I find that there is one big catch 22 in the job search, and it’s likely to come up when you search for your first job. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get that experience. Sort of a problem, right?
Well, I’m not going to lie… it is a lot harder to get a job without experience (especially that elusive “dream job”) but it’s not impossible. In fact, everyone’s been there at some point.
Someone asked me this exact question on twitter the other day, and I thought it was a great topic to devote a post to… so here are a few tips to get a job without experience.
Network like crazy & find someone to vouch for you
If a recruiter is looking through a stack of resumes with no other context, it’s not surprising that they are going to pick out the resumes that list experience most relevant to the job.
If you are fresh out of school and haven’t built up that experience yet, it’s really helpful to have someone vouch for you. If you can get someone to endorse you for your character, eagerness to learn, or any other positive qualities, it will help you get an interview even if you may be a little behind experience wise.
Definitely recommend reading this post about how to ask your contacts for a reference or intro.
Learn new skills
Skills and experience are not mutually exclusive. You can gain skills without having work experience. If a job is calling for a year of Marketing experience (which you don’t have) but also working knowledge of excel & social media platforms, your next step is to get really, really good at excel and familiar with all of those platforms.
Learning a new skill (another post on that topic here) shows a ton of initiative and will help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Pay attention to the job qualifications
I know how it goes – sometimes it’s easier just to apply to anything that sounds cool and hope for the best. However, especially when you are a little bit lighter on experience, you really do need to pay attention to the job qualifications.
It’s fine to reach a little, but putting together a proper application (which means customizing it) takes time, and you’re better off focusing your time on jobs you have a good shot at.
Be realistic. If a job asks for 5 years of experience in a specific area, it’s probably not going to be the right fit. A lot of people ask if internship experience counts, and I’d say for the most part, it doesn’t. When a job quotes “X years of experience in Y” they usually mean post-grad, full-time experience.
Many jobs are flexible with qualifications and looking for skills and abilities over past experience. Those are really the ones you want to put your weight behind.
Overcompensate by preparing (a lot)
I once had a candidate with no job experience get a job over a few others who had between 2-4 years. How’d they do it? One word, effort.
The amount of effort you put into the application/interview process will make you come across as a stronger candidate. Whether it’s true or not, it is perceived that the amount of effort one puts into the interviewing process directly correlates to the amount of effort one will put into each day of their job.