I’m 29 and have never been employed. What do I put on my resume?
Question: What if you are of a certain age, like 29, and have never been technically employed? Since I was 20 I’ve been taking care of my father, who was sick, and doing odd jobs. How do I overcome my lack of official employment on a resume? – Inexperienced, a Workforce1 Career Blog reader
Answer: There are many reasons why someone might be 29 and never employed — people are stay at home parents, people get incarcerated, or a hundred other things can happen in life. The nuances will be different depending on the reason that you were out of the job market, but as Ricki Curry, a Workforce1 Resume Workshop trainer explains, the basic solution is the same:
1. Identify the job you want
2. Use the (non-work) experience that you do have to highlight your relevant qualifications
3. Acquire more (non-work) experience, if necessary
4. And, of course, network
Here’s more on what Ricki means:
1. Identify the job you want. It’s impossible to write a strong resume — in any situation — without having a specific job in mind. So, what is the job you want? And what, SPECIFICALLY, does that job require? Review want ads to identify the key characteristics that hiring managers are going to be looking for when they review your resume. (See related posts on resume objectives and tailoring your resume. We also love this article from The Wise Job Search on how “being open” to any job ultimately shuts you out of opportunities.)
2. Use the experience you do have to highlight skills that match the job requirements. Much like the advice to people who are looking to get a job that matches their college degree, identify where your existing skills match the skills required for the job. Then highlight those skills in your resume. Depending on what you did, you might be able to write about the odd jobs as “self-employment.” Acting as a caretaker can also give you relevant experience – from budgeting to management.
You might also have gained relevant experience doing volunteer work, leading or participating in professional organizations, and, of course, getting a formal education. If you don’t have a lot – or any – work experience, you can include sections for volunteer work, clubs, and education on your resume, highlighting skills in each section that are most relevant for the job you are applying to.
3. Build more experience. Even after using all your experiences, you might find that you are a little short on relevant experience. So before you get paid for doing your goal job, you might need to put in some time getting unpaid experience. Read our post on “filling the gap.”
4. Finally, network. Once you have a presentable resume, a personal referral to a job is more likely to land you an interview than anything else.
To sum it all up: Identify a goal job. Figure out how your experiences qualify you for that job and write a resume that highlights those experiences. Work to build up additional experiences and skills with volunteer work, internships, more education and membership in professional clubs. And, of course, with everything in your job search, make connections and build relationships to help get your foot in the door.