When I first graduated, I was excited to start my career. My dream was to work in the editorial department of a publishing company. But after a few months of applying for jobs, I began to feel disheartened. Most of the time I never heard back after applying. When I did, it was always the same line: “we’re looking for someone with more experience.” It seemed like every entry-level job ad I saw asked for a minimum of 12 months experience. How was I supposed to get experience if no one would hire me? I wasn’t alone either, most of my friends and classmates were experiencing the same frustrating catch-22 scenario.
If you’re experiencing the same frustration, here are 5 things you can do to improve your chances of finding a job when you don’t have experience:
1) Realise You Have More Experience Than You Think
While we were all complaining about how hard it was to find a job my friends and I were actually all employed. Sure, we were employed in part-time jobs that had nothing to do with our ideal careers. In my case, I was doing data entry and working a couple of shifts a week at Bakers Delight, which seemed completely unrelated to my dream of working for a publishing company. But it’s important to realise that in ANY job you do, you’re going to be learning and developing at least some of the skills you’ll need to succeed in your dream job. Chances are you have work experience, and at least some of the skills you’ve developed are relevant to the job you want to get.
2) Focus on Your Transferable Skills
If you’re struggling to see how the experience you have applies to the job you want, keep in mind that the majority of entry level or junior roles list soft skills as their essential requirements. These are things like “team player”, “attention to detail”, “strong organisational and time management skills” and “excellent communication skills”. These skills are highly valued by employers and can be developed and applied in any job. Write down some specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated things like communication, problem-solving, teamwork and organisational skills in each job you’ve had and remember that even the small stuff, like always being on time, counts and is important to employers. Communicate these examples either in your resume, cover letter and when talking to potential employers.
3) Find Ways to Gain Experience
Look for opportunities to develop new skills or build on existing ones by volunteering or doing an internship. You don’t have to find something that’s directly related to your ideal job either (although if you can, that’s a bonus) if you use the opportunity to develop those critical soft skills I mentioned earlier. Plus volunteering and internships are all great additions to round out your resume.
4) Cast Your Net Wide
When I graduated, my dream was to work in the editorial department of a publishing company. I soon discovered that these jobs don’t come up very often. So I started applying for all entry-level publishing jobs. I ended up getting a job as a publicity assistant, which was great because I got my foot in the door and the chance to learn about the business of publishing, develop new skills and make connections with people in the industry. Applying for as many entry level role or junior roles as possible in the industry you’re interested in is a great way to open up your options. Once you have a foot in the door, it’s much easier to move around. You might even find that you end up liking a function you hadn’t considered before.
You can also open up your options if you apply for jobs across a range of industries. I wanted to work in publishing, but I also applied for roles in bookshops, media, communications and advertising – anything that seemed remotely related and like it would give me the chance to develop relevant skills. Remember that no matter what you end up doing, you’re going to gain valuable skills, experience and connections that will help you get the job you want in the future.
5) Don’t Give Up
Job hunting can be disheartening, but it won’t last forever. The reality is that you can and will overcome this. My friend and I did find work, and so did all our classmates and so will you. Your first job might not be your dream job, but it will give you valuable experience and contacts that will help you land that dream job in the future.