Searching for a job when you lack work experience can feel like you are chasing a pipe dream. With some opportunities requiring 5+ years of experience and entry level positions needing 1-2 years, you might wonder, “How can I get hired when I need experience to gain experience?” Whether you are entering the workforce after recently graduating, or spending a period of time as a stay-at-home parent, here are 7 tips to landing a job when you lack work experience.
1. Be Realistic
Being realistic means taking into consideration your qualifications when applying. Instead of applying for every position that interests you, only apply for jobs that you are qualified for.
You may not be suitable for your dream job right now, but you can gain the skills and experience to land an awesome opportunity in a few years. Instead, focus your search on roles that will teach you transferable skills for your dream job. For example, if you want to be an Accounts Payable Specialist in the next couple of years, then taking a job as a General Office Clerk can get you started with gaining the skills and experience needed.
Additionally, be realistic about the time it will take to find a job. You want to start a new job next week, but the truth of the matter is, the average unemployed American takes about 7 months to find a job according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2. Rewrite Your Resume
From a young age, we are taught to be humble and not brag about our achievements. Though this philosophy comes from a good place, it may hinder you from securing an interview after submitting your resume. Employers look for you to be confident about your accomplishments. They need you to brag! Otherwise, they will not know what you are capable of and if you will be a good fit for their company.
Write your resume again, but this time don’t leave anything out! Highlight your personality traits as well as any soft skills you possess. Include any volunteering, projects you have worked on, and academic successes. Also, don’t forget to tailor your accomplishments to the role you are looking to obtain. While you might not have much paid work experience, there are other traits that an employer may be looking for. So don’t overlook that time you planned your friend’s baby shower, as it demonstrates you have skills in budgeting, multi-tasking, organization, creativity—all which are needed to get a job as an Event Planner.
3. Create a Career Portfolio
In addition to sending employers your updated resume, you can demonstrate that you are qualified for the job by sharing with them your career portfolio. Your career portfolio is a collection of all of the professional work you have. Your portfolio can include projects, PowerPoint presentations, articles, graphics, or, truly, anything that is proof of your experience. Also include awards and personal statements from people who know you professionally. If you do not already have items to include in your portfolio, start creating them now!
A good way to compile and present your work into a portfolio is through a website where you upload all of your work. An example of a career portfolio looks like this. There are several free and inexpensive websites to help you do this. LinkedIn and Google Sites, for example, are platforms where you can upload and share your portfolio. You can also create a free blog on WordPress or SquareSpace.
If you are a current student or a recent graduate, an internship could be the key to getting your foot in the door. There are so many benefits of attaining an internship that you should focus on securing one in your field of study! Benefits include gaining knowledge about your field or industry, using your education in the workplace, adding valuable work experience to your resume, developing new skills, and networking with those in your industry.
You can apply to many internships via the internet or visiting your schools career services center. There is often heavy competition for internships, so be sure your grades are in good shape before applying… Bonus! These internship opportunities may be paid depending on the company!
5. Volunteer/Work for free
Volunteering is similar to interning as they both offer some of the same benefits mentioned above. However, volunteering is different in that you will not get paid, it is not as competitive, and anyone can do it.
You can choose to help at any organizations looking for volunteers. You may even be able to work at your dream company in order to get your foot in the door. When you choose to volunteer, make sure you are somewhere that will help you gain valuable, transferable skills and experiences that you can add to your resume. Treat volunteering like it is a real job and be consistent. For example, start out by committing a set number of hours per week. Depending on your availability, you can adjust these hours.
Additionally, if you want to gain skills in a particular craft or obtain a specific job title, you can offer your services for free. For example, if you are trying to better your graphic design skills, you can gain practice by creating graphics free of charge, then adding your services to your resume.
6. Start Your Own Business/Freelance
Starting your own business will help you develop skills and produce valuable work experience while building your resume and earning money! If your business manages to take off and you end up producing an income, you can consider staying with your own company instead of working for someone else.
Things to remember:
- When starting your own business, do it seriously and passionately. Don’t work on it just for one day in order to put “experience” on your resume.
- Take the time to develop your business and hone your skillset. As stated before, it takes the average unemployed American about 7 months to find employment, which means you have time to devote to your passion!
- Continue to search and apply for jobs while you are working on your business. You never know, a job that is asking for your qualifications might become available.
- If you have a friend that is also interested in developing similar skills and experiences, consider partnering up to form a business together.
7. Network and Surround Yourself With the Right People
With a competitive job market, employers are handed dozens of resumes to review for one job opening. It is easier for an employer to give hiring priority to someone they know, or someone a current employee knows, as opposed to sorting through a database of resumes. According to a survey by Linkedin, 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. Therefore, reach out to your friends, family, acquaintances, etc., and see how they can help your chances of employment!
Figuring out how to get hired when you need experience to gain experience seems like an impossible conundrum. However, the trick to getting the experience that gets your foot in the door is to create it yourself. Take into account these 7 tips to landing a job when you lack work experience and you will be headed in the right direction!
Article Written By: April Porter