How do you get your first job when you don’t have experience?
You may as well ask, “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, your first job or job experience?
Now it has resonance, doesn’t it? How can you land a job requiring past experience if no one will hire you to acquire that experience?
This issue faces almost all job seekers at some point, especially high school students and college students entering the job market for the first time.
But, your lack of the required job experience described in job openings shouldn’t be seen as an insurmountable barrier to entry. After all, if it were, you’d never land your first job!
Instead, consider it a challenge that, when met, will demonstrate to the hiring manager your savvy and creativity.
Hiring managers can’t help but be impressed by your motivation. Not to mention that the effort you put into defining career goals, building new skills, and writing your first resume, may actually help you overcome the lack of experience. Here are a few tips on how to get your first job.
Set Your Job Search Goals
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 just land a job, any odd 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. Recognize that there are likely stepping stones on your way to your dream job. Tailor your resume and job search accordingly.
Think Creatively to Build Relevant Experience
Volunteer. Volunteer. And volunteer some more. Look for community service 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 learning to improve yourself in ways that give you additional skills.
If the right volunteer work opportunity arises, you’ll likely acquire some experience that will enhance your chances of getting the attention of the employer who will actually add you to the payroll.
Consider an internship or work shadowing opportunity. They’re no longer limited to students. Even if it involves little or no pay, an internship can provide valuable work experience and an entry-level position in your chosen industry.
This work before your job search shows the potential employer that you are so motivated that you are willing to work for the experience value. This will show that you have more drive than your average high school or college graduate.
When all else fails, take a part-time job, even if it’s at a level lower than the job you want. Many teenagers and even college graduates start part-time. Working in part-time jobs will help you with income while searching for the right job.
Besides, once you get through the door, even if it means doing odd jobs for a time, your lack of experience decreases in relevance compared to actual performance. And it is your job performance by which you gain the very experience the employer sought in the first place.
Take Stock of Relevant Experience You Do Have
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, customer service skills, photography, navigating the Internet, biology, everything. These are transferable skills, and identifying as many as possible will make writing your first resume to land your first job much easier.
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 job description components and assess which of your strengths, skills, etc., would be handy for each.
Don’t exaggerate but don’t sell yourself short either. If you’re good at public speaking, for example, that’s a transferable skill for a first 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.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Tailor your resume or job application to the description taken from the job posting. Once you’ve broken the job down to its basic components and responsibilities, look at your resume and cover letter. Yes, writing a resume for your first job can be hard, but following the tips in this article will help.
When writing your first-job resume and writing your cover letters, you should call particular attention to your most relevant skill sets, even if you earned that experience outside of a traditional job.
It is a good practice to remember that, although skills and experience aren’t the same things, the former can often be substituted for the latter if you explain how your skills relate to the job opening you are applying for.
Have you led school projects involving a group of individuals, for example? Have you held leadership positions in school clubs? You could use either of these experiences to illustrate your leadership skills.
Don’t Forget This Tried-and-True Search Technique
If you have a specific company in mind as a future employer and want to get some advice on what the hiring managers are looking for, consider setting up an informational interview.
Even though this is not a job hunting meeting per se, you can present yourself as someone trying to break into a field. Ask questions during the meeting that will help you learn how to focus your job search efforts.
Make sure you thank the person you meet with for their time and then put whatever suggestions they’ve given you to work.
Later on, when you are ready to apply for job openings at the company, you’ll have a bit of history with them already established. Of course, if you learn of any special training or certifications they look for, you can work on these in the meantime as well.
Leave a Good Impression
Once you have started searching for your job, you’ll become more practiced at interviews as well. One of the areas where new applicants typically fail a job interview is at the end. Usually, this is where they ask you if you have any questions.
The uninitiated see this is a final unimportant question and the time to leave. However, those who are knowledgeable about the opportunity they have just been given know it’s time to focus.
When you present the interviewer with questions, ensure they are focused on how you could add value to the company. Find out what their goals are for the position of interest. Ask about challenges they anticipate in the coming year and relate them to the qualifications and knowledge you offer.
These topics will turn a regular job interview into a job hunting force. It shows them that you’re interested not just in acquiring a paid job for yourself but also in how you can be a valuable and profitable addition to their team.
Final Thoughts About How To Get Your First Job
So, there you have it: Remember to focus on your skills, tailor your resume to the job opportunities, be prepared for each interview, and leave a good impression! With a little research, hard work, and dedication, you’ll be landing that first job in no time. Good luck!