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How to write a creative CV with zero experience

Updated: May 20, 2022

Before we get into it, not all creative industry companies ask for CV's, they just want to see a portfolio. A lot of people include a CV in their portfolio, these don't have to be separate things. However you choose to do it, this post is about everything in your portfolio/CV that's outside of the work.

Let's go.

These are some tips and advice on how to write a creative CV when you've had no work experience. This is intended only to inspire ideas and not to exist as a rulebook, so you can create the most epic creative CV of your own. I’d also strongly advise anyone who is not seeking a career in a creative industry to absolutely not follow some of these tips and in some cases do the total opposite.

I don’t think HR at a law firm would be impressed with an origami CV, or one that’s been rapped, recorded and mailed as a mixtape.

This is:

If you’re at university, straight out of college or school, and seeking your first job, writing a CV can feel like an unfair, battle against experience. Other than a part-time job or some two-week work placement, most people don’t have any experience in the industry so it can be hard to know what to write to stand out.

Yet you need to do exactly that.

Expect that whoever is reading your CV doesn’t have time to care about you, no offence, why should they? Your CV needs to give them a reason to care.

1. If you don't know, get to you know

The key to knowing how to stand out starts by fully understanding and knowing yourself, inside and out. How do you expect to stand out if you don’t know why you stand out?

Writing a CV is as much about getting to know yourself as it is writing it.

You’re selling yourself. Not the devil, unless you end up with a horrible boss, then maybe you have. But in most cases, you’re selling you, your personality, your goals and ambitions, strengths, passions, and your attitude.

You have nothing to offer an employer at this stage, other than that.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you take yourself off and go find your USP, (unique selling point).

If you want to stand out from the rest when you have 0 experience, find out what makes you different, find out what makes you, YOU and lead with it.

Think about what your life goals or ambitions are, it doesn’t have to be related to the job or industry you’re going into, it can be your personal life goals.

After figuring out some ambitions of yours, think about your passions. Things you enjoy in life but dig a little deeper past the obvious.

What things do you enjoy that excite or motivate you, it can be small, simple things, like maybe you’re obsessed with Bridgeton and the Regency era, then maybe you would write a Miss Whistledown style CV.

Maybe you have a fascination with foraging mushrooms and can spot and identify all the different types or maybe you’re obsessed with creating crazy nail art or you’re a total space and cosmology nerd. Maybe your favourite thing about yourself is your Neurodiversity, whatever it is find out these little things, know they exist, embrace them, and lead with your quirks and unique qualities.

Think of Francis Bourgeois, (train spotting guy), who is famous and now the face of Gucci's latest campaign, all from owning a weird passion of his.

Whatever it is, find it, own it and use it to brand yourself.

In the words of Strategist Mark Pollard “Don’t be a sea of sameness flowing down the river of reptation”.

This is especially important for going into a creative industry, your biggest asset, even more than your skill level or experience, is your individuality, uniqueness, and ability to bring something different to the table. The more diverse a team, the richer their skill set, knowledge, and strength.

The curse of being totally inexperienced is actually the blessing, as no one can expect anything from you but your effort and willingness to learn. Take advantage of that.

2. Take advantage of being a beginner.

This one’s for the perfectionists. Accept you are a beginner and probably shit.

But that’s okay. Accept that as an entry-level applicant with no experience, it’s totally normal to not be able to provide, great knowledge, skills, and experience to the role, to begin with. You are there to learn.

You’re not selling your years of experience, or that one waitressing job you did for your uncle, you are selling your willingness, eagerness, and attitude towards learning. Don’t let your lack of experience get in the way of your confidence.

Take advantage of your junior/newbie status and turn it into confidence.

Confidence is that one thing you need more than anything else in your first job. The ability to throw yourself at anything without the fear of failing. Because you will fail at times.

In this case, ‘blind confidence’ can be a good asset, knowing when to ignore the doubt and imposter syndrome. The “fake it till you make it’ attitude will keep you striving forwards and progressing faster than acting like you don't know what you're doing.

Having a disregard for doubt breeds confidence.

As a newbie, you have room for failure and mistakes. Accept that you’re starting as the dumbest in the room and let that acceptance excite you and fuel your confidence.

Confidence doesn’t equal arrogance. Be confident and content knowing that you are a beginner.

You have to start at the beginning at some point. Move with confidence. And sell yourself, not your GCSE grades.

When it came to writing my first CV, I quickly realised that I had nothing to offer but my ambition, attitude and drive. So that’s exactly what I sold.

I wrote my CV from the future. I set it to 10 years in the future and wrote all the achievements and experiences I wanted to have achieved by then, (such as writing and publishing a book and it’s my lifelong dream to do a TEDtalk one day), to demonstrate that although I don’t have impressive experience now, I sure intend to in 10 years.

3. Use a thesaurus

But don't do a Joey, make sure you still make sense.

What I'm trying to say is, try avoid CV cliches and common language, such as 'hard-working, 'team player'. BORING. Remember you want to stand out.

Dig deeper, why are you hardworking, how are you a team player?

Use a thesaurus. Period.

If you're going to be anything, be interesting. You want your reader to be excited about you and want to meet you.

Here are some helpful examples from Grad School, taken from LinkedIn.

4. Get creative with your design

As you’re applying to a creative role, you want to show off your creativity. So, get creative. Don’t limit yourself to a piece of paper or a word document.

At this stage, you should hopefully have a good understanding of your USP and something different about yourself you can lead with.

Maybe you’re a dyslexic copywriter or maybe you’re an astrophysics nerd like me.

How can you use that USP to inspire your CV?

Don't just think about what you're writing, think about how you're going to communicate your CV through its design or delivery. Is it a video, or are you going to make something physical? Think about how you're going to get your CV to people, how will they receive it?

An emerging creative duo, wrapped their portfolio/CV over chocolate bars and delivered them to different agencies. It' dope, check it out.

I’ve seen people apply for jobs at Spotify by creating their CV in the style of Spotify wrapped.

One girl, famously, created her CV to look like a passport and then dropped copies of them on the floors of many big New York Advertising Agencies. Anyone who sees a passport on a floor would instinctively pick it up, as it's such an important document, so she'd succesfuul found a creative way of delivering her CV so that someone would 100% see it. Genius.

Another guy, who was applying for game software and development roles, created a physical game you could play on your phone, as his CV. Each level you learnt more about him and his experience.

I've seen a girl who loves cooking, create a cook book style CV, with the 'ingredients' as her skills and qualities.

This isn't always neccessary but if you're applying for a specific brand, think about how you can show off you're interest in the brand. How can you tailor your CV to their brand.

Think about what can you bring to the brand? Any specific skills or knowledge.

Below are some examples of how people have created CV's tailored to the brands brand or field they were applying for.

Here are some really unique, creative, and even clever resume examples to show how people have used, creativity, strategy, and personality in their CV’s to not just get jobs but go viral too.


(Sourced from Linkedin)

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