How to get a job without experience

“Experience preferred.”

“Three years’ experience wanted.”

“Experience essential.”

It’s a classic sticking point for all first-time job hunters or anyone switching careers. We all want the experience, and the only way to get it is to convince someone to hire you.

So how do you get around this all-too-common hurdle to nail that important first job?

  • Experience is really another word for skills. Some skills are there for the picking by doing:

  • Unpaid internships or volunteer roles for nonprofit organisations. While being low on cash isn’t fun, you get valuable experience that money literally can’t buy - so consider this time an investment.

  • Network in person and on online professional platforms. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and you need that one person who’ll give you a chance.

  • Do an online course to gain relevant experience. It might not be on the job, but it’s another step closer.

  • DIY experience. Create something relevant to your industry such as a website, online store to sell your own products or blog.

  • Get help. Contact a recruitment agent, HR specialist or inspirational family friend and ask for help and inspiration.

Think outside the job ad box

Wait, what is that you said? You were on the school council, volunteered for that charity group last summer, managed or coached a sports team, did student work experience or helped organise the school social? You have plenty of experience!

Talk to anyone from those experiences who you connected well with, who may be able to write you a reference to include in your job applications.

In your cover notes in job applications draw on, emphasise and market your transferable “soft skills” which are so important in any workplace, such as:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills

  • Initiative and resourcefulness

  • Teamwork and leadership

  • Punctuality, honesty and integrity

  • Critical thinking

  • Attention to detail

  • Any hard skills you picked up along the way, such as money handling, people management, vehicle or equipment licences or computer skills.

There are also some qualities and characteristics which employers are looking for that you can’t fake - so let them shine through in your CV and, hopefully, your interview. These could include:

  • Enthusiasm

  • Motivation

  • Willingness to learn and to work hard at any given task, from making the coffee to something a little more exciting

  • Confidence (but don’t go overboard, nobody likes a show-off newbie)

  • Adaptability and flexibility

Remember that everyone, even the CEOs of the biggest companies, started in the same position you are in now.