You’re looking for a new job and you think you’ve found something good. Location: Close. Hours: Good. Pay: Great! Wow, everything is looking pretty perfect so far. Experience: … Experience… Damn. Not good. You don’t have any relevant experience at all.
How will you get the job now?
Actually, you might have way more relevant experience than you think. And having relevant experience is helpful and can convince Hiring Managers that you know what you’re doing. That’s why they look for it. However, relevant experience is a much wider term than people realise. Put simply, you can still put together a great resume and get that dream job even without experience from a particular place or in a particular role.
WHAT COUNTS AS RELEVANT EXPERIENCE?
Relevant experience is anything that closely relates to the skills required to do the job you are applying for. While this may seem obvious it’s important to realise that the workforce is changing all around us. In fact, the future of work is shaping to be one that is hyper-connected and will require human based skills rather than job-specific skills.
This hyper-connectivity – which is most noticeable in the form of job clusters – means that jobs and skills are more closely related than we might realise.
In that sense, “relevant” is anything that you have done (professionally or outside of work) that could help you perform that role. Include anything that you think could be useful for the job. Maybe you developed those skills while doing a hobby or sport, learnt something while studying by yourself, or you could have been taught it on a course. Relevant experience is a lot easier to gain than you might think.
WHAT IF I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL?
Getting a job with no experience is a slightly tougher situation however, emphasising your relevant skills will again be the way to improve your chances. Tell the employer about any soft skills that you might have developed while studying or training. If you did group assignments, you have collaboration and teamwork skills. If you’ve volunteered at the local sports kiosk, you have customer service and money handling skills. When you led the debating team, you demonstrated leadership skills. Or, if you were a scout leader, you have team leadership skills. All of these type of things are ones you can talk about and get endorsed for by fellow team members, other students or supervisors.
The main problem is that employers usually aren’t willing to take a chance on someone who has no professional history to support their claims. Rightly or wrongly, employers want to know that the person they hire will be trustworthy and a good choice for their business. If you have absolutely no work experience, do some volunteering work with a charity. Not only will it make you feel good, you’ll get relevant work experience to put on your profile and resume.
It’s good to remember though that if you are going for an entry level role then most employers will expect you to not have a deep working history, if you have one at all. You can use this to your advantage however by acting professionally and providing clear examples of why you would fit the role and your other “soft” or human skills.
Getting a job when you have no experience is often one of biggest hurdles you’ll have to overcome. The fight becomes much easier when you realise that relevant experience doesn’t necessarily have to come from a previous employer.
STRUCTURING YOUR RESUME WHEN YOU HAVE NO RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
You want the Hiring Manager who looks at your resume to know immediately know why you are suitable for the role. With that in mind, you don’t need to follow usual conventions when writing your resume.
The best option for you, if you don’t have strong relevant experience in one section, is to put that near the bottom. Save the top for the area where you’re strongest. You want the Hiring Manager to have no room for doubt about your ability to do the role.
If you have recently graduated and don’t have a long work history, emphasise your education first and the skills it has given you. Then put a skills section next to help convince the Hiring Manager about your suitability to the role. Your work history can then be included where you can build upon how it has prepared you for this role. This format will give your strongest and more relevant evidence first.
Of course, you will include the right information for each section but you also make sure you keep their interest. Make sure that you tailor each section to reflect how your experience at that job or completing that course has helped you gain relevant experience and knowledge.
RELATED COURSES, TRAINING, WORK EXPERIENCE
If you are applying for a job then there is a high chance that something about the job interests you. Maybe you love the brand (if you do, mention it). Maybe you have always wanted to work in that career or industry. Whatever it is that draws you to that job, put that in your cover letter AND in your profile/resume.
Even though you might not have any direct relevant experience, you might have studied in a similar field or participated in training at another place that had some crossover. The more examples of times that you developed skills relevant to the job you can think of, the higher the chance you will impress the Hiring Manager.
Soft skills are the most important skills you can develop. Luckily, you can develop them almost anywhere. These skills help you to interact with people around you in addition to helping you control your own emotions and actions.
Soft skills are in high demand because all jobs require some element of person to person communication. Employers want to know that their workers will be able to meet the requirements. Teaching someone how to perform an action like balancing the till is a hard skill and once taught, that person will be able to do it again and again.
Teaching someone how to communicate with other team members or how to solve the same problem when a new, unseen issue pops up are a soft skills. It is much harder for employers to teach these skills, so they try and get workers who have them already. Employers will definitely hire someone who can do something over someone who might be able to – so demonstrate how you have.
If you have don’t have any relevant experience think about what soft skills you have that you can bring to the role. Don’t just think about school or work – soft skills can be found anywhere from the sporting field (teamwork), to the kitchen (organising and time management) and even to your free time (problem solving and creative thinking).
SHOW THE EMPLOYER HOW YOU FIT
This is why making sure you tailor your resume is so important.
A well tailored resume will clearly outline how a role that may appear different from the outside, actually gives you many skills and abilities you can use to excel in this role.
Hiring Managers have to look through a lot of different people’s resumes and come up with a short list. They probably have an idea in their head of what the ideal candidate would look like. You don’t want your great application to be lost in translation or for them to have to spend hours working out the connection. Especially when they only have seconds to decide!
If you are missing a required skill, but believe that you have performed similar roles before, explain it. Don’t just say I worked as an X even though the employer is looking for a Y. Break down the key skills and show how they are actually quite similar positions.
FILL IN ANY GAPS WITH AN AWESOME COVER LETTER Some people turn their noses up at cover letters. “Nobody ever reads those anymore anyway!” or “It just repeats what’s in my resume, I don’t see the point.” (Hint: Your cover letter isn’t just your resume in paragraph form.)
Despite this, a cover letter can be your best friend when applying for a job. This goes double when you are lacking some relevant experience. Your cover letter can be the bridge between your knowledge and your resume for the employer. It also showcases your personality – something many employers ARE looking for. You can explain how your previous jobs, activities, and education have given you the perfect combination of skills they are looking for.
Your cover letter should connect the dots between what the employer needs and what skills you have. At the end of the day, an employer doesn’t care where the worker comes from. They just want to know that they can hit the ground running. It’s your job to show them that you will do all that – and more.
BLOW THEM AWAY IN THE INTERVIEW
Your resume and cover letter are there to get an employer to notice you from the crowd. You want the Hiring Manager to like it enough to get you into the interview room.
Once you get an interview your relevant experience (or lack thereof) becomes less important. Now you need to impress someone in person. Answering difficult questions well and appearing confident and friendly will be almost more important than what’s in your resume. Hiring Managers will often go off their gut so give them a reason to say “YES!”
FINDING THE LINK
Ultimately, when you’re applying for a job without any relevant experience, you want to find the link. The thing that connects you with what you know and what the job needs. What makes you more suitable than anybody else applying for the job? If you notice that you don’t have the relevant experience that an employer is asking for then finding the link should be your number one priority.
If you can find the link in your education, your work history, or even your everyday life and you can demonstrate that connection clearly to the employer, you will find doors opening for you. Make sure that finding (and SHOWING) the link is at the front of your mind when writing your resume. Ask yourself – why would the employer care that I can use social media / tile a roof / eat an apple in three bites? If you can answer that question then you will quickly see how much relevant experience you actually have.
Who knows – you might realise that you need to start scaling back your experience just to make sure it all fits!