Getting a job, especially in a field that’s relatively new to you, can be fraught with confusion and contradictions. Perhaps the Catch-22-est of them all: everyone wants to hire someone with experience, but how do you get that experience if no one will hire you? You know you’re ready and qualified for these jobs, but without prior experience it’s hard to convince hiring managers glancing at a resume. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when you’re just starting out in a new field (or trying to).
1. Get Moral Support
First things first: you’re not alone. Discouraged job hunters often turn to online social forums like Reddit to see if others are experiencing the same job search pain. There’s comfort in numbers, of course, but more importantly, people are able to share their own experiences and even offer solutions that ended up working.
2. Market Your Experience
Sometimes, it’s a matter of sending your cover letter and resume to 100 different places until the right job without experience comes along, especially in a tough market. But more likely, you’re unwittingly sabotaging yourself by limiting how you present your experience. Experience comes in many different forms, and although employers tend to prize paid experience above all else, look at your resume and see if you’re unintentionally selling yourself short. Maybe you don’t have three years in a paid role, but you do have a year-long internship doing much of the same role. Ditto for skills you use in a volunteer job or in an educational setting.
Make sure your resume is clear on your skills that overlap with the job you want—and if that means tailoring your resume for each job opening, go for it. You can also call out this point in the cover letter, saying you have extensive experience in X skill in a similar office setting.
3. Be Open to Starting From the Bottom
Getting the full-time paid gig in your chosen field will almost always be the gold standard. It’s likely what you’re seeking, but if you’re having trouble breaking into the industry, there might be a back door. Many companies seek temporary or part-time employees to work on short-term projects or to screen potential candidates for a permanent position. Being a “temp” can feel like a step back when you have your heart set on a full-on career-starting position, but don’t count it out.
I had this experience when I moved to a new city, degree in hand, and no job. Entry-level jobs in my target field (book publishing) were hard to come by at the time, and unfortunately “career goals” can’t pay the rent. So I signed up with a local staffing agency and moved through a number of temporary positions over the next few years. Not all of them were in publishing, but every single job gave me necessary workplace skills and experience that eventually helped me get on the path I wanted.
It can seem like you’re giving up on your goals to take a temporary or part-time position, when really you’re repositioning yourself to be a better candidate for the right job.
4. Network in Your Industry
Does your target field have a professional association or union? Dig a little deeper and start researching what the resources are in your industry. If there are public networking events or social events, go! Meet new people, and start building relationships and shoring them up via LinkedIn or other social media. You may not get a job right away, but worst case, you’ll have spent an evening learning from people who share your professional interests—and they might remember your name as that awesome person who didn’t have decades of experience but showed great initiative and knowledge at that party a few months ago.
5. Look for the needle in the haystack.
Take a close look at companies in your industry—it’s possible that some do offer training or experience-building positions for people without prior experience. You can also contact human resources departments in your industry and ask them about training and entry-level opportunities offered by the company. It will help you get a better sense of the “friendly” opportunities for your level of experience and help you focus your search accordingly.
Don’t let a lack of experience daunt you. Everyone, in every industry, has to start somewhere. There are breaks available, really. And while it can be frustrating to wait, you can take proactive steps to make sure you’re ready to take advantage when opportunities do come up.
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