific relevant, transferable skills that you can emphasize on your resume, sit down and write out a list of all the jobs, tasks, volunteer opportunities, etc. that you’ve done in the past — whether or not you initially think they’re related to what you’re applying for. Then, for each responsibility you’ve listed, write down everything you learned from it — anything you can think of. In this brainstorming process, you may come across at least a few important skills that stand out to you, which you may be able to use, or transfer over, to the job you’re currently eyeing.

With that being said, including relevant and transferable skills on your resume is extremely important if you want to make a good first impression to prospective employers. To make sure your skills are noticeable, you may want to create a specific “skills section” and put it somewhere towards the top of your resume. That way, hiring managers might have a clearer understanding of who you are and what you can do before they read any further.

infographic, what to put on your resume

Infographic by Kailey Walters

Make use of your academic background.

What you’ve accomplished in school is also entirely worthy of being included on your resume. Just because your academic work doesn’t count as a “job” doesn’t mean it’s not valuable! If you’ve taken any classes in college (or maybe even outside of your college or university) that seem relevant to the job you’re applying for, go ahead and put those down.

Applying for an engineering internship but don’t have any work experience? Well, if you’re an engineering major, you’re sure to have taken some engineering classes in the past that are somewhat relevant to the internship. If you have any experience doing academic research at your college, perhaps in a lab for one of your professors, that could also be something worthwhile to include. Employers will be sure to acknowledge the dedication and hard work that’s involved in being a research assistant at a university.

If this is the case for you, it may be helpful to create a “Projects” section on your resume. You can write about a project that you completed for one of your classes — perhaps something that you spent a lot of time and effort working on and feel particularly proud of, or something that is most clearly relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you happen to have any relevant projects or experiences outside of school or work (such as volunteer experience), feel free to include that on your resume as well, if you think it fits. Format the details about your project work in the same way you normally would for regular work experience.

Another thing you can take advantage of is your involvement in extracurricular activities in college. Although clubs and organizations may not give you the hard skills and knowledge you learn from your classes and big projects, they can still help you gain proficiency with interpersonal skills, such as learning how to interact and work on a team.

Especially if you have some sort of leadership position with a club that you’re involved in, you can put that down on your resume as well. Any employer is sure to appreciate the fact that you took time out of your own busy college schedule to take on an extra responsibility, and that you excelled in whatever position you held. No matter what job you’re applying for, leadership potential of any sort is highly valued and can only help you rise up in the ranks.

So really, the lesson here is to take advantage of the opportunity to express your leadership capabilities — and milk it for all it’s worth!

Think about your volunteer experience.

As briefly mentioned previously, volunteer experience is also a good thing to include on your resume if you don’t exactly have work experience. In fact, volunteering can show a great deal about your character and your willingness to learn more about whatever field you were involved in — all without the enticement of monetary payment. As a result, volunteer experience shows that you are dedicated enough to spend your own personal time learning something new and helping others.

You also might want to include study abroad experience.

Another potentially worthwhile extracurricular to include on your resume is time spent studying or traveling abroad. While this sort of experience might not be relevant in every context, there are some situations (depending on what type of job you’re applying for) where your time abroad could come across as quite valuable.

After all, there are many positive takeaways from studying abroad, one of which is your ambition in taking on new challenges. Not everyone has the gumption to travel across the world to study something they’re interested in, so the fact that you took that chance enables you to stand out from the rest of the pack. It also reveals that you are adventurous and not afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, which is definitely a valuable quality in any individual.

Consider including your achievements.

This one might not be applicable all the time, but depending on the situation, it could be worth a shot. There may be some past awards and accolades you’ve received that are relevant towards the job you’re applying for. Maybe you earned some sort of special recognition for the project you worked on or some research you conducted. Or perhaps you were recently inducted into an honors society at your college. Whatever it is, it doesn’t hurt to gauge its importance to the job you’re applying for and see where it might fit on your resume.

happy, achievement, award, trophy


Don’t include everything you’ve ever done.

In crafting a well-polished, relevant resume, a main objective of yours should be efficiency. That being said, you shouldn’t include every single job, volunteer opportunity, or class you’ve had in the past, as doing so could potentially be a turn-off to some hiring managers. (More is not always better!)

A good idea to keep in mind is to not include high school experience — unless you think it’s absolutely necessary and relevant to the job you’re applying for. Otherwise, in most situations, sticking with relevant college experience is the best bet. Employers want to see what you’ve been doing most recently and how you’re continuing to grow onward and upward.

Employers will also be looking through your resume pretty quickly, as they probably have tons of different applications to review each day. As a result, it’s important to keep your resume sharp and to the point. Only include what you believe is most relevant at present, and leave out any unnecessary experiences that would only cause extra baggage.

Include a summary statement or clear career goal.

When it comes to writing a summary statement for your resume, you want to avoid sounding unoriginal and boring. Instead, you want to come up with something that will catch the hiring manager’s attention right away — something that clearly shows your career goals align with this job you’re applying to. A good way to do so is by being as succinct as possible; three sentences should be enough to at least briefly explain how you will apply your skills to the position you’re interested in, and how that relates to your career goals. With that being said, it may be a good idea to place your summary statement somewhere at the top of your resume or near your “skills” section, so that prospective employers can see the logical flow.

Customize your resume.

If you’re applying to several different jobs, it may be a good idea to customize or at least slightly modify your resume so that it best fits each particular job. Think about what the specific job requires and which of your experiences best match. In certain situations, “modifying” your resume could simply entail changing around the format or the organization of the sections. For example, moving your “skills” section to the top could be beneficial if you want to emphasize your skills over other areas that you may be lacking in. Do whatever you can to best catch the eye of a prospective employer!

Ultimately, if you don’t have a whole lot of experience related to the job you’re interested in, don’t fret too much. If the job caught your eye in the first place and you think you could potentially be a good fit for it, then there must be a good reason behind it! That reason can be found in your past experiences, whether or not they seem directly relevant to the job you want. If you spend some time thinking about why you would be a good fit for the job and what skills you can use towards it, you’re sure to be headed on the right path already. Just keep in mind: everyone has to start somewhere, and sooner or later, you will be able to say that you do have relevant work experience.

Follow Uloop

Apply to Write for Uloop News

Join the Uloop News Team

Discuss This Article

Back to Top

Log In

Contact Us

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.

Add a Photo

Please select a photo to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format