If I had no experience in my field when I left university, how can I set myself apart from people who did?

Nobody has experience, in their respective fields, after graduation, unless they studied and worked at the same time, withing their field, which happens, but is rare. So, how can you rise up yourself above others? - by (1) quality of portfolio, foremost if it is on-line, like on Behance, for easier access and evaluation, (2) elaborate appealing creative Cover Letters when applying for jobs, (3) while applying for jobs and nothing happens, to run on national or international design competitions, with financial or non financial prizes and rewards, this will show bigger and higher interest from your behalf, towards all other that don't run on competitions, furthermore you will learn a lot, (4) for certain companies, propose a spontaneous non-paid internship, or a very low-cost one, so that you learn the most from their products and services, (5) eventually step out of the comfort zone and do projects which are not your area but are related (ex: a graphic designer, experiments with advertising campaign), by researching on-line and figuring out how to do it successfully. Regards

It's quite key to be aware that recruiters do not expect a whole list of experiences that are completely relevant to the role you're applying for, if you are a fresh graduate. On the other hand, you're quite right in the fact that you need to distinguish yourself amongst other applicants, some ways of which could be:

- Displaying essential skills on your CV through involvement in co-curricular activities, even better if in leadership positions, or active involvement on main events etc. This is probably one of the most accessible and valuable option as such experience is looked up upon in the early careers recruiting arena as a sign of leadership, project management, and team working.
- Taking the initiative by attending some development trainings/courses/certifications to acquire new skills or strengthen a development area
- These days, active involvement in the volunteering scene can be a way to stand out as it shows initiative, good utilisation of time and also CSR potential. There are plenty of avenues to volunteer these days and it is a valuable asset to display on the CV

By adding these strings to your bow, the next important part would be to use them to craft a CV that allows you to sell your skills, abilities, and experience. The trick would be to use these "experiences" mentioned above to highlight the skills you've gained as a result and how it matches what the employer is looking for.

I am a recruiter myself now, and firstly I would say the way we recruit would depend on the level.

1) At a fresh grad level, for a non-technical role, rarely experience are looked for. Rather your personal skills and flexibility to adapt to the situation. But of course a level of intelligence is required.

2) For a technical role, a demonstration of sufficient understanding of the technicalities is required. Though sometimes in new areas, we look for people who are curious and willing to learn something new. So it does not necessarily means working experience, but academic, social, project experience is enough as long as it demonstrates the right thing.

Now to properly answer your question, how to distinguish. Every company has its core value and every employee they hire needs to be able to bring something to the company. So to outshine, show that you share the common value and you live it by heart. And to top those value, show that there is something that you can provide that will make the employer happy; for example: it could be a niche knowledge you learned in uni, or an understanding of certain technology, or your club management skill, or your network of friends and family, your sound knowledge on politics, or your cross-domain knowledge, or even how you can make the environment glow positive, etc.