How to make your academic skills shine when you have no work experience

You'll need to fall back on your academic skills to get a job if you have no work experience. Sarah Wilson shows you how.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

This post was written by an external contributor. You’ll need to fall back on your academic skills to get a job if you have no work experience. Sarah Wilson shows you how.

So, after hours of mindlessly scrolling Twitter, you’ve finally mustered the self-discipline to start writing your CV. But sitting there in front of a blank screen with that flashing cursor blinking tauntingly at you, your heart suddenly sinks. Your mind has gone as blank as the page before you and you’re wracking your brain trying to think of the last noteworthy thing you did.

If you’re a student with very little or even no work experience, the prospect of writing a CV can make you want to bury your head in the sand. However, it’s important to remember that the skills you’ve gained in your academic career can be used to your advantage. All it takes is a little introspection and some well-considered wording to make your CV shine.

So, where to begin? First cast your mind back over your time at university to specific experiences you’ve had, and then dissect that experience. What did you learn? Did you overcome any difficulties? How did you approach the experience?

Once you’ve answered these questions you’ll find you’re easily able to express that experience as evidence of a skill that might be valuable to employer – but I’ve given you a few examples below to get the ball rolling. Nowadays it often feels like you need experience to get experience, but remember – everyone has to start somewhere!

A year abroad


no work experience

This is something  that most language students, and many students of other disciplines will have done, and it’s fantastic for showing off your skills. Moving to a different country with a different language and culture can be used as evidence of your adaptability to new situations – a skill that’s vital for entering a fresh workplace. If you picked up the language while you were there then you have both a desirable language skill and evidence of your willingness to learn and persevere – double whammy!

Close reading/Analysis/Charts & Graphs

Whatever subject you do at university, you’re almost guaranteed to be faced with the task of taking information and breaking it down into constituent parts then representing it, or analysing it. Whether this is through close readings of a painting or poem, or putting data into a graph, being skilled at analysing information is a highly desirable skill across a variety of career sectors, from data journalism to finance. On your CV therefore, you can delve  into the kind of analytic work your degree demanded of you as evidence of your critical faculties. Don’t get too technical though.


  no work experience

Possibly the most obvious of all these transferable skills, simply because many workplaces require employees to do presentations, whether at the interview stage or in the role itself. Having made presentations whilst at university sets you up wonderfully for this, and also demonstrates your confidence and organisational skills. If you’ve ever done group presentations even better, as you can cite that as an example of your ability to work well in a team. Go you!



no work experience

Ok, I’m slightly joking with this one. All nighters, if anything, are probably the worst way of trying to prove you’re a competent candidate for a job. But meeting deadlines is a good way. If there was any point in your academic career that you had several deadlines in quick succession and you met them all – get it down! Almost all jobs will require you to meet targets or deadlines and employers need to know that you’re up to the task.


  no work experience

It might have given you hell at the time, but a dissertation or long piece of academic writing can be of help to you on your CV. Key with any long piece of work is research, which can be used as a demonstration of your commitment and dedication to completion of a task.

If you made any special trips to libraries or archives, or had to travel even further afield to do your research, make a note of it. Dissertations, or indeed any academic writing is also more obviously evidence of your writing ability, which is crucial to work across a number of sectors and roles.

…And once you’ve got it all down on paper, (and proof-read several times) sit back and wait for the offers to roll in. You got this!

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