You’ve settled into university life and now you’re ready to find your first job or internship.
You browse through job boards and notice that most advertised positions (even the entry-level ones) expect applicants to have experience.
You start to wonder “…but how can I gain work experience when no will hire me without prior experience?”
As a Careers Consultant, this is a common dilemma that I observe amongst students I meet.
My advice? Don’t fret! As proven by the many students and graduates that came before you, there are ways to work around this. Getting your ‘foot in the door’ of the workforce can be challenging, but with some extra effort and the right mindset, it is possible to land a job that you’ll love! Here are some tips to help you break into the job market when you have “no experience”.
Experience comes in all forms
Everybody has experience to offer! When most people review job advertisements, there’s a tendency to associate the term “relevant experience” with full-time work experience. However, there are many other avenues and places to develop transferable skills, in particular soft skills like communication and team work.
Think about your high school and university studies - no doubt you’ve had to do group projects and use Microsoft Office applications. Through this, you’ve developed team work and office administration skills. Perhaps you’ve worked casually? Volunteered? Helped with an event? Participated in hobby or sports groups? Been a member of student clubs or associations? You get the idea. The point being, don’t discount the transferable skills you’ve gained outside of formal work environments as many employers recognise the value of these experiences. In fact, studies suggest that 95% of employers agree that volunteering is a credible way of gaining work experience, particularly for first-time job seekers.
When putting your resume together, ensure that you clearly highlight the skills you’ve gained from extra-curricular/non-work related activities.
Highlight academic achievements and industry-related skills honed throughout your degree
Remember that you’re constantly building up your industry-relevant knowledge and experience throughout your course. If you’re an accounting student and you’ve had to balance financial sheets for hypothetical clients, this is relevant experience. If you’re an IT student and you’ve got a portfolio of websites you’ve created for assessments, this is experience. Tasks or projects that simulate ‘real life’ work can be used as supporting evidence of relevant experience in your applications and during interviews.
Furthermore, highlight your academic accomplishments and awards as these differentiate you from other students completing the same degree. In the Education section of your resume, you might consider listing some of your best subjects and the grades attained. Showcasing notable academic achievements provides evidence of your potential and motivation to learn.
Work your network!
Don’t underestimate the power of networking when it comes to landing your first job. The reality is, applying for advertised jobs is competitive regardless of whether you have experience or not. Explore opportunities with people in your current network or directly approach professionals at companies of interest to you. If you can display initiative and a desire to learn, hiring managers may be more accommodating around your lack of experience.
Finally, be persistent and don’t give up! Remember that everyone starts out with no experience. While you’re looking for jobs, take opportunities to engage in volunteering and extracurricular activities to continually develop your transferable skills.
Stephanie Gonzales is a qualified career development practitioner and experienced recruitment professional. She has a background in graduate recruitment at organisations including Macquarie Group and Morgan Stanley. As a Careers Consultant at UTS, she provides careers education and guidance to university students to enhance their employability skills. She’s passionate about helping students to achieve personal and professional success.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels.