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If you’re beginning your career, it can be tricky when you have no experience. Don’t worry. We look at the strategies you need to land a job without experience.
It’s the classic Catch-22 for almost any job-seeker: you can’t get a job without experience and you cannot get the experience without a job. Whether you are just starting out on your career or looking for a career switch-up, it can be difficult to know where to start.
While you may think it’s impossible to get a job with no experience, it's actually just a case of fine-tuning your approach to the job search. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to overcome the obstacle of little or no work experience and show the hiring manager that you are the perfect person for the job opening.
In this article we explore:
How to get a job without experience
Top tips for applying for jobs with no experience
Research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), found that internships are direct pathways to job offers. The NACE 2022 Student Survey for four-year college students found that paid interns averaged 1.61 job offers, compared to 0.94 offers for unpaid interns, and 0.77 offers for non-interns.
Hearing feedback from your job application that “we had to go with another candidate with more experience” is a pretty common occurrence, particularly at the start of a new career. The good news is we have are seven strategies to help you tackle this issue:
Probably the most compelling way to show a hiring manager you are the perfect person for the job opening is via your resume and cover letter. Each job opening will have different role essentials and desirables, so it’s vital to customize your resume and cover letter for each job opportunity to maximize your chances of success.
Follow these steps to help you tailor your resume the right way:
Prepare a master version of your resume that includes all your skills, experience, and education, including any freelance gigs, volunteer work, and internships.
Create a new resume version for each job application by cherry-picking the relevant qualifications after a review of the job description. Make sure you use keywords from the job description to ensure your resume performs well with Applicant Tracking Systems.
Write your cover letter based upon the skills and experience that you have highlighted in your tailored resume.
If you’ve zero experience in your chosen field, one way to show your suitability for a job opening is via transferable experience. Highlighting this experience the right way can persuade the hiring manager that you have potential to perform well in the role.
For example, if you’ve been working part-time to support your studies as a server and looking to secure a sales associate role, you could highlight your transferable experience in customer service, promoting sales of menu specials, and handling complaints.
Soft skills are personal attributes that enable individuals to effectively communicate, collaborate, and lead others, as such they are not industry-specific. These skills may come naturally or can be strengthened over time, so they can definitely help you get a job if you have no experience.
Think about the soft skills you have acquired in your academic studies, extracurricular activities, internships and any volunteer or part-time work, such as adaptability, communication, and problem-solving.
Research your target industry and check job descriptions for the specific soft skills employers are looking for. Here are some examples of in-demand soft skills:
Attention to detail
Securing an entry-level role is one way to get a foot on the ladder, then progress toward your long-term career goal. Entry-level roles can vary in the amount of experience or education they require, but typically you don’t need many years of experience. For example an entry-level marketing role may require a bachelor’s degree and internship experience, which would be a perfect opportunity for a recent marketing graduate.
So, where can you find these entry-level opportunities? Job portals, such as LinkedIn, are a great starting point when looking for entry-level roles. Setting up job alerts with “entry-level [job title]” will make sure you get the heads up when a new job is posted.
Job fairs are another way to hear about entry-level jobs. Here you can meet multiple employers who are actively hiring and build connections with recruiters. Be prepared with an up-to-date resume to hand and always follow-up with contacts in your target industry after the event.
Completing some freelance jobs, volunteer work or an internship are all great ways to gain practical experience in your desired field. Seek out these opportunities via your network, local and online searches, social media, or by sending a speculative email to a target company.
See if writing a few articles can land you a job as a copywriter, or perhaps you can assist your church accountant and gain the experience needed for that accounts receivable position. Maybe an internship with a reputable IT firm can get you on track for a career as a software developer. Aside from being able to include this experience on your resume and cover letter, you can also get a taste of whether you would actually enjoy your dream job.
Enrolling in educational courses, professional certifications or a degree will show your commitment to your chosen career path as well as enhance your skill set. Check out courses in your local area or reputable certifications that you can complete online, then make sure you include this information on your resume as current studies or with an expected completion date.
For example, if you’re looking for a role working with young children, completing a diploma in early childhood education demonstrates your commitment to this endeavor and will provide you with valuable work placement experience.
Honing your professional networking skills is something you should definitely leverage to help you get a job if you have no experience. Networking can open new doors, enhance your skills, and even provide you with new job opportunities. Here’s how to build a great network:
Family and friends. Family, friends, and any existing networks you have are the best place to get started. Check in regularly to see if they have heard about any job opportunities or if they have any referrals so you can expand your network.
Attending industry events. Networking at conferences, attending seminars, or industry events is a great way to expand your network as well as learn more about your chosen industry. If you meet an interesting contact at a conference or industry event, make sure you ask them to connect on Linkedin or at least exchange contact details.
Informational interviews. Interviewing an employee of a target company to find out their perspective on their job, company, and/or industry for the purpose of your future career development is a great networking tool. Request a meeting and ask questions that get to the heart of why someone has chosen to follow the path that they’re on. As long as you’re genuinely curious and respectful, you will make a good impression on them. Who knows, they may even bear you in mind when a future job opening arises.
Social media. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are great digital channels for virtual networking, so being proactive on social media is time well spent to enhance your network. Engage with your existing network on LinkedIn by clicking “Like” on posts your connections share that resonate with you, comment on articles you find interesting, and share any relevant content to your following and industry. This will enable you to expand your reach online and grow your virtual network.
Before you start your job search, it’s a good idea to examine why you want to pursue this career path, so you can effectively communicate this to a potential employer. Here are some more tips to help you secure a job with no experience:
When your resume lands on the hiring manager's desk they may wonder why you're interested in the job opening if your background is in a completely different field. Communicating your passion and determination to succeed in your chosen career can make a difference and alleviate any concerns they may have about your lack of experience.
Essentially you are “marketing” your personal brand to an employer. Make sure you are clear on what your long-term goals are for this career and the value you can offer to a prospective company. Communicate why you were inspired to follow this career path via your resume and cover letter, then back this up in an interview situation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) it can take anything from 19.5 weeks to approximately five months to find a job (sometimes even longer). Looking for job postings, submitting a hundred resumes, hoping for an interview, and receiving a rejection (or worse zero response) can quickly get disheartening. Keeping motivated for the long-haul is vital
Preparing your job search from the perspective of knowing your brand, pursuing your passion, and feeling confident in your value will keep you motivated and focused. Tweaking your strategy can also be helpful. If you haven’t considered pursuing a professional certification for example then investigate this option or try different approaches to expand your network.
Feedback and constructive criticism are key ways to move your career forward in the right direction. If you have been rejected following a job application, asking for the reasons behind that decision will help you recalibrate and ensure your next job application is on point.
Thank an employer for their time and consideration, then ask for their honest feedback on your application and what you could do in future to improve things.
You can use this information to adapt your resume and cover letter as well as using Careerio’s Interview Preparation tool to be ready to ace your next interview.
Finding a job without experience does require more effort during the job application process, but it’s definitely possible.
Key strategies that can help you get a job with no experience include optimizing your resume, networking, completing courses and certifications as well as targeting entry-level, volunteer, freelance, and internship opportunities.
Be clear on the value you can offer in your chosen career path and communicate this to the hiring manager. This will alleviate concerns they have about your lack of experience.
Stay motivated. You will experience the highs and lows of looking for a job with no experience, but with tenacity and determination you can find the right opportunity.
Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.