We’ve all been there. After days of scrolling through endless job postings, you finally stumble across one that seems perfect for you. With growing excitement, you open the posting, scanning through until you stumble across ‘Required Experience’ and realize you are short a few years in many of their bullet points. Disheartened, you decide to not apply because of your lack of experience - but don’t!
Here are five ways to land a job with little or no experience.
1) Change your Definition of Experience
Reading the job listing, it’s easy to consider their asks as hard asks, and their listed experience requirement as professional experience only. However, many employers understand that most young people don’t have years of experience to back up their application. This is where personal experience comes in. Personal experiences can include things like painting or graphic design, community service, playing an instrument or sport, planning travel, or writing/blogging. While you may not be doing them in a professional setting, you are learning and mastering these skills on your own time. Expand on what you’ve learned by pursuing these interests and how the skills you’ve acquired from them apply to the job.
You may even find as you think back through your hobbies and interests that you have more years experience then you first realized. Those hours in college spent editing your roommates essays - that’s copy editing experience. That newspaper you helped design and layout each week for your collegiate paper - that’s graphic design.
2) Highlight What You Do Have
Don’t spend time pointing out what you don’t have when you are writing your cover letter or answering questions in an interview. For example, you may not have the three years technology based custom service but you did work in retail for two years and know how to deal with an angry customer, right? These types of skills are called transferable skills. They are a basic professional skill set that you acquire over time that can be applied to almost any job. Some examples include time management, good writing skills, good communication, the ability to work independently or with a team, setting and achieving goals, sticking to deadlines, ect. Focus on those skills, and find ways to capture how the transferable skill you do have fits with the listed requirement they want.
3) Show Your Personality
At the end of the day, employers want good people. They want employees who are trustworthy, loyal, dependable, personable, friendly, and positive. Bob in project management with eight years experience might beat you in numbers, but fall short in personality. If you poke around, you’ll find stories like this exist in almost any company. Experience, while important, isn’t the entire reason an employer hires you. That’s why they conduct interviews. Show up with a positive attitude, demonstrate your intelligence, and be polite and likeable. Lastly, be confident. Those that show up confidently to a job interview are far more likely to receive the job offer then those that don’t know their self worth. So even if you don’t have the exact skill set they want, you can confidently explain how quick a learner you are, putting their fears in your lack of experience to rest.
4) Write a Great Cover Letter
A cover letter is a great way to explain how the experience you do have can cover the areas you’re lacking in. If you haven’t yet worked in the professional world, highlight things you have done that demonstrate good transferable skills. An example of this might be babysitting or volunteering through highschool and college. Explain how you learned to multitask, timeliness, and how to overcome obstacles. The list of possibilities goes on. Be sure to connect the dots for the employer how these skills apply to the requirements they are looking for.
5) Network or Apply for an Internship
Lastly, if all else fails, work to find friends and family that can offer a reference or speak to your competence and abilities despite your lack of specific work experience. Make a list of the companies you would love to work for, and poke around LinkedIn to see if you know anyone who currently works there. Spread the word to friends and family about what kind of job you are looking for and ask them to keep an ear out if they hear of any openings from their own network.
If the job turns you down, politely follow up asking them to share why they went with someone else. If they reply that it was due to your lack of experience, inquire about the possibility of an internship with the company to learn the role and eventually land the job. This is a great compromise to make if you consider the job your future dream job or a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Experience is important, but it isn’t everything, and these five tips can help overcome that deficit. Lastly, keep in mind that companies are looking just as tirelessly as you are for someone who will be a great fit for the job. Give them every reason to think of that someone as you.
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