How to Get Hired if You Have No Experience

Career Advice
Person at laptop
Person at laptop
minute read

Interested in a position that is new to you? Hunting for a job right out of college? Looking to change careers or enter a new field? You can make it happen — even if you don’t have as much experience as other candidates. Here are 7 tips to make use of in your job search right now.

Contemplating a new career move — but you’re worried you don’t have the experience to make it stick?

You’re not alone. Today, with workforce changes due to the pandemic, the rise of remote work, and the ongoing growth of tech-focused industries, many people are on the hunt for intriguing new careers that require experience they don’t yet have. 

The good news is, there are many tools you can use to help you get in front of hiring managers and land that all-important interview to show how you’d be a great fit for that role you’re targeting. Here are 7 ways to do just that as you apply for your next job.

1. Focus on Your Transferable Skills

Whether you’ve recently entered the workforce after high school or college, or whether you’re switching careers, you’ve likely learned skills that can be useful to an employer. And it’s especially important to identify those skills and emphasize them when applying for positions when you’re not as experienced.

How to do this:

Read the job description carefully, as well as the company’s About page, and pay attention to skills they mention, especially if they’re mentioned often. Then, consider your previous jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, and activities to find example of times you’ve used those skills.

Here’s an example: If the job requires strong customer service skills, and you’ve served as a childcare coordinator at your church for years, you’ve dealt with lots of different people, solved problems for them, and more, just as a customer service person would.

2. Highlight Your Soft Skills

Much of what determines a hiring decision comes down to how well you’ll fit into the company culture. This area is not so dependent on experience, but more on your soft skills — your ability to work with people, get creative, be flexible and so on. Be sure to give these skills attention in your resume, cover letter, and interviews.

 How to do this:

Look closely at job descriptions — not just for the one position you want, but for similar positions across your chosen industry. What do they have in common? Pay close attention to those “you’ll succeed in this role if…” portions that explain what the company’s looking for in a team member. And think outside of the box to connect hard skills with soft ones.

Remember, when the employer states a preference for candidates who know several different types of software, for instance, they’re not just looking for software knowledge. They’re also looking for someone who’s not afraid to learn and is flexible when change is required to get the job done—soft skills you may be great at.

3. Volunteer and/or Intern 

Not all experience has to be related to paid positions. If you need to gain new skills, many organizations need help, and offering to be that help can give you a great foot in the door. Look for places where you have a chance to gain some of the specific experience you need.

How to do this:

Think about organizations that always seem to need more help than they have people. Nonprofits, parent-teacher associations, hobby-related groups, amateur sports teams, and even small startups frequently need help. Some offer internships. Make sure they’ll make it possible for you to learn what you want most to learn.

For example, if you want to gain social media skills to apply for positions down the road, consider offering to help your child’s school or sport team set up their accounts and promote events. 

4. Take Classes and Get Certified

Tech jobs in particular often require candidates to have a working knowledge of certain technical skill bases, such as computer programming, engineering, or operations. They may ask for specific certifications or prefer to hire people who have a specific college degree.

How to do this:

Take a look at job descriptions in your chosen field and set up a few informational meetings over lunch or coffee with people in the field to ask them questions. Find out what courses, degrees, and certifications are most common in that industry, and find a place to study and gain them.

This is especially important with tech jobs, so you can focus on what matters most to your preferred position. Think about the job, but also the type of organization where you’d like to work — A hospital? A school? A web design firm? Each is likely to use a different set of programs and protocols. Concentrate your efforts on the ones that are the best fit.

5. Network In-and-Out of the Industry

One of the main ways people find job opportunities is through word of mouth. Yes, it’s not just what you know—it’s who you know. That means the more people who know you, what you’re capable of, and what makes you worth recommending for a position.

How to do this:

Connect with people you know to tell them you’re looking for a specific type of position. If anyone you know is working at a company you’re interested in, ask about openings. Referrals are an excellent way to get a position you’re new to, because companies appreciate recommendations from current employees, and tend to trust them more.

Be sure to network with people outside your preferred industry too, though. You never know when a friend of a friend will help you connect to the right job opportunity at the right time.

6. Reach Out Even if There Are No Listed Openings

Have an ideal company in mind, but they don’t have an open position in the area where you want to work? Don’t let that deter you. Sometimes, taking added initiative in this way can produce big benefits down the road.

How to do this:

In addition to applying for open positions, set aside time each week to reach out to companies that aren’t currently listing the position you want. Remember, you’re doing this at a time when there’s less competition for your dream job. The company won’t be not buried in resumes when you call or email. And you never know when you’ll connect with them at just the right time to find an open door.\

If they tell you there’s nothing open for you, plan to reach out again in 6 months. And in the meantime, ask them for suggestions on how to prepare yourself to be a good fit. Use those tips to educate yourself for future opportunities.

7. Know (and Be Able to Explain) Your Why

Whatever type of position you’re seeking, you have a reason behind why you’re choosing that work rather than the myriad of other things you could be doing. When you don’t have a lot of experience, your why matters even more. It’s the source of your passion, and it can be inspiring to an employer looking for employees who are dedicated and focused on making a difference.

How to do this:

Ask yourself what it is about working at a certain company or for a certain position that really appeals to you. It needs to be something bigger than paying your bills. While that matters, it’s not what will keep you committed to a career long-term, which is what hiring managers are looking for.

Do you have a personal connection to the company or the type of work they do? Have you seen someone use a specific skill (such as tech work) and make a positive difference in the world? Know those stories and be prepared to share them in cover letters and during interviews.

Summing It All Up

Landing a position in a field you’re new to or not deeply experienced in, such as the many tech jobs available these days, is totally doable when you approach your job search wisely. Make connections, grow your skills, and prepare hard to present yourself in the best light, and above all, be persistent until you find the right opportunity to the career path you desire.