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Anne Holub
By
January 17, 2018

How to Get Your Foot In the Door Without the "Right" Experience 

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Whether you're just starting out or looking to change up your career path, finding ways to talk about your experience, when it may not be directly relevant to your job, is key to getting your foot in the door. You might look at new ways to discuss past jobs or transferable skills, or discover new ways to boost your experience level outside of your 9 to 5. Either way, don't let a lack of "past work" get you down when you want to make a change on your "future work."

Find experiences in your life.

Your volunteer work, life experience, and hobbies influence your job skills. Do you spend time outside of work helping others or maybe just exploring something you're passionate about? That's the perfect thing to use on your next job application or HR interview. When you're preparing to apply to a job or go in for an informational chat, think about ways that your current passions influence your career goals. Perhaps you work in sales, but in your free time you volunteer for a literacy program in your neighborhood. What brought you to that organization? What has been the biggest challenge and reward from your volunteer work? How do your actions, completely outside of the daily grind, shape your professional interests? You might be surprised when you start connecting those dots, and find you have a lot to relate about it to a potential employer! After all, you have a creative passion inside of you — talk about it!

Make your own experiences.

You're never stuck. You want to find a new way out of your current job and into a new career, and you can. It's possible, even when you're mid-career and trying to change tracks while both trains are in motion.

  • Try writing/designing spec work for fun (really!).
    • You can pair your talents with a designer/writer friend who'd like to come up with some "pretend" spec projects on the side. You both get the benefit of adding to your portfolio while exercising your creative muscles.
  • Take courses online.
    • Sites like MediaBistro or even your local adult education center offer affordable, quick courses in everything from Photoshop skills to copywriting. Use them as a chance to wet your feet a little in your chosen new profession, to see if you can improve your skills, and also see if you even like doing what's needed to make a living.
  • Enroll in a portfolio school (expensive, but potentially very helpful).
    • Portfolio schools exist in most major cities, and while they may take more money and time than some online courses, they could lead to a job at the end.
  • Become an intern.
    • Even an internship (at any age) can give you a leg up and more and more, they're a good way to learn the in's and out's of a company, and build contacts from the inside. If you feel you're underemployed, an internship (even when you're not in school) can be a good career move.

Write a resume and cover letter that makes the connection.

Find ways to talk about your experiences in your resume using keywords that will help you get past the screening software. Don't get loose with the truth, just find new ways of talking about what you're interested in, while still addressing the job you're applying for. Check out some examples and get cracking.

Your cover letter can be a great place to tell your story (quickly and to the point) and better explain how you'd be a great fit, even if your "experience" is non-traditional. Think of ways you can customize and personalize your cover letter to better fit each job you apply for. The worst thing is to make errors here (like including the wrong business name or old information), so be careful to take your time with a cover letter and let your personality shine through.

Speak confidently about your experience in your interview. 

Answering those tough questions — be prepared with answers that draw on your strengths and passion for the work. Once you're in the room with HR or a potential new boss, you're already past a ton of hurdles, but you may need to better explain your career path. Take a deep breath. You wouldn't be here if you were wishy washy about the role, so make sure your answers to questions about your past work, your goals, and your passions aren't "meh" but instead, "amazing."

Check out some tips on great interviewing without much experience from Money, Monster, and Snagajob.com.

Find an advocate "on the inside."

  • Network referrals. You’ll bypass the initial resume screen if you have a personal or professional network connection place your resume directly on a hiring managers desk and say, “this person is worth hiring.” Help this person advocate for you by giving them 2-3 hard-hitting talking points to “sell” the hiring manager on why they should bring you in for an interview. Yes, this might mean writing a quick elevator pitch for your connection, but that's totally okay – in fact, that’s recommended!
  • Referral letter from previous employer. People are willing to help if you ask, so ask a previous employer to write a short referral letter testifying on behalf of superior work ethic, skills mastery, problem solving, or other easily transferable work attributes that you want to highlight. You can have them write on your LinkedIn profile in the "recommendation" section, so everyone can see it. However, know that lots of employers, especially bosses, can be very busy and it can be hard to get this kind of reference quickly. Setting up the request with plenty of lead time is key, as is a kind thank you to the referring colleague.
  • When recruiters (like us at Wunderland) present candidates to hiring managers we give our endorsement and provide a backstory as to why the person is a good candidate. Recruiters are essentially unbiased advocates for your career. If you’re able to tell and sell your story to a recruiter, they can tell and sell your story to hiring managers who will invite you in for an interview. 

Feeling more assured about your experience?

What are your passions? Have you ever made a BIG career leap with little experience in the field? Looking to make that move now? Contact our friendly recruiters and let's start talking about your next big career move! 

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