Applications / Job market

How to turn university work into experience on your CV

Entering the job market as a new graduate is intimidating, especially when you don’t have relevant work experience to include on your CV. With such heavy competition for good entry-level positions, the pressure is on to make sure your CV is compelling enough to win over potential employers. 

While work experience is typically lauded as the prime focus of a CV, it’s possible to write an impressive CV without it if you know what to include. In this post, we’ll show you how to maximise your education and university achievements to impress employers with your relevant skills and experience. 

1. Only write about university experiences where you developed professional skills

Employers want to know what makes you qualified for a position, and your job is to use your CV to show them everything you’ve got. The good news is that if you don’t have work experience, you can use assessed work from your course to demonstrate your relevant skills. However, the keyword here is relevant

Your CV should be as concise as possible, which means that everything on it should add to your qualifications. If you completed university modules that demonstrate essential job-related essential skills, then include them. Leave out modules that have no bearing on the job you’re applying for. 

For the best chance of success, it’s important to tailor your CV to each individual job. Carefully read the job description to get a solid understanding of what an employer is looking for in a candidate. Then target these specific skills and abilities in your CV by highlighting your relevant experience. Targeting a job description will give you a much better chance of impressing employers.

Here’s an example of how to list relevant modules on a CV:

If you have relevant internship or volunteer experience, include these experiences in your CV as well. Internships can be included in your work experience section. Volunteer experience can be listed as “relevant experience” or, if not directly relevant (but still demonstrating transferable skills), “other experience”. If you still feel your CV doesn’t effectively demonstrate your skills or qualifications, consider a different approach. Using a skills-based CV can work to the advantage of students who lack experience but have plenty of relevant skills.  

2. Update your CV every term during university

While you’re a student, keep your CV updated with relevant education details, making note of your most impressive projects, experiences, and exam results. These details can be used to write a clear, compelling graduate CV tailored to the job you’re applying for. Keep a master list with all of the details from your modules to make it easier to choose which experiences and skills are well-suited to each job. 

Over the course of your academic and professional career, your CV will undergo countless changes as you learn more. It’s good to get in the habit of keeping it up-to-date by regularly removing details you no longer need and replacing them with more notable qualifications you earn along the way. 

Make sure your CV remains concise, only communicating what is necessary. While a CV can be up to four pages in length, without any work experience it should be kept to one page, or possibly two. As you gain experience your CV will inevitably become longer. 

3. Write about your studies like they were actual job experience

In the absence of work experience, another way to write an impressive CV is to transform your “work experience” section into a “relevant experience” section. To do this, choose the modules that are the most relevant. You can list the module name as the header, including when it was taken. Under the heading, use 3-5 bullet points to describe what experience, skills, or knowledge you gained from the module. 

One tip for writing a good CV is to include hard numbers in your bullet points. Doing this turns your experience into quantifiable achievements, which offer concrete evidence of your skills and capabilities. Finding numbers to list in your CV is as simple as noting a result you received on an assessment, indicating how many programming languages you worked with, or how many students you collaborated with on a group project. 

Here’s an example of how to list university experience in a relevant experience section: 

You can list multiple modules this way, as long as they’re relevant to the job and demonstrate necessary professional skills. Lacking formal work experience doesn’t mean that you’re unqualified for a position. If you can demonstrate your transferable skills and enthusiasm for the opportunity, you’ve already made a good start. 

By making the most of your educational experience and using your CV to draw attention to your notable academic accomplishments, you help employers focus on all of the reasons why they should hire you.

Guest blog writer Corissa Peterson is a Content Writer and Resume Expert at Resume Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies

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