It’s a classic catch-22 that many job seekers face: You need experience to get the job you want, but you can’t gain experience unless you get a job—or so you thought.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to increase your odds of getting hired.
Here are six strategies for overcoming the “no experience” roadblock.
1. Focus on transferable skills.
Identify the skills you have that are relevant to the new position. Showcase these on your resume, in networking conversations, and throughout the interview. For instance, if you’re interested in entering the human resources field, highlight any training, interviewing, and employee relations skills you’ve acquired even if it wasn’t the primary focus of the position.
2. Highlight related educational experiences.
Show how your education applies to the specific job you want. If you developed and implemented a training program as part of a college course, include it in an “Education Projects” section on your resume and in an interview response. If you’re still in school, select course projects that will allow you to showcase skills that are related to the work you want to do.
My Capella career counselor helped me to think differently about the skills I already have, how they would transfer into my new field of mental health counseling, and how to write about my key accomplishments most effectively. I incorporated key points about my volunteer work and skills related to counseling that I gained through previous employment. Tyffany K., MS in Mental Health Counseling, 2015
Offer your services to a volunteer organization that needs help in your intended job area—then include your volunteer accomplishments in a “Related Experience” section on your resume. You can “volunteer” at work, too. If you’re interested in project management, for example, offer to coordinate a project as part of your current role or as a stretch project.
4. Network. Network.
When people meet you in person, they’ll see what you have to offer. Informational interviews are a great way to make that happen. By setting up informal meetings with people in your intended field, you can understand your new industry better, get insights on potential employers, and make connections that could lead to a position. (Other ways to grow your network: joining a professional association and attending industry events.)
5. Emphasize what’s unique about you.
Employers want job candidates with field-specific qualities (in project management, for example, these might include attention to detail and effective communication). Understand the key attributes in your field and show others how you’ve demonstrated them in the past. While you’re at it, make sure potential employers and networking contacts understand your passion and enthusiasm about the field you’re trying to enter.
6. Showcase your accomplishments.
As you gain new experiences, collect work and academic samples and professional documentation that demonstrate your skills, education, volunteer accomplishments, and more. Showing proof of your accomplishments on LinkedIn, a personal website, or portfolio is an effective way to set yourself apart from other candidates.
A lack of experience is an obstacle, but it’s one you can overcome—by taking action. Use these simple suggestions and boost your odds of getting the position you want.
The Capella University Career Center counselors, resources, and tools help students and alumni manage their careers at every stage and move toward the careers they want.