How to Apply for a Job When You Don't Have Experience

How to Apply for a Job When You Don't Have Experience

It can be a daunting process to apply for a job, especially if you don’t have the experience a company is asking for. Companies are struggling increasingly to recruit qualified staff when replacing retirees – a problem that is currently costing Britain £6.3bn a year


If you’re looking to switch careers, or are just entering the job market, now could be the ideal time to find a role that makes you happy and excited to go to work each day.


Given how more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of a good CV, the number of qualified candidates grows each year. As a consequence, the competition in the job market increases rapidly as well, as employers' expectations become higher.


For that reason, the qualifications listed as necessary for certain positions - even the entry-level ones - are sometimes unachievable.


Companies look for someone who would a) be young, but at the same time b) have a degree and c) come with 3+ years of experience in a given sector. It's virtually impossible to be 20, with a Master's degree and a few years of work experience behind your belt at the same time. 


Don't panic - because the expectations are oftentimes beyond anyone's reach, that means you're not the only one underqualified for the position. There are dozens of others who, like you, are sweating while going through the requirements section of the job description.


The difference between you and them is - you are here, about to learn our tips concerning what to do in such a situation in order to achieve success. This means that you're already at an advantage, so cheer up!


1. Emphasise your training, qualifications, and the skills you already have

Your skills may not match exactly, but that doesn’t mean that you have no experience and qualifications to offer at all. Pay attention to the training you’ve had over the years and consider how this might be beneficial in your new role. 


Gaining a qualification requires professionalism, determination and an ability to manage your time – all great skills that any employer would value, regardless of the role you’re applying for. 


The skills you have obtained while completing your higher degree also count. Regardless of what kind, of course, you have finished, there is a certain set of universal skills that everyone obtains during their studies - and, ironically, those are the skills the employers value the most! What's more, you can also easily prove how you have gained said competencies.


Juggling a large number of subjects and assignments guarantees good time management. Efficient balancing of social life and school work proves you can prioritise your tasks. Handing in your homework within deadlines and attending classes means you have to be organised.


Meeting classmates and professors every day, as well as completing group projects requires decent communication skills. Additionally, it's safe to say that it's impossible these days to go through uni without at least basic computer literacy. 


Good knowledge of the whole Microsoft Office package is nowadays a basic requirement in most jobs - you certainly have it after having produced hundreds of essays and answered millions of emails over your time spent at uni. Not to mention all of the industry-specific computer programmes and software you might have familiarised yourself with while completing your degree.


There you go, then: you've proven you have five of the skills most sought-after by employers all over the world: time management, prioritising tasks, organisation, communication skills, and computer literacy. That means you already have the basic candidate's starter pack, absolutely for free!


2. Show experience from previous jobs

If you don’t have enough experience, experts recommend showcasing your skills and ability to perform different job tasks as a way of landing a new job. Take a look at what your potential employer is aiming to achieve with this role and the larger ambitions of the company, then ask yourself if you’re able to deliver what they need. 


There will be experience and skills that you’ve acquired from previous roles that will no doubt help you with different tasks or projects, so this is well worth highlighting on your CV. Remember to use industry-specific keywords that recruiters want to see in order to catch their attention. 


Employers are often looking for problem-solving skills, people management, critical thinking and creativity – if you have experience from previous jobs that can fill these skill gaps, make sure to shout about them. 


If you are only just looking for your first job - don't worry! Think about all the things you have done so far that can be considered a step into your professional life. Maybe you have held any roles of importance at clubs and societies while at university - president, treasurer, social media manager, the possibilities are endless!


You probably won't mention that in a couple of years, when your CV fills out with other roles, but it is something you can include when looking for your first serious job.


Maybe you have a passion you haven't pursued professionally yet, but that has taught you valuable skills? Computer programming, web design, translation, copywriting - anything you do for fun that can be turned into an actual job should appear on your first CV.


Just remember to highlight how this makes you an attractive candidate and what it has taught you! Briefly describe what it was that you did exactly and with what outcomes, don't just say you like translating song lyrics. That in itself is not enough to woo a recruiter.


3. Address the lack of experience head-on

While it’s always a good idea to highlight your skills, it’s also important to be realistic about your lack of experience as well. The idea here is to see things from the hiring manager’s perspective – what sets you apart from other candidates who may have more experience? 


When you write your cover letter, acknowledge your lack of experience and highlight your passion for the position you chose and your desired industry instead.


Make sure to be honest with the person interviewing you as well. You need to make a compelling case for yourself and explain why they should take a chance on you, in spite of the fact that you don’t have direct experience. 


There is no point in trying to make yourself come off as a bigger fish than you really are when you apply for a job. Even if that helps you get the interview, it won't get you any further. Recruiters are trained to spot a boaster from a mile away - and they will send them packing rather quickly.


Especially if you're on the younger side, it will be hard to hide that fact during a face-to-face interview. That is not to say that a young person cannot be experienced, but if you're under 25 and will try to convince them you've held a senior-level position for 3 years, we won't lie to you, they'll be unlikely to believe you. 


What you can do instead is emphasise your willingness to learn. You can easily make up for the lack of experience at the moment of applying for a job by being a fast learner. In fact, many employers are looking for fresh talent that they can polish into diamonds using their own methods, so being a bit wet behind the ears is not necessarily a bad thing. Or at least, it is definitely better to be honest about it rather than lie!


4. Trying volunteer work will boost your career

Volunteering can be a great way of boosting your employability, particularly for candidates who don’t have relevant experience. What you’ll lose in terms of pay, you’ll more than make up for in terms of contacts, experience, and skills. 


Volunteering also shows that you’re willing to take initiative and put in the hard work in order to solve a problem – something that employers value enormously. Research the industry you’re trying to break into in order to find and contact various companies. See if they’d be willing to take you on in a volunteering capacity so you can build your skills and experience.


There are also multiple options for volunteering abroad available. In case you're a fresh graduate, you might consider taking a gap year and spending a few weeks, or even months, doing volunteer work in another country. Not only will it be an unforgettable experience and an opportunity to make friends for life from literally all over the world, it will also boost your CV enormously. 


Of course, it is better to choose an area related to the industry you would like to work in, but if that's not possible, any kind of volunteer work is highly appreciated by employers - especially if it's abroad. It shows that you take the initiative by choosing to spend your time helping others for free and developing your skills rather than staying at home.


It also provides you with valuable international contacts that might prove to be useful to a company one day. The experiences you're going to gain are invaluable. Not to mention, the more you explore and the more you network, the bigger the chances of a job offer finding you, rather than you needing to actively look for it!


5. Consider apprenticeships to get your foot in the door

In addition to volunteering, a great way of boosting your skillset and gaining the experience employers are asking for is to apply for apprenticeships and internships. Apprenticeships make it possible to earn a wage while you’re learning and, in some cases, they can lead to a job at the end too.


An internship can last from a few weeks to a year, while an apprenticeship means you’ll be employed to work a full-time job while earning a qualification along the way. These are long-term agreements with your employer and usually last between one and four years to complete. 


Completing an internship is a great way to "test-drive" a career, too. You will receive hands-on experience of what working in your desired sector actually looks like - and it might turn out that it's not exactly what you'd imagined.


It can be frustrating to do the same amount of work as a full-time employee for less money, but it also comes with less commitment. If the internship comes to an end after just a few weeks or months and you didn't like it - there are no consequences.


You simply part ways, richer by a lot of new skills, knowledge, and experience. Quitting a full-time job after a relatively short time with no repercussions for your future applications is not that easy. An internship is way less risky, and can bring a large number of opportunities!


6. Target realistic jobs - don't apply for careers not meant for you

There’s nothing wrong with aiming high but you should also be realistic about the roles you’re able to take on without previous experience. A career switch often means starting at the bottom of the ladder and working your way up again, even if you’re working in senior positions in your current role.


Similarly, when you're only just entering the job market, make sure not to apply for jobs clearly meant for those who can already call themselves masters of their domain. Read each job description carefully to make sure it doesn't require more than you are able to give.


So, when you’re looking for vacancies, seek out entry-level jobs and junior roles, so you can gain the experience you need and work your way up. It can also be useful to send speculative applications to companies you’d like to work for, where you can explain your situation and your desire to break into a new industry. 


With a speculative application, you may even be able to discuss creating a vacancy that doesn’t currently exist but fills a gap the employer needs help with. 


Final thoughts

A job search without the necessary work experience may feel frustrating, but there are ways that you can get your foot in the door and gain the skills you need to succeed. Whatever your reason for wanting to change the direction of your career, there are various ways of combating a lack of experience.


The same goes for all the fresh graduates out there - everyone has to start from somewhere, and if you're reading this, then that means you're already actively trying to boost your employability, which puts you one step ahead of the other candidates! Following the tips in this article will help you find your first job quickly.

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