Finding a job can be hard work. You need to search for opportunities, narrow down the options to match your goals and experience, and create a compelling resume and application package to compete with rival candidates. This process is even more difficult for people just starting in their careers without any professional experience to leverage.
That’s what entry-level positions are for, right? Candidates have opportunities to start on the ground floor and work their way up. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily that clear-cut. A recent analysis of online job postings found that 61% of advertised full-time “entry-level” opportunities require at least three years of experience. And if you want to dive deeper, here’s a look at the average years of experience you need to land an entry-level job by industry.
Facing this roadblock means you might wish to “invent” a past job just to get some experience on your resume. What’s a little white lie if it gets your foot in the door to prove what you can do? Doing this is wrong and can ruin your professional reputation, cost you the job, or even result in your termination years later if your employer discovers that you fudged your credentials. Even the most basic background checks will reveal where you worked, how long you worked there, and your position title. You don’t want to start your professional working life with dishonesty.
There are better strategies
So, how can you get those three years of experience to kickstart your career – when you can’t get hired for an entry-level job without experience? That is the dilemma many young workers face, which is why your first job is often the most difficult to land.
Here are some proven strategies for landing a job that requires some experience when you have never actually worked professionally in the industry.
First off, realize that you do have some experience. Even if you have not yet held a professional job in your field, you have probably gone to school, participated in group projects, or been on a team. Think about and list all the times you have helped others, solved problems, and achieved successes. This list can serve as the backbone of your application.
So, what strategies can you take to get the job? Below we list strategic advice to help you get your foot in the door.
Be confident in your abilities and apply
It’s important to note that employers often inflate the qualifications necessary for a position in their job ads as a screening tool. Job opportunities posted online can generate many more applications than the hiring manager has time to read through. So, they will often ask for university degrees and years of experience that aren’t necessary to do the job, just to discourage lesser qualified candidates from applying.
Another recent study found that, on average, you only need roughly 50% of the qualifications listed in a job description to land an interview for the role.
So, applying without those credentials may put you at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t rule you out of contention. The key is to only apply for jobs you know you can do well and be sure to demonstrate that in your application.
Always customize your application
Of course, you should customize your application specifically for the needs of every job you apply for, but this is even more crucial when you are applying for a job for which you don’t necessarily have all of the required credentials. Here is how to get started on your resume.
Whether you’re a young, recent graduate or a midlife career changer, you will have some experience. You will have taken courses at school, participated in community events, learned from your hobbies, or worked at a job. Use the experience you do have to show how you can be a successful hire for the job you want.
Focus primarily on your transferable skills
Hiring managers want candidates who have a positive work ethic, are motivated to learn on the job, can solve problems, and work well with others. Demonstrated organizational, communications, and customer service abilities will also be assets.
Write an opening summary for your resume that describes your motivation for the role and the top attributes that would make you an excellent fit.
Then detail your activities – whether on the job, volunteering, or in school – focusing on how you have developed and demonstrated those abilities.
You can also create a Skills section of your resume listing your technical abilities. These can be computer and software skills, photography and video production, design, coding, writing, languages spoken, or any other talents you possess that can be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Make your pitch in your cover letter
It is crucial to introduce yourself and your resume with a top-notch cover letter that sells your candidacy. Tell the employer how motivated you are for the job and how your background and abilities will allow you to be a standout performer in the role.
Be friendly and professional. A well-written letter can also be a credential as it demonstrates your writing style and professional communications skills. Here is how to craft a winning cover letter in just six sentences.
Prepare for your job interview
If your resume can successfully convince an employer that you can do the job, it is the interview that will seal the deal and land you the offer. The best strategy for making that happen is to be well-prepared in advance.
Just because you don’t have much industry experience doesn’t mean you aren’t confident that you are the top candidate for the position. Employers admire job seekers who are self-assured, well-spoken, and who can articulate how they are a good fit for the job.
Prepare your answers to the most commonly asked job interview questions and keep your responses relevant to the needs of the job at hand. Much like your cover letter is an opportunity to showcase your writing abilities, the job interview is your chance to demonstrate that you are poised under pressure, an amiable storyteller, and pleasant to talk with. These are all things that employers will appreciate in a new addition to their team.
You should also do in-depth research on the role and the company so that you can speak to their needs and ask intelligent questions. A lack of experience doesn’t have to mean a lack of knowledge. Show them what you know and what you can do.
Be sure also to have a list of references handy who can speak highly of your abilities and attitudes towards work. Let your references know the kind of role you are applying for, so they are prepared to talk about how you would be great at it.
Many candidates lose out on opportunities simply because they failed to prepare their references in advance or they picked the wrong people.
Take an online course
Today, there are many options available for you to build your skills and knowledge of the industry. For example, Hubspot Academy offers a ton of online courses and certifications for marketing professionals at no fee.
Taking a course or two shows employers that you are motivated to learn and have the drive to succeed. And even after you get the job, be sure to continue learning on your own as focussing on your professional development can keep you ahead of the competition.
Keep at it and don’t give up
If you are just starting in your career, or making a career move into an industry where you have no professional experience, remember that you may not land your dream job right away. Your goal should be to get hired for a position with growth potential. Prove yourself on the job, earn accomplishments, and expand your network of professional connections. Talented people do not stay in entry-level positions for long.
Perhaps that’s why there are hundreds of entry-level job opportunities on CareerBeacon right now.