You need to build experience to apply for a job but you need the job to get experience – where do you start? How can you up that first step?
So let’s think through this logically. The trick isn’t to only get experience but to leverage on the experience you already have (especially if you are running out of time!)
Here are three ways you can build experience without having job experience in that industry.
1 // You don’t have to tick all the boxes to apply for a job so don’t panic if you are missing a skill or two. Don’t ignore them either.
It is important for you to think laterally about the experience you already have. And by experience I don’t just mean paid roles – internships, volunteer positions, student organisations, extra projects, the lemonade stand you profited from when you were 10 – they all count.
Let’s use a common example. You worked as a barista for 2 years during uni, which didn’t quite get you any social media experience however:
> You learnt the importance of working as part of a team (to leverage everyone’s strengths when it comes to content creation)
> You took an unhealthy interest in all things coffee and coffee art (and built a following of over 5000 followers on Instagram just through your flatlay photos)
> You realised that things went really quiet every day at 4.00pm so you thought of a simple marketing campaign to get people through the door and set it up with your manager (not only giving you tangible marketing experience but showing that you will go above and beyond for your organisation)
> When leveraging part time roles, give very specific examples of what you did any how it ties into the role you are applying for. Many people in your situation have similar examples, so your strength is in clearly showing the hirer that you are a cut above everyone else.
2 // If they are after a skill that you might not have yet and cannot leverage on any experience, hop onto an online class for a few hours. Get a basic understanding of what they are after and use that as a proactive way of showing that you are really keen to learn.
> Check out any classes your university might be offering.
Actions are more valuable than words. By going that one step further you are showing your commitment and enthusiasm for the role. Make sure you remember to mention it in the cover letter.
3 // If there are key skills or key experiences you know you need to hop onto that first rung then don’t waste any more time – go and get them!
> Look for volunteer roles with non-for-profits – you’ll gain experience and help a worthy cause.
> Ask your faculty adviser (or lecturers) of any university-related opportunities such as internships or special projects that they could be running.
> Find a student organisation which will let you get your hands dirty – you will get to meet new people, get involved with an area that interests you and get experience at the same time!
> Hop onto freelancing sites and see if you can sell your skills and gain experience that way (Freelancer, Upwork, Fiverr, Airtasker) The aim here isn’t to make money (though that is nice too). It’s to gain examples of work you have done.
> Create a job just for yourself. Want experience in coding, then design a program you would use yourself. Want experience on Instagram, try becoming an influencer. Want extra sales skills, sell beef jerky online!
Remember that in entry level roles, a positive, can-do attitude is what will help you stand out of the crowd. We will always hire for fit and attitude vs skills. So give it a go – you never know who you land in front of and what they are impressed with!