5 Things to Focus on When Job Hunting Without Previous Work Experience

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Searching for a job when you don’t have any previous work experience can be a daunting task. Every job posting seems to demand experience, but how are you supposed to get started if no one gives you that first chance to prove yourself? Let’s be honest—it’s not easy, but it is possible if you focus on the right things during your job search. You need to structure your resume and cover letter appropriately to communicate your strengths and potential despite your lack of experience. It’s certainly possible to win over a hiring manager if you do it right.

It’s important to be honest with yourself about your skills, qualifications, goals, and expectations. You also need to be patient, which we all know is easier said than done, especially if you’re desperate for an income. Keep your long-term career goals in mind, but be ready to compromise and take less-than-ideal positions for the time being as you work your way to where you want to be. You have to be willing to accept entry-level jobs or internships, to volunteer and study, and to preserve your enthusiasm and passion even if you don’t see immediate results. Instead of feeling bad about where you are now, look forward and focus on building yourself up.

Keep in mind that there are millions of job vacancies around the world, and given the rise of remote work and digital nomadism, it will take you some time to explore job boards, network, write cover letters, send out applications, and interview for positions. Don’t expect to find a job overnight, or you’ll just end up frustrated and burnt out. Don’t apply for every half-relevant position you come across, either. While it may feel like this increases your odds of landing a job, you’ll almost certainly be rejected if you’re not properly qualified, so all this will do is waste your time and energy and leave you dejected by the constant rejections.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—our team of job search experts is here to guide you through the process. Whether you need help writing your first resume, putting together a cover letter, practicing your interview skills, or fixing up your LinkedIn profile, check out our professional job success services. If you feel stuck in your job search—either because you don’t know what to do or what you want—consult with one of our career coaches, who will support, encourage, and cheer you on throughout your journey to employment.

So, what are some of the things you should focus on to increase your chances of finding a job even when you lack experience? 

1. Your education and knowledge

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for entering the workforce is education. Whether you’re going to university for an undergraduate degree or joining an online workshop to learn a technical skill, earning certificates and diplomas will make you a more desirable candidate. Not only will it look great on your resume, but you’ll be expanding your knowledge, either by learning something new or deepening your existing expertise. While this isn’t necessarily as good as experience, it’s an excellent substitute for anyone without practical experience under their belt.

Even if you can’t join any classes, you should research the industry, company, and job you’re interested in and learn as much as you can about them. Certificates and diplomas are great because you can display them on your resume, but even if you don’t have a piece of paper testifying to your knowledge, simply having this knowledge makes you a more confident and competent applicant. You might not be able to add it to your resume, but it will always serve you well when the time comes to network or interview for a position. 

Speaking of networking, that’s another great way to both deepen your industry knowledge and discover valuable new opportunities. Join online and in-person groups, read blogs and news articles, and learn who the main players in the industry are—you never know who you’ll meet, and you’ll want to be ready to pick their brains and ask for career advice if the opportunity presents itself. In fact, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts and ask for their advice—just be sure to create a personal connection with them before you start asking for favors. Even though the relationship may be a bit one-sided when you don’t have any work experience, do what you can to make the connection mutually beneficial.

2. Your soft and transferable skills

Soft skills relate to how you manage situations, solve problems, and interact with others. Although each job will require a particular set of skills and abilities, things such as communication, organization, and leadership are vital in most jobs, so consider how you can show that you possess those skills. Use vivid examples of problems you helped solve, instances when you motivated others, or events you participated in. These examples don’t need to be work-related—you can extract some from your school or university days or even your personal life. Soft skills are life skills, so any example that demonstrates yours can be valuable.

Transferable skills are skills in a particular area but useful to most employers. Great examples are tech and language skills, so if you know how to code or speak a foreign language, make sure to note that on your resume. Transferable skills alone won’t land you a job, but they can certainly give you an edge over a similarly qualified competitor.

If you feel that your soft skills are still not up to par, make a list of what you could improve on and start working on it today. These skills can help you not only in your career but also in life, so they’re a great investment. Remember: You want to show your personality and your ability to connect, create, and solve, so focus your attention on how these skills can help you land a job. 

3. Your resume and pitch

Your resume is likely the first thing a recruiter will see when you apply for a job, so it has to pack a punch—if it fails to impress them right off the bat, they’ll likely discard it and proceed to the next one. If you don’t have any work experience to fill up your resume, you need to focus on your soft skills, your passion, your knowledge, and your talents. 

Show the hiring manager that you’re excited about your professional future, that you’re enthusiastic about joining the workforce, and that you’re confident in your qualities and your ability to contribute to the job and the company. Make your commitment to continuous learning clear, and indicate wherever possible that you’re working hard to improve your professional competencies. Just be sure to customize your resume for each job you apply for—not only will a generic resume have a hard time getting past the applicant tracking systems (ATSs) most companies use today, but hiring managers take a dim view of cookie-cutter submissions.

Your resume should tell the story of who you are and where you want to go, and you should be able to tell that same story in the form of a short pitch (also known as an elevator pitch) and answer questions about yourself and your goals on the spot. Think about why you want to enter this specific field, how you can contribute to the position, and what you have to offer to the company. Make sure you practice your pitch, keeping it short and concise and infusing it with your personality. Don’t overdo the practice—you don’t want to sound robotic and over-rehearsed—but do know the content by heart and be able to present it naturally.

4. Networking

Networking is an essential part of the job-hunting process because you never know who might recommend you for a position or tell you about an employment opportunity. Tell your friends, both online and offline, that you’re in search of a job and specify what industry you want to work in, and reach out to anyone you know who might be able to help you get through the door. Even if your friends don’t work in your field, maybe they know someone who does, so spread the word about your job search far and wide.

You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Talk to people, post on social media, and be sure to update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is particularly valuable because it connects professionals with peers around the world who can help them hone their skills or access new opportunities, so don’t hesitate to reach out—everyone is there to build their professional network.

 5. Entry-level positions

Although you should have high aspirations for your professional future, it’s also important to ground yourself and be honest about the kinds of jobs you can get without previous work experience. Your first job won’t be your dream job, and that’s okay—it’s just the first step, and you’ll grow from there. Accept where you are now and work toward your ultimate goals.

We suggest focusing your efforts on applying for entry-level positions where you can learn and excel and from where you can move up as you gain more experience. You’re just starting out, so don’t expect to get a lot of offers for more advanced positions—instead, focus on your desire to learn and grow, even if it means starting with an unpaid job. Granted, that isn’t ideal, but it can be a great way to make a name for yourself. Keep learning in your spare time—this will accelerate your journey to your ultimate career goals.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have any work experience, you have to be willing to start from the bottom, make the effort to improve your knowledge and skills, and put yourself out there, showing people why you’re the top candidate for the job. To get expert help during your job search—from writing resumes and cover letters to personalized career coaching—get in touch with our team and take the first big step in your career. 

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