It likely feels like your job search is a losing battle when most job advertisements require 2+ years of experience, and you have little to none. Bear in mind, however, that everyone currently employed started with zero formal experience. And you can too. To do this, you're going to need the best first impression you can muster. You're going to need to know how to create a C.V. that showcases your skills and talents without the luxury of talking about past employment.
Let's get down to it; here is some key advice to follow before applying for any more jobs.
Talk about your life experience
Start by making a note of everything you have done so far including volunteer work, odd jobs done in your spare time, sporting activities, social clubs and any internships you may have participated in. Now think about what you learned whilst doing those activities that a potential employer may want from you. You can relate these activities to the job posting by adding a bullet point or two on how these activities have taught you certain skills. For example, you could argue that being captain of a soccer team taught you about leadership and conflict resolution.
Highligt your qualifications, if you have them
While you do not have any employment experience, you may still have relevant experience gained in other ways. if you have done volunteer work, internships or after school work that has given you any experience that may prepare you for the position you are applying for, make sure these are prominent on your CV. Highlight any studies, courses and training you might have done that would demonstrate your qualification to do the job being offered. Expand on your education and the skills you have gained from your studies. Once you have read through the entire job posting, make sure to list personal qualities that might make you suitable as well. It also helps if you can list any personal achievements that you have gained that might make you the perfect fit for the job.
Write a skills based CV
Use a template that allows you to highlight your skills as opposed to the standard CV which lists work experience. List your skills and elaborate on each one without adding in any padding or fillers. Mention how your skill was gained, how you have used the particular skill in the past and detail how the skill will be useful in future endeavors. When applying for a particular position, detail how you would use this skill to benefit the company in the particular role you wish to interview for. The advert will usually detail the skills the company is looking for and you should try and match your skills to their requirements as far as possible.
Detail personality traits effectively
Writing down that you are goal orientated and a people's person on your CV might sound like a good thing to do, but it becomes clutter unless you can back this up with actual examples. Detail what you have done that proves you have these traits. For example, detail a goal you had set and how it was achieved including any obstacles encountered along the way. Write down how you have worked within a team and what the team achieved with you as a member or better yet, as a leader. Even something as simple as babysitting regularly can demonstrate responsibility, reliability, and trustworthiness. Where possible, quantify the goals achieved. For example, raised R 2000 for a local SPCA by selling homemade key chains.
Don't go overboard
There is always the temptation to add in extra information that is not relevant, add in experience from 4 or 5 years ago that does not relate directly to the job you are applying for or adding in references from family and friends. Recruiting personnel will usually skim through a CV to see if the person has the potential to fulfil the job adequately and adding in a lot of fluff can compromise the integrity of the entire CV. Too much detail or obvious wishful thinking or unfounded claims will see your CV discarded instead of advancing to the next step in the process.
Use keywords as far as possible
With the advance of computer programming, many companies are using specially designed systems to scan CVs before they even reach the mailbox of the recruitment officer. Use words that are relevant to the advert you are responding to as well as the industry you are applying to work in. Words directly related to the employment opportunity advertised will potentially get you past the CV scanner and on to the screen of a recruiter. If you can't pepper your CV with keywords, add some of them into your cover letter.
Use cover letters
A cover letter is your introduction to the hiring manager. Research the company and try and address this to a specific person as far as possible. Detail why you are wanting to work for the company and what you think you can bring to the table. Do not just rehash your CV. Show that you have done some research and have some enthusiasm for the particular role in the company you are applying to. While some recruiters will probably skip the cover letter, for hiring managers, this may be as important as your actual CV.
Remember to ensure that you structure your CV and cover letters to appeal to the recruiters for each position that you apply to. Pushing out a standard CV to hundreds of jobs hoping for a hit is likely to land your CV in the bin if it even makes it through the first round of screening. Another essential that is often overlooked is to ensure that you use a professional template and do a thorough spelling and grammar check on both your CV and your cover letters before you send them off. Attention to detail is important in almost every position, so demonstrate this skill straight off the bat.