Whether you’ve just graduated or you’re hoping to move up your company’s corporate ladder, most organizations put a big emphasis on the experience you have. But getting that experience isn’t always as simple as it seems.
Not all college students can afford unpaid or low-paying internships while they’re in school, and not every entry- or mid-level employee gets the opportunities to gain the experience needed to climb the corporate ladder.
So what do you do when you don’t have the experience? Do you pass on jobs you want? Do you ignore postings you like just because the employer is looking for “2+ years experience” or more? There must be another way.
There is. In fact, here are five strategies for breaking through the “experience required” wall and landing the job you know you can do:
1. Focus on your soft skills.
Organizations want employees who get the job done and work with others. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Job Outlook 2015 report, released in November 2014, candidates need to showcase more than just job-related skills. In the survey of 260 employers, NACE found that 77.8 percent of organizations are looking for candidates with leadership and teamwork skills above all else.
Inexperienced candidates need to find a way to showcase these soft skills. Whether it’s through a cover letter or thoughtful answers to interview questions, think about times when you exhibited strong leadership or teamwork skills and emphasize them.
Tailor each resume, cover letter and interview answer to highlight the soft skills that make you the right candidate for the job, despite your lack of experience.
2. Share your knowledge.
Building an understanding of the industry you are interested in is one thing, but sharing that knowledge puts you a step above other candidates. Use social media, blogging and other platforms to showcase and share your knowledge.
Have insights on new trends in the industry? Share them on Twitter. Got a great idea about how an organization can reach out to a new audience? Blog about it. Know how to solve an issue for the company you love? Post your solution on their discussion board and see what they say.
Curating and sharing your industry knowledge shows hiring managers you have a unique understanding of the challenges faced by their organization, and that you can intelligently communicate your ideas with others. You may not have the experience, but you can show hiring managers what they’re missing out on if they don’t interview you.
The “I need experience to land the job, but can’t get experience without work” paradox is tough to navigate, but it’s not impossible. Have you ever thought of volunteering?
There are a number of nonprofits and smaller organizations that could benefit from your skills, and you can benefit from the experience you’ll gain. According to the Corporation of National and Community Service’s June 2013 Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment report, volunteering increases your chance of being hired by 27 percent. It provides you with solid experience and allows you to build a stronger network for the future.
LinkedIn for Volunteers connects organizations that need help with people who have the skills they need. Consider finding an organization to volunteer with to gain the experience you need to succeed.
4. Go skills shopping.
Take some time to analyze all of the “experience required” jobs you are interested in and determine what skills they have in common. Are they skills for which you can find courses or training? If so, go out and get them. Becoming licensed or certified in industry-specific skills shows organizations you mean business.
Skills shopping does more than give you experience with skills you’ll need on the job. It shows hiring managers you’re passionate about working in the industry and have the drive to make yourself a better professional.
5. Work the room.
No matter how much you know or how much experience you have (or don’t have), networking is still the most important part of any job search. Use social media and other tools to find networking opportunities and try to speak with as many people as you can. Be prepared to make connections between the experiences you do have, and the roles you might play at different organizations.
What other recommendations do you have for young professionals without much experience?