How to Get a Job With No Experience: 7 Tips

Job hunting can feel like a full-time gig, especially when many openings demand prior experience. But fear not! If you’re light on experience, certain strategies will boost your chances of landing a job.

Even if you have no experience, these tips will help you get interviewed and win the position.

Whether you’re looking for an entry-level position out of school or pivoting to a new industry, landing a new job without relevant industry experience can be a challenge. Often, employers will hire candidates with relevant work experience over those without, and this might leave you wondering, “How do I get experience if no one will hire me?”

To get a job in a new industry, you will need the required education qualifications. But experience is something you can transfer from previous jobs and other aspects of your life. If you have no industry-specific experience, here are 7 tips to help you land the job.

1. Spotlight your transferable skills

Dave Owens
Dave Owens

Something every job seeker should do is analyze their past activities and highlight transferable experiences. This can be done regardless of what your job history looks like, although it is especially important for those looking to transition industries or start a new career.

If you lack experience in your desired industry, chances are you have some work experience that is transferable that fits the job description. Dave Owens, director of recruiting at Addison Group, said the transferable experiences you highlight should relate to the new job listing or career path.

“If I had a background in IT sales but was looking to move into recruiting, I would talk about my project management background and my ability to manage expectations from the client side and the product (or candidate) side,” Owens told us. “This shows that the amount of ramp-up time for a new manager or supervisor would be significantly shorter, because my past experiences are relevant compared to someone coming from an entirely separate background.”

Related: How to Make a CV for Students with No Experience

2. Emphasize soft skills

When advertising yourself to an employer, highlight soft skills on your application and resume. Soft skills cover communication, teamwork, problem-solving. They’re all about how you interact with others and handle challenges on the job.

Soft skills can be gained and demonstrated through any type of work experience, regardless of the industry. Owens said these non-coachable skills, or leadership intangibles, are important, as they can help dictate a potential employee’s success.

“If you look at a professional like a ball of clay, more often than not, you should be able to mold that ball of clay into a fully functioning work of art,” said Owens. “The same can be said for a new graduate that has the right skills but not enough experience(s). Mold their core competencies into a fully functioning professional through mentorship, training and development.”  

Owens listed the five core candidate competencies as follows:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Ambition or resilience
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Collaboration and competitiveness

Owens said that these competencies aren’t ingrained, but they be gained through a variety of avenues, like sports teams and student groups, not just industry-specific experience.

Highlighting all of your experience and skills and demonstrating their relevance to the position you are applying for is a good step forward in the right direction.

3. Network like there’s no tomorrow

Networking meeting over lunch
Networking meeting over lunch

Owens said the most important strategy that job seekers can take advantage of is networking. Rather than blindly applying to any job that piques your interest, seek out connections that can teach you about a position or company.

“What better way to get your foot in the door with an employer than by networking and reaching out to individuals at that current employer, gaining insight around how they started working at that company and allowing them to share their insights into their own professional background,” said Owens.  

Although networking can happen via social media, an in-person event, or an online networking website, networking is an ongoing, long-term process. Don’t be brash and ask for a job recommendation; this will turn most people off. Instead, perform informational interviews to learn about the company, industry or position you are seeking, and foster continual connections with industry professionals.

4. Research prospective employers

Man working online surrounded by documents

One area where you can outdo every other job application, even those with experience, is to do your research. Get to know the employer, position, and even the recruiting staff.

Research will give you important advantages. You can adapt your resume and cover letter to give recruiters what they’re looking for. At the interview stage, you’ll be able to ask informed questions, demonstrating your genuine interest and understanding of the company. Additionally, you might uncover connections or insights that give you an edge over other candidates.

Related: Top 10 Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid

5. Consider unpaid gigs

If you can’t find a paid internship or apprenticeship, consider gaining professional experience by working for free. If there isn’t currently an available position advertised at the company you want to work with, pursue it anyway by offering your services for free. This can be a great way to gain experience and make professional connections. Lancaster has seen firsthand success using this strategy.

“I helped a public health graduate start a significant research career after she offered to write health-related articles for my company as an unpaid intern,” said Lancaster. “By doing this, she was able to demonstrate her research and writing skills and had a referee (me) to vouch for her initiative and work ethic.”

Certain industries offer the luxury of letting you launch your career starting with individual, at-home projects. For example, workers in industries like graphic design and content writing can use freelance job websites to connect with employers seeking their talents.  

6. Get hands-on

Another way to gain experience is pursuing hands-on learning opportunities. These allow you to expand your knowledge past basic book learning and give you real-world experience in the industry you are trying to break into. Even taking on one small project can be beneficial in learning more about a given field and can give you interesting talking points to discuss during an interview.

“Some examples are work placements and practicums, applied research projects, field work and simulations,” said Lancaster. “They allow you to give recruiters examples of where you demonstrated job-relevant qualities and skills.”

If you take on an industry-specific role like an apprenticeship or internship, you also have the advantage of gaining internal connections within a company that you may want to later pursue. These experiences can sometimes turn into job offers, but don’t assume that will be the outcome.

7. Diversify your experience

Andrew Lancaster
Andrew Lancaster

Dr. Andrew Lancaster, director at Unicurve, recommended doing whatever it takes to strengthen the weakest part of your resume, even if that means taking on a casual minimum wage job just to gain some work experience.

Consider gaining additional experience through other sources like extracurricular activities, clubs, professional associations and volunteer opportunities. It can be especially beneficial to take on a leadership role within these opportunities to showcase your ability to take initiative.

For college graduates, Lancaster recommended pursuing additional studies, which will make you a very competitive applicant. This isn’t to say you need to pursue a new major; instead, look for short, hands-on courses that will give you more experience in your field and help you gain a leg up on the competition.

“You don’t want to come across as a professional student,” Lancaster said. “A graduate certificate course with a university can be a better choice than free programs. You gain a recognized qualification and are more likely to finish. Nonaccredited courses and self-training are good for building skills. But outside of technical fields such as information technology, they tend to carry little weight with recruiters.”

2 thoughts on “How to Get a Job With No Experience: 7 Tips

  1. I totally agree with all the points shared here and would love to highlight the point on soft skills. People who have developed their soft skills are people can eventually develop the hard skills. It cannot be easily if that sentence was altered. Some people who are too stuck up that they have excellent hard skills are the people who have poor soft skills. Its important for a job to have a good balance of both!

  2. It really helps to learn what you need to know upfront and then learn after you are hired to fill in the gaps. We have so much free educations today just right at our fingertips. It would be a shame to let it go to waste! Use the internet and reward yourself with landing that job you want and deserve.

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