How to sell yourself with no work experience

The jobs market can be a tough environment. It’s competitive enough at the best of times for individuals who are the very top of their careers and searching for the next ambitious opportunity – but what about those who are striving for their first lucky break?

You may identify a job that really attracts you; a job you’d love to secure.
The difficulty is that you have no relevant work experience. You haven’t held a similar position before and you’re unable to prove that you are capable of performing well in the role. You can’t show the hiring company evidence that you can do the job – even though you know you’d be brilliant at it!

This is a common problem for graduates, emerging from university with a strong degree but without the hands-on, day-to-day, professional experience to demonstrate. Yet many people can overcome these obstacles successfully – and here’s some advice as to how to do the same.

Think laterally about your education, and the skills it has provided you with. Don’t just focus on the name of the qualification itself but what you learned along the way and how that can be of benefit for the job you are applying to. The Guardian offers this advice: ‘Think hard about what your education has given you the ability to do and how you can apply it to other areas. If studying sports science meant you had to study high volumes of data and process large amounts of information, that’s what you need to sell on your CV, LinkedIn profile, or in an interview. Push your relevance to the specific job you want.’

It’s important to focus on your strengths. Don’t punish yourself by referring to your lack of work experience and instead promote your very best skills. Display a positive attitude and be convincing of your desire to learn. Be realistic in terms of your ambitions, too. It would be foolish – and extremely counter-productive – to apply for jobs more suitable to managers. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time. Focus on entry-level positions.

This piece from the Globe and Mail suggests: ‘If you do your research and apply for entry-level jobs at companies known for investing in new graduates, and promoting from within, you can show how your application for a junior role is just part of your overall plan to grow within the company.’

Of course, there’s another alternative. You don’t have to stay without work experience and flail about helplessly. Do something about it. Be proactive and get some. Not many of us can jump straight in to the perfect job. Just get a job and get those skills on your CV. If looking for sales vacancies, short term or temporary positions, or office admin-based roles, this tactic can really pay off.

It doesn’t necessarily matter that you’re operating in a different industry than the career you really want – by working you’ll be able to show you have the discipline to turn up every day, conduct yourself properly and professionally, and acquire skills which are quite easily transferable.

If not that, then secure some voluntary work relevant to the career you desire.
Or show your dedication in your spare time. If you’re applying for a role as a journalist but working in retail to pay the bills, that’s fine – but if you can write and maintain a blog alongside the day job, this will demonstrate your skills and ambitions.

The bottom line is that an employer is not naïve. When they make a decision to hire a graduate or a newcomer to the industry they will appreciate that they are not getting the finished article – a seasoned, experienced person who will hit the ground running. The trade-off is that instead they’ll get someone fresh, hungry and enthusiastic – someone who can adapt and develop with them.

This is a guest blog and may not necessarily represent the views of CV Writers Ltd.

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