It sounds too good to be true: you can land a good job with responsibilities, opportunities for advancement, and with a good salary even though you have little to no experience.
While it’s true, having little to no experience will most likely put you at a slight disadvantage compared to other more experienced candidates. But you possess other skills and attributes companies are looking for. The job market has changed considerably over the last 20 years, and professional experience doesn’t hold as much weight as it used to.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the shift in the job market we’ve been experiencing in the 21st century, the change in priorities recruiters and hiring managers have undergone, and how to craft your resume and prepare for your interview to best take advantage of these important changes.
How to prepare to land your first job without experience?
You may have come across the oft-cited statistic that claims that on average people nowadays will change their jobs around 7 times in their lives. The truth is that this is only a rough estimate.
The true figures are likely much higher. A 2018 poll carried out on workers in the US revealed that over 51% of workers claim that they change jobs every 1 to 5 years. Other surveys show that over 70% of workers in the US are thinking about or actively seeking to make a career change.
This trend has been going on for over 20 years now and growing in popularity and acceptance with each passing year.
What this trend shows us, among other things, is that more and more people are having success changing careers. This means that employers are more and more willing to hire people for roles in which they have no experience.
This should come as a surprise. The reliance on technology in commerce is a big part of this fast-changing landscape of the job market. The success of start-ups has gone a long way toward diminishing the value of traditional approaches to business. And the frequent and significant changes in behavior and expectations of today’s consumer mean that for a business to thrive it must be willing (and able) to be flexible and embrace change.
The Employer’s Radical shift in Priorities
In prior generations, it used to be that what an employer valued most were educational background and work experience. Those factors are still important to employers but to a far lesser degree.
Instead, recruiters and prospective employers are placing more emphasis on transferable skills – skills that describe how you work and how you interact with others – skills that will make the company better prepared to face challenges and changes that have yet to be defined.
The Ability to Learn, Adapt, and Assimilate
Among all the uncertainties that come with running a business, there is one thing every business owner and manager is certain of – there will be change.
In addition to being a certitude for business owners and managers, change can also be a very frightening prospect. It should come as no surprise, then, that what a recruiter or hiring manager values most in a candidate is that person’s ability to learn new systems, new methods, and new procedures, that person’s ability to adapt to change, and to assimilate to new environments.
Whatever system the company is using, whatever data they have on the market and on their customers, the chances are high that those systems and those data will be outdated if not obsolete in just a few short years (if not sooner).
The recruiter or hiring manager is thus less concerned with the candidate’s ability to work within the company’s current framework or with the tools and data the company is currently using. But rather they are more concerned with how the candidate works, what attributes he or she possesses that will help us best be prepared for what’s yet unseen but is coming just around the corner.
Regardless of what (if any) prior experience you have in the field or in the role you are applying for, you will need to convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you have:
- The ability to learn and assimilate new concepts and acquire new skills
- The ability to work well with others, forming part of a team that is greater than the sum of its parts
- The ability to see things from different perspectives
- Good problem-solving skills
- Good interpersonal skills
The above-mentioned skills are more closely related to personal attributes than they are skills that one could learn at university or through a training program. This is good news to those whose work experience or educational background is limited.
An Appealing Resume Highlights Transferable Skills
Drafting a resume can seem like a daunting task, especially if you don’t feel like you have the requisite skills or experience you think the recruiter or prospective employer is looking for.
A resume that is likely to get you an interview should be far more than a cleverly crafted summary of work experiences. When the recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume, he or she should come away with the unmistakable impression that you are ambitious and motivated, that you are intellectually curious, that you are able to learn and adapt, and that you have a positive, productive effect on others.
One effective way to show that you are motivated, curious, and able to learn is by highlighting in your resume the new information you have learned or the new skills you have acquired through training programs, webinars, or online tutorials – regardless of the field they are in, professional or other.
Webinars, Tutorials, and Online Courses
Level up your career with training programs. Beyond learning new skills relevant to certain tasks and professions, participating in webinars, tutorials, and online courses have another important value. Your participation demonstrates to a potential employer your willingness or eagerness to learn. This is important to any and all jobs. And it is a characteristic all recruiters look for in the candidates they are reviewing.
How to Highlight Your Motivation and Intellectual Curiosity
From a practical standpoint, acquiring new skills or learning new information has never been more accessible. There are many online platforms – many of them free – that cater to this ambition.
Anything from dance classes, a cooking course, learning a foreign language to using new software, being active on new social media platforms and creating content with image editing or video editing tools demonstrates a certain amount of motivation and intellectual curiosity. Some courses or webinars take only a matter of hours to complete. And you can complete them in the comfort of your own home – often at no cost.
Some of the more popular online training platforms include:
- Skillshare – leaning more toward creative or artistic pursuits such as screenwriting, graphic design, ceramics, and photography, Skillshare also has an extensive collection of courses dedicated to business and finance.
- Udemy – particularly helpful to people seeking to gain or improve their knowledge of software systems, app development, and web design
- Future Learn – completely free to use, the courses offered by Future Learn are designed and conducted by top universities and training institutions
What to Include on Your Resume
The new information you’ve learned and the new skills you’ve acquired should form a dedicated section of your resume. The section should occupy a place of importance on your resume, too. The section could be headed “Webinars and Tutorials” or “Skills Acquired”. Include dates and the time you spent acquiring the new skills. Ideally, you will also have had the opportunity to put those new skills or the new information into practical use.
If you took dances classes, also include any recital or soiree you attended where you were able to use your new skill. If you took cooking classes, mention the recipes you created, even if it was just for friends or for an informal occasion.
- List the courses in conjunction with the skills acquired – If you have a section of your resume labeled ‘Skills’ or ‘Tools’, you could tag each skill listed with the corresponding course or tutorial that enabled you to acquire the skill or master the relevant tool.
- In a section of your resume titled ‘Characteristics’ or ‘Personality’ list ‘Intellectually Curious’ as one of your personality traits, and list the webinars and tutorials you’ve completed as examples.
Color Up Your Resume With Course Certificates
Training courses, webinars, and tutorials that issue completion certificates can be an excellent way to show the recruiter or hiring manager that you possess a high level of intellectual curiosity, that you are serious, and that you have the aptitude and determination to see things through to their completion – even new or unfamiliar things.
If you are looking to change fields or if you are making your first attempt to break into the job market, you may find yourself faced with quite a frustrating quandary – to acquire new skills, you need to first get a job; but in order to first get a job, you need to have acquired new skills. This was especially true 30 or 40 years ago, but the Catch 22 still holds a little weight today (though far less than before).
However, there does exist an excellent and easily accessible way to crack this Kafka-esque code: volunteer programs. By volunteering, you stand the chance of helping your fellow citizens in need, engaging in and improving your community, making lasting connections, and gaining valuable experience along the way.
Participating in volunteer programs has the added benefit of demonstrating to the recruiter or to your prospective employer that you are someone who is thoughtful and proactive, that you work well with others, and that you have experience putting your skills into practical application.
In fact, in order to highlight your ability to work well with others – your teamwork disposition – it might be in your best interest to list the volunteer programs you’ve participated in a section of your resume titled ‘Team Player’ or under a section titled ‘Personality Traits’.
Finding a volunteer program that needs you and that suits your interests isn’t too difficult either. There are surely volunteers programs active in your community, be they organized by your local church, synagogue, or other religious institution or by a municipal or state-run organization. You can also search online for volunteer programs on websites such as:
Organizing Events Online or In-Person Through Social Media
Social media platforms provide opportunities for like-minded people to get together and share their common passions, hobbies, or interests. Start a Facebook page that brings people together around a common passion. This demonstrates initiative, sociability, interpersonal and organizational skills – all of which are attributes that are highly sought after by recruiters and prospective employers.
A Common Passion, Hobby, or Interest
A common passion could be as simple as a hobby (a game you like to play), a sports team you support, or a musician, writer, or creator you’re a fan of. You could also aim to raise money for a charity, be it local, national or international. It doesn’t need to be big or complex. The point is that you are showing initiative and organizational skills.
Turning the Job Interview to Your Advantage When You Have Little to no Prior Experience
Any job regardless of the level or of what sector of activity it is in can be boiled down to the same basic components:
- Receiving and understanding instructions
- Assuming the responsibility with confidence and enthusiasm
- Learning and assimilating the skills needed to complete the tasks required
- Working with others – a team, your superior(s), or with customers
- Accepting and internalizing feedback from peers, superiors, and/or customers
- Adapting and improving
These tasks and the personal attributes you possess that enable you to successfully complete these tasks should be the focus of your job interview. After familiarizing yourself with the tasks and responsibilities of the job you are applying for, take some time to consider the following:
- What personal attributes and transferable skills do you have that will enable you to meet the challenges of the job?
- How have you acquired or improved on these attributes?
- How have you demonstrated these attributes?
Remember, your answers or anecdotes do not need to be professional or work-related. Even for a candidate who has a lot of prior work experience, when at a job interview the recruiter or hiring manager is going to be less interested in hearing about the candidate’s past experiences and more interested in what the candidate brings to the table that can help the company going forward.
It used to be the case that in order to get a good job, you need to have skills and experience; in order to gain skills and experience, you need to have a job.
Focus your resume on the transferable skills you possess. Highlight your interests and how you have taken initiative to explore your intellectual curiosity.
And when it comes time for the job interview, focus on the personal attributes you have that will help the company going forward. Put an emphasis on your ability to learn, adapt, and assimilate. This is what practically all recruiters and hiring managers are looking for the most.