Nevertheless, many are hired for a range of entry-level (and beyond) positions every year, and career experts agree that a lack of job history is no reason to stop you from writing a resume that can grab the attention of hiring managers.
There are two key strategies for entry-level success, according to experts: Leverage the opportunities your school offers that can help you connect with employers, and write your resume in a manner that tells the best possible story about you and your background.
Do these things and you may find that you have more to say than you realized.
There are plenty of resources your school offers that help identify ways to illustrate your value to potential employers and get a jumpstart on career planning, says La-Shena Tatum, a recruiter for international telecommunications firm Ericcson. Some examples:
Keep a list of accomplishments
If you were involved in campus activities or worked while a student, keep track of memberships and accomplishments. Even if your activities weren’t directly related to your chosen field, you may have done things in those organizations that employers value, such as budgeting, recruiting new members or planning events. Those things demonstrate valuable skills and give you plenty to say about what you’ve done and can do, Tatum adds.
Work your Network
An important but often-neglected component of the job search process, networking can get your foot in the door. While some are intimidated by the concept, a good way to get started is with your professors, suggests Tatum. Meet with them, express your career interests and be sure to ask industry-specific questions to get a better understanding of what it takes be successful in a given field and what employers are looking for.
They may even be able to point you in the direction of potential mentors or employers, Tatum says. “Your professors will likely have their own professional circle, and can help connect you with the right people.”
While having a degree is important, employers want to know what you’ve learned off- and on campus, says Anthony Spadafore, director of Alexandria, Va.-based career consulting firm Pathfinders.
If you volunteered in your field, had an internship or joined a professional organization while a student, that experience will help you stand out from other candidates. You’ll already have knowledge of your targeted industry, while also showing potential employers your initiative.
Put It on Paper
Your cover letter and resume are all about you, but when it’s time to start writing you should take an employer’s point of view, says Louise Fletcher, president of New York-based resume writing firm Blue Sky Resumes. Ask yourself: What is the company looking for? What skills do they need? How can you show them you’re a valuable asset?
Before applying to a job, Fletcher suggests reading the job description carefully, highlighting the key requirements -- then address them right away at the top of your cover letter. “Show them that you have what they want,” Fletcher says.