Posted on 10/21/2020


Most young people today applying for an internship in college or high school face the same situation: You need experience to get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience. It’s a catch-22. 

To the students crafting your resume for your dream internship, feeling discouraged at your lack of experience that you wished could fill the white space on your screen, there is a solution for you! Instead of focusing on having years of formal experience, all you need to show is that you have relevant experience. Online certifications, a day spent volunteering and extracurricular activities can all fall under the “relevant” experience category. 

Before shying away from applying to an internship because you believe you are not qualified enough, read the insights from these 10 thought leaders who offer some solid advice and words of encouragement to create a solid internship resume with seemingly “no experience.” 

Be Upfront About It

Be upfront and point out that there is a lack of specific experience on your resume. At the same time, draw parallels to other experiences that can correlate to the required tasks. Point out other skills that you have that may be beneficial to getting the job done; e.g. great time management, team contributor, quick learner. Cap it off by stating your future reason for applying for the internship. How will that benefit the company? Paint a picture of what is in it for them by hiring you.

Sonja Talley, Principal HR Consultant

Replace Experience with Education

Your education is the next best thing to experience. Place an “Education” section at the top of your resume, just below your professional summary. Include degree, school, GPA if 3.5+, awards, scholarships and relevant coursework. If you have volunteered, leverage it in your resume. Express the skills, abilities, and professional qualities you have gained while volunteering. Discuss your projects as well! Many class projects use the same skills required in a professional setting. 

Daniel Reed, Top Prospect Careers

Speak to the Lack of Experience on the Cover Letter

Do everything else right on the resume, and speak directly to the lack of experience in a cover letter. Go the extra mile and print your resume on the ivory paper, and make sure that it’s formatted correctly. The cover letter is your opportunity to speak to the lack of experience. Address it up-front, and explain the ways in which you know you can overcome that gap, and most importantly, be genuine. Companies aren’t always just looking for the most qualified person, but more the person they want to work with in the future, so just be you!

Zack McCarty, Qwick

Volunteer your Services to Nonprofits

Offer your services as volunteer work for a nonprofit organization you align with. This is still a valuable experience that will teach you the skills and knowledge you will need to obtain that new opportunity. Describe what you learned and how you applied your knowledge when you can in your cover letter, resume and in the interview. Not all experience has to be traditional!

Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

Mock Projects

Create mock projects to showcase your talents, especially for those in creative fields. While they may not be actual projects with large budgets and businesses to support them, act as if they are and give it your highest quality. Use them as examples of your talent and explain their purpose. Not only will you prove your hard skills but a form of problem-solving and dedication. 

Jon Schneider, Recruiterie 

Consider Related Life Experiences

If you are a candidate applying for an internship without work experience, consider your other life experiences and market them as it relates to the internship for which you are applying. If you have practical and related experience in your college courses, be sure to highlight those on your resume. Take a thorough account of your club and organization involvement and be able to reflect how those experiences will influence your ability to be successful at the internship. Everything you do in college is to prepare you for life outside of college, so be able to speak to those experiences within the context of the job for which you are applying.

Eric Mochnacz, Red Clover

Leverage Classwork

Don’t be afraid to leverage classwork or school projects to overcome your lack of work experience! When I first started applying to internships, I included class projects in my portfolio so they could get a sense of my skills and capabilities. Oftentimes, employers also asked me about these projects in my interviews which was a good sign that they really took the time to look at my portfolio.

Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors

Talk about your Values and Beliefs

Research the organization to which you’re applying. If they have values or beliefs that resonate with you, talk about that. For example, many organizations volunteer in the community, so talking about your volunteer experience may be a plus for them, even if you don’t have work experience. Highlight some of your related coursework on your resume to help them to see you as enthusiastic and educated, even if you don’t have the experience.

Colleen McManus, Senior Consultant

Transferable and Soft Skills

Even if you don’t have the experience, you probably have transferable skills that will relate to this internship. Take the skills you learned while in school and any jobs you’ve had and show how you can apply them to this internship in your cover letter. Employers in this market are focusing on “soft skills.”

Dana Felix, HR Analyst

Take Free Online Courses

If you don’t have experience, you still need to show that you have some familiarity. For example, if you want a sales job and haven’t worked in sales, you could do a free or paid online sales course and put it in your education section. If you want an HR job, then you could do a free or paid online HR course and put that in the education section. If the hiring manager sees you have deliberately pursued learning in the area, it will increase your chances of success.

Michael Alexis, Teambuilding