Recent graduates often struggle to get a job because many positions, even entry-level jobs, require one to two years of work experience. What most people don’t realize is that in many instances they already have the necessary experience and skills. This can come through part-time work, internships, or even volunteer experience. In order to get a job with no experience, you need to leverage the personal and professional experiences you have, highlight your skills and accomplishments, and hone your job hunting skills.
Developing Work Experience
Volunteer in a position related to your desired field. If you are struggling to get a job in your desired field because you don’t have enough work experience, you should volunteer in your field. This will help you get some real-life work experience and you will begin to develop some of the skills that will be important to future employers.
For instance, if you would like to be a social worker, you could volunteer at a homeless shelter or become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
Apply to an internship. Unpaid or even paid internships are an excellent way for entry-level job seekers to gain concrete experience working in the field. Search through online job boards and company websites for internship opportunities.
For example, some companies will hire a summer intern to take on general office duties such as filing, data entry, and answering phones. This can give you experience working in an office and will allow you to meet people in your field.
Develop your expertise. If you are trying to break into fields like writing, film editing, or interior design, create sample products to show to potential employers. For example, if you want to be a writer, you could start a blog. This will demonstrate that you have experience creating written material on a regular basis.
You could also offer to do pro bono work for a prominent blog or website and ask for a referral in exchange.
This will also help you build your personal portfolio.
Get a part-time job. Even if you can’t land a job in your desired field, take on a part-time job. Employers will often put some weight onto any form of work experience, even your first part-time job. This early work experience could be leveraged to demonstrate that you have developed communication, customer service, and problem solving skills.
For example, apply to part-time jobs in retail, fast food, or even serving and bartending. This experience can be invaluable.
Working a part-time job is a great way to get references, which a lot of employers look for when they’re considering hiring someone.
Highlighting Your Skills and Accomplishments
List all of your skills. The reason that employers place so much emphasis on work experience is because they want to ensure that you have developed the skills necessary to complete the job. As a result, it is very important that you clearly list and highlight all relevant skills. Some skills to consider include:
Computer skills: This can include working with Windows and Mac operating systems, typing over 60 words per minute, proficiency with PowerPoint or other Microsoft Office programs, web programming, blogging, content management systems, databases, graphic design and more.
Communication skills: Includes anything from public speaking, writing, training, and listening to facilitating teamwork.
Problem-solving and research skills: Students and bloggers have finely honed research skills that can be an asset to a company. People with organizational or office management skills can also boast exceptional problem solving skills.
Managerial or leadership skills: If you have ever led a project at your job, through a charity, or amongst friends, then you have experience developing leadership skills.
Relate your skills to your experiences. Although it is essential to know and understand all of the skills that you have developed over the years, it is even more important that you can relate those skills to past work or volunteer experience. This will demonstrate to a potential employer that you have actually put your skills into practice.
It is one thing to say “I have excellent written communication skills,” but is even more impressive to say “I have 2,500 followers on my blog, which focuses on creative writing.”
Meredith Walters, MBAMEREDITH WALTERS, MBA
Certified Career Coach
Emphasize your strengths if you don’t have experience. If you don’t have the experience and skills required for a job, use concrete examples that point to your relevant strengths, instead. Those examples don’t have to be work-related—you can use illustrations from any area of your life that demonstrate why you’re right for the job.
Explain how these skills are transferable to the job or industry. You have likely developed numerous skills through extra-curricular activities and the connection between these activities and your dream job, may not be obvious. For example, perhaps your hobby is soccer. This does not immediately transfer to a position in IT, but if you coached a soccer team or organized a league, you can demonstrate that you have concrete leadership abilities.
Identify any awards you have won. Awards and recognition can help to give weight to some of the standard statements that are common on a resume. For example, you may state that you are a hard worker. You can back this up by demonstrating that you won an employee of the month award in your previous part-time work. Include on your resume any awards or recognition, from employee of the month, to a top retail associate, to a dean’s list commendation. Awards and honours should be listed on your resume to show your dedication and exceptional work ethic.
You should also include any awards or recognition you gained through volunteer work.
Honing Your Job Hunting Skills
Create an effective resume. In order to help with your job search, you want to have a resume that clearly highlights your skills and relates them to your current job. You can actually organize the experience section of your resume into different skills. For example, you could list communication skills and then provide examples or when and how you have developed those skills through different work, intern, and volunteer positions.
Always tweak your resume and cover letter to fit the job you are applying for. This will demonstrate to a potential employer that you have taken the time to research and consider the posting.
If you’re not the strongest writer or you’re worried about formatting your resume correctly, ask a friend to help! You can also find resume templates online that will make the process easier for you.
Remember to make it scannable in a short amount of time. List things that immediately cause people to think, “This person can probably create value.”
Network with people in the industry. Use social media sites, such as LinkedIn to reach out to and meet with people in the industry. You can also network at local community events or job fairs. This network may be able to recommend jobs, help you develop skills, and answer any questions you may have about the industry.
Search through online job sites. Use job sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, and SimplyHired.com to begin looking for entry-level job titles. These sites will allow you to search for specific jobs or more generally at career fields, such as teaching or advertising.
Define your search by choosing 0 to 2 years of experience. This will remove jobs that require more experience.
Apply to jobs. Most job search engines will allow you to apply for jobs directly through their site. You should apply to as many jobs as possible, even if you do not have all of the required experience that was listed on the job post. For example, the post may say two to three years of experience is preferred. This likely means that they will consider candidates that do not have exactly two years of experience.
Practice your interviewing skills. In order to be successful in an interview, you should thoroughly research the company. This way you will appear knowledgeable about both the job and company goals and objectives. You should also practice some interview questions with a friend or family member. This will give you an opportunity to speak out loud and determine exactly how you will answer potential questions.
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