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How To Get a Job Without Experience

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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Bromstein

You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Or can you? Yes to both! Here’s how.

As we (hopefully) move out of the COVID pandemic, many people are looking at job and career changes, and might be trying to get into something new. This means they’re lacking experience in the field they want to get into.

And we’ve all heard it before: you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Or can you?

Getting a job without experience is certainly more difficult but it’s not necessarily impossible.

Here are a few tips on how to get a job without experience.

Take a step sideways or down

Let’s get this out of the way. If you’re moving into a whole new field, you’re probably not starting off in management. You may have to move down the ladder and take a pay cut in the beginning, or start in a position that more closely matches your existing experience than your goal job.

For example: if you want to move into Human Resources management ($33/hr average pay), you might be able to get a an administrative assistant job ($18/hr average pay) at a company where you want to work, take some courses and start taking on some HR tasks and expressing your interest in moving in that direction. Get in the door and start moving up.

Highlight the skills, qualifications, and experience you do have

Whether you’re a young, recent graduate or changing careers midlife, you have some type of experience. You’ve taken courses, learned from your hobbies, and/or worked at some job or other. Whatever you have done, find a way to use it to your advantage in the job search. It’s often less about what you have done than it is about how you frame and present it.

Focus on transferable skills

Think about the skills you have developed that can apply to most jobs, like customer service, project management, written and spoken communications, research and computer skills, and relationship-building. Can you manage a team or a budget? These are good skills.

Then find ways to show how your skills and experience apply not to just any job but to the job at hand. If the role requires coding, graphic design, or relationship-building, focus on those.

Approach the hiring manager directly

If you feel you have a lot to offer, get directly in touch with the hiring manager – outside of the standard hiring pathways. Find out who they are and send an email explaining that you’re interested in a role at their company and would be a great fit, that you have little or no related experience related to the role, and are willing to learn. Highlight your unique value and state why you think you should have this job.

I don’t always recommend direct emails to hiring managers, but in this case, it may be your only chance of being heard. An applicant tracking system is likely to overlook your resume – because it looks for related experience and job titles – and your cover letter probably won’t get read in the beginning stages. So, reach out. Start a conversation.

Show your great personality

A good hiring manager knows that skills can be taught but a good attitude cannot. The highly skilled candidate with a bad attitude will always have a bad attitude but the candidate with a great attitude who is willing to learn will soon have the skills and a good attitude.

Be enthusiastic

In a survey I conducted ages ago, asking hiring managers what’s one thing that would set a candidate above another, all things being equal with skills and experience, the number one response was that they would choose the candidate who was more enthusiastic.

Show your enthusiasm for the job and the company.

Get your own experience

Can you build experience on your own that relates to the job? Probably. Looking for an accounting job? Do your friends’ taxes and help them with financial planning. Looking for a teaching job? Start tutoring and create tutorial videos showing your knowledge of your teachables. Writing job? Start a blog and write articles on LinkedIn. Costume design? Dress your friends up, take pictures and post them on your social media.

Volunteer for organizations that needs help with whatever it is you do. Experience is probably available for you to get.

Start thinking of yourself in terms of your value and not your needs

I read this somewhere and I wish I could remember where so I could credit the author but the idea was that you should stop thinking of yourself as someone an employer has to “take a chance on” and start thinking like someone an employer would be lucky to have on their team.

This will have a few positive effects.

1. It forces you to highlight your strengths instead of your weaknesses. 2. It changes the way you view and talk about yourself, which in turn changes how you feel about yourself and gives you more confidence. 3. It changes the way an employer views you. You become someone who has great qualities first, and is missing some experience second, rather than someone who is missing experience first but has some great qualities second. Employers will also appreciate your self-confidence. 4. It makes you focus on the employer’s needs rather than your own needs, allowing you to better see and demonstrate how you can fill them.

Employers don’t hire you because you “need a job” and they should “take a chance on you.” They hire you because they can see how hiring you will solve a problem and improve their business.

A lack of experience is not impossible to overcome. Sometimes you just have to get creative and change your way of thinking.

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