Can I apply for a job with no work experience?

OK, first things first – yes! You can apply for a job with no work experience. Everyone gets their first job without work experience and many go on to have a thriving and successful career. However, it is true that getting a job with no work experience is difficult but it’s not impossible – so if you’ve been rejected, keep trying and think about how you can improve your CV.

It’s true that there’s a very large section in most CVs dedicated to work experience, so when you’ve got nothing to put there then applying for even an entry level position can seem like a waste of time and effort. But you don’t always need work experience to show that you’ve got the skills for the job.

Highlight transferable skills

Transferable skills

Skills acquired whilst studying for qualifications are transferable to the workplace.

If you don’t have any official work experience to use then you’ll need to compensate with something else for it. The best area to showcase your skills and experience, if you don’t have any work experience, is the education section.

Many people simply use the education section to list their grades and qualifications but since you have more room available, you’ll be able to go into much more detail. For example, communication and team work are essential skills for a wide variety of jobs and you’ll probably have a lot of experience with both during your time at high school and college.

If you’re a graduate then you should have even more to talk about. A good trick is to look carefully at the job spec and see what skills are listed as essential and desirable – then think about how you’ve used these skills during your education. It might not seem like it, but the majority of grads have learned a huge range of skills through their studies.

Things like planning, organisation, team work, motivation, interpersonal skills, time management and much more are all skills the majority of people do learn during their education. All you’ve got to do is think of some examples of when you’ve shown these skills to show employers what you can do.

Find out more: How to write a school leaver’s CV

Use the hobbies and interests section

Hobbies and interests

The hobbies and interests section can demonstrate valuable skills and knowledge.

No area of a CV is as divisive as the hobbies and interests section, although professional opinion is still rather split about it. However, when you have no work experience to fall back on it can be a big help, because many people will have hobbies or interests that relate to their desired job.

For example, let’s say you want to apply for a position as a gym assistant and you have no work experience, then what do you do? The answer is simple you use your hobbies and interests section instead. Anyone who is keen to work at a gym is probably very knowledgeable about exercise and nutrition.

One of your hobbies might be regularly going to the gym yourself and this shows that you’re familiar with gym etiquette. You will also likely be into sports and might go jogging regularly or swimming – there’s a huge range of things you can talk about and they can all tie back to the role you’re applying for.

The hobbies and interests section can give you a big boost when it comes to applying for a job as long as your write it carefully and focus on areas that are related to the role you’re applying for. Remember look at the criteria you need to meet and then think about how your hobbies and interests showcase your skills or have allowed you to better develop them.

Find out more: Does the hobbies & interests section of my CV matter?

Volunteer work can help

Voluntary work

Voluntary work can help demonstrate a wide range of skills.

Volunteer work and work experience placements aren’t exactly the same thing – there’s some overlap and it’s easy to get the two mixed up, but there are differences. If you volunteer at a charity shop you will learn valuable skills that will be beneficial if you want to then go for a job in the retail sector. But it is still volunteer work and not work experience.

Work experience, in general, is more structured and there is usually a limited time frame to it, whereas with volunteer work you can volunteer for more flexible time slots and the odd missed shift won’t result in you losing your role! You can also volunteer indefinitely whereas work experience might be for a few months at most. Work experience is also in general more difficult to get – there will usually be a waiting list and you may even be interviewed before you land the position.

Because in general volunteer work is usually easier and quicker to get, it can be a big help to your CV if you have no formal work experience. Employers will be aware of the differences between voluntary work and work experience placements (and the fact that the former tends to be more relaxed), but this doesn’t mean they won’t value the skills and experience you’ve built in the voluntary sector. So if you wanted to boost your chances of getting a job then you should start looking for volunteer opportunities.

Find out more:

Any other advice?

Networking at a careers event

Networking can help get your CV into the right person’s hands.

The most important piece of advice is to always stay positive and remain hopeful. Sure, that sounds very cliché – but remember that everyone has to start somewhere and getting your first job is always going to be the most difficult. Remember networking is a great way to get your name around and can help you get a foot in the door of the most coveted employers. So research job fairs or careers events near to you and give them a try – sometimes simply knowing the right person can get your CV into the hands of a recruiter and by following the rest of our advice, you’ll have plenty on there to impress them.

Don’t forget that a great CV template will help create the right impression – choose from our huge collection of free Microsoft Word CV templates available for instant download, without registration!

About Jen Wiss-Carline

Jen Wiss-Carline has been a Senior Manager and Consultant for several sizeable companies which included dealing with all aspects of staff management and recruitment. She is also a Chartered Legal Executive, and was admitted as a Fellow in February 2006.

Jen's qualifications include:
LL.B (Hons) (1st)
Chartered Legal Executive (FCILEx)
PG Cert Bus Admin
PgDip Law (LPC)
LL.M (Master of Laws) (Distinction)

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