What came first, the chicken or the egg? It seems like a silly question, no? What if, however, we were to change it up a bit to, let’s say: What comes first, the job or job experience? Now it has resonance, doesn’t it? How can you land a job requiring experience if no one will hire you to acquire that experience?
This is an issue that faces almost all job seekers at some point during their careers, especially new high school/college graduates entering the job market for the first time. Lack of the requisite job experience shouldn’t be seen as an insurmountable barrier to entry, however. Rather, consider it a challenge that, when met, will demonstrate your savvy and creativity and may actually help you overcome the lack of experience. Even new grads lacking experience can land a job anyway if they effectively consider the following:
What experience do you have? This simple step is too often overlooked. Take some time, sit down, and make a list of all of the things you’re good at.
All of them. Cooking, telling jokes, photography, navigating the Internet, biology, everything.
- Next, deconstruct the job description of the job for which you’re applying, listing each duty, responsibility, or desired characteristic or ability as a separate component.
- Now, look at those components and assess which of your strengths, skills, etc., would come in handy for each of them.
- Don’t exaggerate but don’t sell yourself short either. If you’re good at public speaking, for example, that’s a transferrable skill for a job that involves coaching/teaching/selling/customer service.
- If you think about it, most skills are, to some extent, transferable in one way or another.
Tailor your application to the job description. Once you’ve broken the position down to it’s basic components, your cover letter should address those for which you have the most relevant skill set, if not necessarily specific experience. Remember that although skills and experience aren’t the same thing, the former can often be substituted for the latter if you explain how they relate to the job. Have you managed projects involving a group of individuals, for example? If so, use that as an illustration of your management skills.
Are you looking for a job or a career? Your answer makes a difference. Experience will likely play a lesser role if you’re trying to land a job than if you’re seeking to embark on a specific career path. Choose wisely. Either way, be reasonable. It’s all well and good to reach for the stars, but not if you just don’t have what it takes to be considered for even the most basic entry level position in an industry. Tailor your job search accordingly.
Volunteer. Volunteer. And volunteer some more. Look for opportunities to volunteer your time and energy in areas in which you have an ability or in those which interest you. Knowing how to land a job involves knowing how to improve yourself in ways that give you additional skills. If the right volunteer opportunity arises, you’ll likely acquire some level of experience that will enhance your chances of getting a job you seek.
Consider an internship. They’re no longer limited to students. Even if it involves little or no pay, an internship can provide an entry-level position in your chosen industry.
When all else fails, take a part-time job, even if it’s at a level lower than one you want. Once you get through the door, your lack of experience decreases in relevance compared to actual performance, performance by which you gain the very experience the employer sought in the first place.