“Get a job without experience, but you need the experience to get the job!” We’ve all encountered the terrible experience-job paradox. It’s a Catch-22, which can feel incredibly frustrating, particularly when you’re just starting out. While you may feel limited in the traditional ideas of what amounts to “work experience”, just know that you’re not the first (or the last) professional who has encountered this! There’s no reason to get anxious about it, though, because there are nine steps to getting a job anyway, with or without work experience.
In this article, we’ll cover:
9 Ways to Get a Job Without Experience
- Get the Skills
- Address the Issue in Your Cover Letter
- Tailor Your Resume to Every Position
- Build Your Network
- Explain Your Passion
- Careers Aren’t a Straight Line
- Take Lower-Paying Jobs or Volunteer
- Change Location
- Ask for a Second Opinion
Get the Skills
In order for any single actual living person to see your resume, you need the right credentials. While we could debate whether or not a college degree (and its debt) should be required for every position, we can all agree that skills to do the job are necessary.
From Grow with Google Certificates to Coursera to Skillshare, the internet is full of opportunities for you to learn a wide variety of skills. Not all are free, but many are extremely affordable and offer a payment plan. For an I.T. position, we suggest you take a look at Merit America, a U.S.-based flexible women-owned online program with live support and a career services team. They provide a path to skilled careers for adults without Bachelor’s Degrees, which you only pay back after you have a full-time job.
When you’re trying to get a job without experience, your credentials are your experience.
Instead, address the experience issue head-on in your cover letter. Highlight the academic experience that you have and how that relates to this new position. Discuss class projects, internships, presentations, and volunteer work, because that’s all experience. If you’ve just graduated or just decided to change jobs, list your education at the top of your resume first, before the job experience. That way the hiring manager has to see your credentials
Address the Issue in Your Cover Letter
. Cover letters are a great way for you to show your work ethic and your drive to break into this industry. When you apply for a job without experience, you need to show that you’re willing to do that little bit of extra to stand out. Since your competition probably has some work experience, you need to use every opportunity to make yourself heard over them.
Connect what you bring to the table to the job description
You need to explain why what you bring is what they’re looking for. Be proactive and explain which of your skills you can use at this new position. “Customer service” and other soft skills can transcend many industries since most careers require dealing with people.
Tell a Short Personal Story
Do you have experience with any equipment that was similar? Were you the first person to figure out how to use a program, or are you great at making sure customers and clients leave an establishment satisfied? Perhaps you led a student group organization or held another position of authority. Those are important stories that can help launch you to the top because they are memorable and evoke emotion.
Tailor Your Resume to Every Position
Highlight your transferable skills
Again, when you apply for jobs without experience, you’ll need to reinforce why you’re the best person to hire. That means putting your top skills at the top of your resume. That can look as obvious as your contact information and then your skillset.
Emphasize your soft skills
Of those skills that you highlight, working with people is one of the most important. It’s hard to find any single career out there that doesn’t work with people in some way, whether it’s direct or indirect.
Do you need a portfolio?
You might be surprised how many industries now require an online portfolio. Of course, the arts require it, but also anything that involves creating a product online. That includes software developers, UX designers, videographers, video game designers, cake decorators, and the list goes on and on. You’ll need outlines of past projects and a showcase of work samples because you’re offering tangible proof that your work is worth it. A great way to see if you need one is to check online if job ads require one.
Make sure your resume has the right keywords
Why? When you apply for a job online, your resume is first scanned by a computer system to make sure that this application has the same keywords as the job description. Therefore, if the job description has requirements like “PowerPoint” and “Excel”, but doesn’t say specifically “Microsoft Office”, then you need the exact words “PowerPoint” and “Excel” on your resume as well. That’s even if you have “MS Office” or “Microsoft Office” on there, but you can put the words “PowerPoint” and “Excel” in parentheses after it. i.e.: Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook)
If you don’t have the basic skills they’re looking for, your resume will get blocked every time. Make sure you have the certificates, any college courses, any online classes, etc. down on your resume. If you follow all of these steps but still skip this one, your resume will be only seen by heartless computer programs.
Build Your Network
Who you know can make a bigger impact on your career than what you know! Don’t know anyone? Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to meet people, even without leaving your house! You can interact in online forums, read blogs, and join groups both online and offline. You can set Google alerts to stay at the extremely fresh edge of news about the industry, make connections through LinkedIn and Twitter, and use these springboards to make connections.
Explain Your Passion
Landing a job without experience means people are going to ask you a lot of questions. You need to be ready with a clear and concise answer about why you want to enter this field, how you got interested, what you’re doing to reach this goal, and what you can offer anyone who is hiring. This is when you use your passion for this industry, along with your skills, to really show enthusiasm for this new career and why you love it.
Careers Aren’t a Straight Line
You have your skills, your trusty cover letter, a strong resume, and you’ve explained your passion to everyone in your network until you’re exhausted. So what gives? Where is this new job already? It’s hard to remember when you’re in the thick of it and focused on the specific prize at the end, but careers aren’t a straight line. Yes, sometimes people are hired immediately for their dream roles because someone else has spotted their internal brilliance, but more often not.
It’s often easier to get hired by the company you want to work at and then transition to the dream job, instead of getting the dream role right away. When you’re applying for a job without experience, you just need to get a chance to prove yourself. So don’t discount the administrative assistant jobs, the lackey positions, or the other necessary essential and very public positions! It’s called “a foot in the door” for a reason.
Take Lower Paying Jobs or Volunteer
One way to get a job without experience is to push your way into gaining experience. That can look like internships, a lower-paying position, or even volunteering. For instance, if you want to work in the art world, try getting work as a docent first before becoming a big player. Just because it’s not your end goal doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a great stepping stone. Part-time volunteering also counts as experience, so if you’re not making the headway you want, consider putting in a couple of hours a week somewhere. You can gain experience, some personal recommendations, and even some great stories along the way.
Why change your location? We admit that this isn’t for everyone, but if your industry requires you to be there in person, you might not have a choice. No matter what you do in your corner of the world, industries often are in specific places for a reason. NASA has space stations where they need them, the art world lives where there are enough people interested to see it, and so on.
Changing locations will also give you an edge. The larger cooperations with the biggest budgets get tons of applications from extremely qualified candidates, but the smaller companies choose from who is left. If you join a smaller company, you have less competition. That means you can meet people who have more experience, will be able to introduce you to other people, will know your name, remember your work ethic, and be able to promote you faster. If you can expand your job search to the entire country, just think of the wealth of opportunities waiting for you.
Ask for a Second Opinion
If you’re still not getting anywhere, it’s time for a second opinion. It’s time to ask your network for help, find a mentor, volunteer, or ask a recruiter. The response might be hard to hear, but this step may be necessary. It’s essential that you ask someone that you have an industry connection with, so they can tell you the honest truth. Your friends and family mean well, but they might not know what your portfolio needs.
In conclusion, it is possible to skip the traditional route and get hired at a job without prior experience, but it requires some extra steps. Most careers are rarely a straight line, but if you’re adaptable and determined, it can be yours.
If you’d like to talk to a recruiter about your resume, please submit your resume to our personable staff.