At some point in our lives, we will all have to apply for our first job, and when we do, it’s likely that experience will be one of the prerequisites for the role. But how are you supposed to get experience if nobody will employ you in the first place? It’s an age-old quandary that continues to frustrate and bemuse jobseekers today.
Luckily, there are numerous ways to navigate around this career roadblock. With a bit of research, some old-fashioned grit and determination, and no small amount of patience, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take your first steps on the career ladder.
1. Sell Yourself Differently
When established professionals apply for jobs, recruiters take a wealth of factors into account – particularly their experience and achievements. When you’re an entry-level applicant, though, your CV will be scrutinised differently. In most cases, employers know that your job experience will be limited, so they’re more concerned with if you have the right blend of characteristics and personality traits to be a success in the role.
You don’t have to have any work experience to have developed and demonstrated these skills. You might have been part of a sports team at school, for instance, or a public speaker at university. The point is that you should focus on promoting these soft skills, taking into consideration the instances in your life where you’ve used them.
Try to focus on the specifications of the job itself, too. If you’ll be expected to work alone a lot, demonstrate how responsible and independent you are; if you’ll be dealing with customers, sell your communication skills. Always understand what your employers are looking for and promote your soft skills accordingly.
If you’re looking for a more practical approach to gaining experience, then volunteering can have a hugely positive impact on your CV. Aside from the skills you’ll pick up in the work that you do (depending, of course, on where you volunteer), there are numerous other benefits. For example, it demonstrates your selflessness and dedication to making a difference in other people’s lives, while it also shows employers that you’re a proactive candidate.
If you’re especially committed to a certain field or career, and your circumstances allow it, you might even approach certain individuals or departments and ask to shadow them. As well as the industry knowledge you’ll acquire and the potential networking opportunities you’ll gain, your dedication and commitment will set you well apart from your competitors when you come to apply for a job.
And who knows? If you manage to impress, you might even land yourself an offer directly!
3. Explore Apprenticeships and Internships
As governments look at alternative ways to meet skill shortages, apprenticeships are making a resurgent comeback – and not just within the traditional vocational sense, either. Many prestigious white-collar organisations, particularly in the financial sector, now offer ‘office-based’ apprenticeships, as do many major tech players and engineering giants.
If you’re looking for a way into one of these companies, then an apprenticeship is the perfect fit. They’re designed specifically for those with no previous industry experience, and you will get paid a wage while you’re trained by the company. There are different types of apprenticeships depending on your level of education, too, so do your research and see what’s available.
Internships, meanwhile, are also a viable way of getting experience while getting paid, although unlike apprenticeships there’s no guarantee of a permanent position at the end of your placement. As a means of getting a big name on your CV, though, it’s a highly valuable and recommended path to take.
4. Build and Utilise Networks
When it comes to getting a job, it’s an undeniable truth that in many cases, it’s not what you know, but rather who you know. Therefore, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of building up a strong network of contacts.
Luckily, even without any work experience, there are several ways to do this. Ensure that you’re active on LinkedIn, following pages that are relevant to your field and connecting with recruiters at companies that you’d like to work for. Show off your portfolio, too; if you’re an aspiring writer, for example, then share the pieces that you write. You never know who’ll read them, and if they’re impressed, they might just get in touch.
If you’re a student or a graduate, make use of your university’s career services and alumni network, as well as your faculty staff. Don’t ignore the networking possibilities of your extended friends and family, either; all it takes is one well-placed second aunt to pull a couple of strings, and you could end up with an interview at a top company.
5. Be Relentless
If there’s an entry-level vacancy that you desperately want but you don’t have the necessary experience for it, then sometimes you can compensate for this by impressing recruiters in other ways.
Don’t just go through the motions of the online application like everybody else; demonstrate how badly you want the job by setting yourself apart. For instance, do your research and find out who the head of your prospective department would be, as well as who the senior HR recruiter at the company is. Then, send them personalised cover letters explaining why you would be such a good fit for the role and conveying how passionate you are. Not only will this make you more memorable, but it will also show that you’re capable of being proactive and using your initiative.
Even if this doesn’t work and you don’t get an interview, you will have made a positive impression, and your professionalism and determination will reflect well on you. Besides, as with all things in life, you’ll never get anywhere unless you take a risk and put yourself out there.
6. Look Elsewhere for Work
If you keep getting knockback after knockback in your job search, then at some point you might have to re-adjust your expectations. For example, if you’re struggling to break into a sales position, then think outside the box. Find a role that requires no prior experience, such as at a fast food restaurant, and focus on building up your customer service skills. Then, when you apply again in another six months, you will be able to demonstrate that you have gone out into the world and built up your experience.
Don’t just go through the motions in your temporary job, either. Once you’ve left, it’s likely that your shift manager or supervisor will be contacted for a reference, so maintain a positive attitude and work hard. You’ll still be earning money, after all, and while it might not be the ideal scenario, think of it as just one step on the long road to career success.
Getting a job when you have no experience is difficult; at times, it can feel like an increasingly vicious circle. All you need is one opportunity to break the cycle, though, and get your foot on the proverbial ladder, and everything will fall into place.
By following these tips, you can, hopefully, do just that, and start earning money and developing your career in no time.
Do you have any other tips on how to find a job with no experience? Let us know in the comments section below!