It’s happened to all of us… That entry level job that sounds like a perfect fit, tailored to you, that you know you’d be amazing at. You finish reading the description of the role, you hit the requirements section and – BAM – they want multiple years of experience?!
This can be extremely disheartening because you feel trapped in a doomed cycle: you need experience to get the job, but you need the job to get the experience, circling the drain forever and ever. As frustrating as this feels, it’s not the end of the line.
Here are five to overcome your limited job experience by showing off your potential!
1. Identify Your Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are “portable,” meaning they can be developed in any situation and then transplanted to help you succeed in a completely different context! You may not have experience that directly relates to the job you want, but without a doubt, you’ve got transferable skills. You know a lot more than you may think!
Start by breaking down what you think the fundamental skills behind a job are (pro-tip for finding these skills: look in the job description!).
Next, think of time when you used these core skills. For example, if you’re applying to a marketing position with no prior experience, you can talk about when you ran a fundraiser and had to use your awesome written communication skills to get the word out. If working on a team is an important aspect of the job, you can relate experiences that you’ve had working – and succeeding – on group projects. Other valuable transferable skills you might want to highlight include leadership, organization, research and analysis, and computer skills.
2. Play Up Your Soft Skills
Who you are as a person is just as important as the skills you possess. Good company fit isn’t something that can be shown through a rambling list of technical skills. Instead, it’s shown through the personal qualities that make you you. These are your soft skills, the traits that allow you to interact successfully with others . Communication, responsibility, decisiveness, confidence, self-motivation, adaptability, and conflict resolution are all critical soft skills for success in the work place.
During your interview, make sure that you demonstrate a healthy balance of soft skills and more tangible transferable skills, as well as your compatibility with the company’s culture. If the hiring manager can envision you getting along well with the rest of their team (in addition to meeting the role’s requirements), they are far more likely to extend you a job offer.
Remember that the laundry list of hard skills that the company puts in the job description are all teachable and trainable. Soft skills, however, are more inherent to a person’s nature and are directly related to a candidate’s trainability.
Hiring managers are people, which makes the hiring process inherently human. Take advantage of this by putting your best foot forward and letting your personality shine.
3. Recognize Your Adaptability
While being a total newbie means that your employer may have to provide more training when you start, you offer one major advantage – you’re moldable. A company can curate and cultivate the exact skills they want you to have.
Employees with a clean slate aren’t jaded by past work experiences and they don’t harbor previous biases. You’re a sponge that’s primed to soak up whatever knowledge and skills the company wants you to learn! Play this up in your interview by making it clear that you’re ready and excited to learn anything and everything the company will teach you.
Harness your unbridled enthusiasm and show your excitement in your cover letter. Demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence by finding out about any of their upcoming projects that interest you, why you find them intriguing, and what you could bring to the team. Be energetic and excited during your interview process and make sure to follow up! Send your interviewer a thank you note or email, reiterating your interest. Make your enthusiasm one of your selling points!
4. Prove That You’re A Fast Learner And A Self-Starter
As said before, any technical skill can be learned. Companies can be reluctant to hire someone who doesn’t already have certain skills unless you can convince them that you have the learning ability and motivation to acquire these skills quickly.
5. Don’t Sell Yourself Short
There’s no need to apologize for a lack of relevant experience, especially in your cover letter. If you manage to snag an interview despite your lack of experience, don’t call attention to it with phrases like “while I don’t have experience” or “despite little experience.” The company has already demonstrated their interest in you by inviting you to the interview, so now it’s your chance to prove that you’d really shine in this position.
Focus on the strength of the skills that you do have (especially those transferable ones!) and project confidence in your ability to do the role. Play up that enthusiasm – “I’m excited,” “I’m eager,” “I’m ready” – to take that first step on the path to a new career.
Swallow your doubt. If you know that you’d be great at the job and feel it’s a match made in heaven, don’t back away. When you’re meeting all, or nearly all, of the other qualifications (save the level of experience requested), you’re still a contender.
The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get the job (which you already don’t have).
The best thing that can happen is that you land a sweet job you really wanted.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so go ahead and apply!