How to turn relevant coursework into experience on your CV

Graduating in a recession is hard enough. With fewer jobs on the market than ever before, how can you escape the cruel paradox of needing experience to land jobs and only gaining experience from jobs? 

It all begins with your CV (or resume, depending on where you live).

We’ll show you how to craft a CV based on relevant coursework and projects in school that will impress hiring managers and help you reach your career goals, even if you don’t have much (or any) professional experience yet.

Trethowans
Trethowans

Only write about coursework where you developed professional skills

First, do not fill your CV with pointless information that is not relevant to the job. Hiring managers have been in the business long enough to dismiss overstuffed CVs that do not pass the 30-seconds test. Instead, identity coursework, classes, and projects that have provided you with skills transferable to any job. This includes volunteer work and internships. 

Here are some examples of transferable skills and qualities:

  • Dissertation on Media Law: Research skills
  • Theatre and Film Studies: Audio and video editing/ Communication/ Creative
  • Summer Course on HTML: Hardworking/ Personal drive
  • Badminton Team: Collaboration 

Such a skill-based CV format is perfectly suited for a university student with little work experience and will help you rank above people with job experience by proving to the hiring managers that you possess both hard and soft skills. Don’t sell yourself short!

 Update your CV every semester during university

It is good to get into the habit of constantly updating your CV’s experience section, so why not start in uni? How you score in class, what you learn, and which classes you take are just as important as which university you attend, so keep track of these details to prepare yourself for the job market. 

A major’s name, such as “business”, does not come close to encompassing all the interesting topics and projects you covered as a student. So update your CV with test results and classes that stand out as often as possible. Note down projects, class scores, number of participants in group projects, etc.

Here are some related questions to consider:

  • Did you get a first in your dissertation?
  • Did you take a module ‘unrelated’ to your major? (This can show a willingness to learn and interest in varying topics)
  • Did you learn Microsoft office? news writing? data optimization?
  • Were you part of the school magazine in secondary school?

Jot them down! As long as you can explain how these experiences are relevant to the job you are applying for, it doesn’t matter how long ago they were.

Take a look at the “Key Skills” and “Modules” sections in the graduate CV example below for more ideas: 

Write about your coursework like it was actual job experience

This will help alleviate limited work experience. The proof that you take your coursework and experience seriously shows that you meet opportunities with a good attitude and work ethic. 

The language you use to describe coursework is also important. For instance, a cause-and-effect format in the description can help you further prove your value. In the CV example above, the work experience section displays this format, like so:

  • Used Swift to develop an iOS app to help renters find available flats across the UK
  • Worked with the development team to improve the debugging process
  • Wrote a new interface to manage backup log data using Java and Python

This language structure proves how valuable Sam was in his internship. He did not simply write a new interface but used it to manage backup log data. His proficiency in Java and Python is also highlighted, making him seem additionally qualified.

  • Kept track of the website’s traffic
  • Kept track of the website’s traffic using google analytics to gauge suitable product pricing 

See the difference in both of these statements? Make your job application stand out by being confident and clear about your contributions. Experience is experience, and should not be dismissed. 

Add a personal statement

A personal statement on a CV is a 2-3 sentence summary of your qualifications and career goals that’s placed under your header. Whether or not you should include one depends on how much space you have left on your one-paged CV.

Space should be utilized for bullet-pointing work experience, but because you lack it, CV personal statements are good for highlighting your coursework and what you hope to achieve as a professional. 

Here are some details to include in your own CV personal statement:

  • Relevant skills: Fluent in English, Mandarin, and French
  • University major: BA in Marketing
  • What you wish to achieve in your career: Seeking to launch successful marketing campaigns 
  • Work ethic: Hardworking and driven

Also keep in mind that you should tailor your personal statement to your audience. Check the job description and pick out keywords you can include. 

If the description mentions wanting a “compassionate” and “caring” person for a nursing job, make sure to add “compassionate” and “caring” to your personal statement. Your qualifications will not matter if the hiring manager thinks you do not check the specific requirements of the job.

Here is an example of a professional CV statement:

English major seeking to use research and writing experience in the role of Junior Research Associate at Wexford Inc. Awarded multiple honors based on merits and expected to graduate with a B.A. in English from UCLA in June 2022. Fast learning abilities, commitment to succeed, and relevant studies align perfectly with this position’s listed requirements.

It is also important to avoid making bold statements that you are unable to back up. Hiring managers can sniff out phony statements instantly and you do not want to ruin your reputation right off the bat. 

The rule of thumb is to check over your CV and decide if you would hire yourself. If the answer is yes, then buckle up and find your first job

You can find free CV-related resources (templates, writing guides, examples, and more) at CVGenius.com.

Photo by Brooke Cagle