If you currently have a lack of experience in the workplace, finding your first job can seem impossible.
With statistics like the ones below, it may seem that you’re never going to take that first step on the career ladder:
“91% of employers prefer their candidates to have work experience, and 65% of them prefer their candidates to have relevant work experience.”
“What recruiters say they look for on a resume: Job Experience – 67%”
But don’t get discouraged. In this article, I’m going to show you how to overcome lack of experience in work. Follow these tips, and you should be well on your way to getting your first job.
1) Identify what you lack
The first step before you start going for interviews is to look at the type of job you want. Go to job sites and find around ten different job listings in the area that you want.
Check out the job descriptions and requirements. Make a list of everything that you don’t currently have on the list of requirements.
Don’t get disheartened doing this. You’re only focusing on this for now so that you can find ways to fill the gaps.
2) Focus on what you do have
Next, take a good look at your skills and talents and any experience you do have. Make a list of everything, even if it wasn’t achieved in a job and even if it’s not obviously relevant.
If this is difficult, talk to your friends and family. Ask them what they think should be on your list.
The point of doing this is to show you just how much you have to offer any employer. The other reason for doing this is so that you can start to shape your resume with positive things.
When you get to creating your resume, you’ll do it with far more confidence after this step.
3) Look at your transferable skills
Take a look at the list you just made above. See if you can find any skills that transfer to the jobs you want to apply for.
You may not have any actual experience of organizing a networking event, for example. But if you’ve helped organize any local charity or community events, you have learned some skills.
These will be transferable skills that you can apply to any new job.
You will have learned to organize and to liaise with other participants. You will have improved your communication skills and perhaps dealt with difficult people.
All of these skills are what employers are looking for. Make a note of them both for writing your resume and for giving examples in your interviews.
4) Craft a killer, skills-based resume
With the information from above and your list of qualifications, create a resume that is skills-based, rather than experience-based.
You can’t help your lack of experience in the workplace, but you can turn it into a positive.
A skills-based resume shouldn’t focus on how long you worked somewhere, but rather on what you achieved. This type of resume should show off what you’re capable of and emphasize your skills. It will show that you have great skills, even if you don’t have quite as much experience as other candidates.
Describe your projects and tasks, making sure to show what skills you used. Talk about your successes and how the project was successfully completed with your help. Add statistics and data if you can for further proof of what you can do.
Don’t forget your soft skills. According to Zety’s 2022 HR Statistics: Job Search, Hiring, Recruiting & Interviews:
“93% of employers consider soft skills an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions.”
So play these up on your resume and in the interview.
I recommend checking out this article where 14 career coaches share their best tips on writing a resume with no experience.
If you don’t have any previous experience, or any projects you can talk about, then volunteering is a great idea. It does depend on the industry you’re trying to get into, but volunteering can give you those all-important transferable skills.
Look for relevant charities that you could work for. Ideally, try to find something that’s as close to what you want to do as possible. Failing that, any charity work or volunteering will help to give you some work experience.
Once you have gained experience from volunteering, it’s important to highlight your volunteer experience in your resume to showcase new skills.
6) Internships or unpaid work
If you can afford to take unpaid work, again, you can gain good work experience that will enhance your resume.
As with volunteering, aim to get something that is as close to what you want to do as possible. Failing that, look for something that will at least give you the skills and experience that you are lacking.
7) Take a step down
If you’re changing careers, rather than trying to find your first job, don’t be afraid to take a step down in your career. This can give you current experience in a new role that’s closer to what you really want.
You can then add relevant experience to your resume. You will also have new contacts in the area where you want to work. You will also have access to any internal jobs that come up with the possibility for advancement.
8) Continued education
You can’t buy experience, but you can add extra skills to your resume with continued learning.
Look at the qualifications and skills needed for the job that you want and find relevant courses you can take.
You could start with free YouTube courses, and then explore from there. Check out your local colleges for courses you can do in the evenings or even online.
Try the Open University for excellent online career-based and skills-based courses. While it is UK-based, it is recognized in the US and the Open University has accreditation in the US. edX lists many free courses from some top US universities, including Harvard and MIT.
Look for occupational, certified courses in your field. For example, Hubspot Academy offers a full range of certified marketing courses.
9) Get a mentor
Use your networking skills and find someone who has the job that you want. Connect with them and ask if you can shadow them or at least ask them questions. You may then be able to ask them to mentor you and guide you in getting your first, or your next, job.
A mentor can make a huge difference in your life. They offer years of experience and wisdom that you can only get from working in the trenches.
Your mentor will have contacts in your field and they may be able to give your resume to the right hiring manager.
10) Be positive and stay motivated
It’s not easy to stay positive when you keep getting rejection letters. However, you will feel better and approach your search with more effort and gusto if you have a positive attitude.
A positive attitude goes a long way in interviews too. Employers are also looking for someone who is a good fit for their company. So, when you get an interview, go in with a great attitude. It can make all the difference.
“No experience is necessary to push yourself past what you think you can do.” – Jesse Itzler
You need to stay motivated and have confidence in yourself that you will succeed. Don’t let your lack of experience in the workplace get you down.
“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” –Andrew Carnegie
11) Think outside the box
Start with who you know. Getting a job isn’t just about what you can do, but sometimes who you know.
Do you know anyone that works for the company you’d like to work for? Can they give you any advice? Do they know who you should send your resume to?
Work your contacts for all the information and job leads you can get.
Another way to start your career could be to start a blog. While that’s definitely not the usual way to do it, it can work.
Blogging teaches you new skills, such as organizing, copywriting, building a website, and more. You might also find you get recruiters coming to you, rather than you chasing them.
And you can parlay it into something amazing. Read Forbes’ article on how starting a blog led a fashion wannabe to become the CEO of her own fashion PR firm. There’s also some great advice on finding a job with no experience.
Take your future into your own hands and get over your lack of experience in the workplace. What other ways can you think outside the box to work your way into your dream job?
12) Keep going
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb
It can be tough out there when you have a lack of experience in the workplace but persevere and you will get there.
With my lack of experience solution, you’ll be able to increase your skills and experience and land your first job.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget that confidence goes a long way:
“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” –Theodore Roosevelt