QUESTION: How does one go about getting hired without experience? It’s the classic Catch-22; no company will hire you because you have no experience, but one can’t get the experience without getting hired.
You probably have more experience than you realize in the form of transferable skills. Feature these skills
prominently on your resume so employers can see that you have The Right Stuff even if previous and target
job titles don’t align. To get more experience, volunteer at local nonprofit organizations and check for
internships—paid or unpaid—at companies in your target industry.
The catch-22 stems from not effectively positioning your unique assets. For the majority of new graduates,
your education is your greatest asset. If you can play up a relevant internship or co-op experience, you will
give yourself a leg up on your competition. Finally, don’t ignore the transferable skills that you picked up from
any part-/full-time work or volunteer experiences.
Find or make opportunities to develop professional knowledge and connections in the field: formal education, internships, certification programs, seminars, job shadowing, field networking events, introductions and mentorship programs. You could also research field topics and write blog posts or LinkedIn articles to demonstrate concept mastery. Gain credibility when you can’t get experience.
I know you don’t want to hear this, but sometimes the best way to gain experience in a new field is to consider doing it for FREE. Volunteering in a related role counts as experience. Don’t underestimate volunteer work simply because you weren’t compensated for it. Volunteer experience is still experience. Put it right in the experience section of your resume and feature any relevant courses.
Everyone has ‘experience’ that can translate to job skills. Volunteer work, projects for friends or family, extracurricular activities, side hustles, etc. could all be considered valuable experience. “Experience” doesn’t necessarily mean paid work. Focus on highlighting relevant skills acquired through everyday situations and general life management.
Volunteer at an entity that could use your enthusiasm and talent. If credentials would provide credibility, get them. If more knowledge would help, sign up for webinars or courses. And finally—network, network. Instead of applying and hoping, find someone to introduce you as the enthusiastic go-getter with credentials and volunteer experience, who would be a great addition to our company.
In essence, become what you want to become. Immerse yourself in your new field by joining industry organizations, branding yourself as the intended job title and volunteering your time working in your new industry. This experience counts whether you got paid or not. Also, highlight transferable skills from your background on your resume and LinkedIn along with your volunteer role.
First, I would argue that no one is a blank slate. If you are going after a position, there is something that makes you feel qualified to take on this role. Volunteering, education, extracurriculars are great ways to demonstrate your expertise. Secondly, get out from behind a computer, stop canvassing your resume to any entry level job and go meet people that can help you carve your own path.
New college grads face this challenge. Companies understand they lack direct work experience for entry positions, but they do want the education needed, core-soft skills and the best person fit. Show skills from internships, volunteering, summer jobs and even working in the family business; such as teamwork, collaboration, time management, and customer service, all with a positive attitude.
Work experience is gained via jobs (true), but also internships, field experience, practicum, undergrad research, volunteerism and service-learning, while educational experience is gained via school (true), but also on-line short-courses and certification programs (Udemy). Career coaches and resume writers are well-trained to draw out and frame clients’ relevant experience.
Some ideas to tackle this dilemma: 1) Use your network to get a foot in the door; employers are more likely to take a chance on someone who comes highly referred. 2) If possible, volunteer somewhere to get relevant experience. 3) Take a class to gain key skills. 4) In resumes/letters, showcase your transferable skills. 5) If you’re currently employed, seek out projects to beef up your experience.
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