Time and again when I speak to people about their job search – be that young students I’m working with entering the world of work for the first time, or mature employees looking for new roles or a career change – a lack of relevant experience is their biggest complaint for not securing the roles they apply for.
Surprisingly, more employers tell me that they would rather recruit someone with the right attitude and ‘mindset’ over someone with years of experience. Which makes sense when you think about it. Someone with years of experience won’t necessarily mean they’re passionate about what they do and this is difficult to hide in an interview. However, someone who can show genuine enthusiasm and awareness of their relevant or transferable skills for the role they’re applying for will definitely stand out.
Below are my top five tips on tackling a lack of experience on your CV:
Tailor that CV!
When applying for any role, with or without experience, you really need to make sure you tailor your CV for the industry you’re applying to. Utilising your personal profile and key skills section is ideal for this.
Avoid standard or generic statements in your personal profile, such as ‘I am a hardworking reliable individual..’ – Employers see this type of statement all the time on CVs and it doesn’t mean anything to them or relate to you in any way. A strong opening line will match you to the job you’re applying for and tell the employer straight away you can do the job.
If you don’t have previous experience, then it’s a good idea to pick up on the skills mentioned in the job advert. For example, if the job says excellent communication skills are a must make sure you include this. Something along the lines of: ‘I am an adaptable and professional communicator, used to operating within large teams and using a variety of verbal and written communication to liaise with colleagues and customers.’
Focus on your transferable skills
Even though you might not have the exact previous experience or job title on your CV, there are bound to be a number of cross overs in your skillset that you can pitch to the employer and use to highlight why they should hire you – Why else would you be applying for the job if you didn’t have the skills needed?
Again, make sure you use the job description and person specification and relate everything on your CV to this as much as possible. In your key skills section, bullet point the essential skills mentioned in the job description and back them up with an example of where you have achieved this skill. In your summary of the roles you have had so far, do the same – bullet point the skills mentioned and provide an example of how you meet them based on the experience from that job.
Continuously highlighting these skills throughout your whole CV will help demonstrate to the employer you can do the job.
Adapt the language of your CV
I’ve mentioned this before and it’s an easy one to follow through. Sometimes the same job has a different job title in different companies, or a company might use a very distinct language style that you can pick up from the job description and researching the company/role on their website.
Match your CV language to the language of the company and again, you’ll put the employer onto thinking that you have the right suitability for the role and their business. If you’re applying for ‘Customer Service Advisor’ but have jobs listed as ‘Retail Assistant’ on your CV – change the job title! The skills and experience will be fairly similar, and again this will help link your CV in better to the job you’re applying for. As above, make sure you bullet point underneath the skills and the experience that match the job role from your work.
DO something relevant
If you’ve been applying for a particular role or have been trying to get into a certain industry and not having any luck, no matter how much you’ve tailored your CV or changed your language, then it might be time to get a bit more proactive!
There are so many opportunities to gain relevant experience now – through offering up some time to volunteer or approaching companies directly to see if you can gain work experience – it’s a really great way to gain that relevant experience for your CV and prove to future employers you’re serious about breaking into the industry.
Volunteering isn’t just about working in a charity shop these days, there are great opportunities to work within the digital/media sector for various charities, offer up your time to mentor and support various groups of individuals, help with community construction/regeneration projects – the list really is endless.
If you’re getting tired of not getting anywhere then this is a great way to feel proactive, gain the experience and skills you want and really give your CV – and your own mindset – a positive boost!
Having worked with a variety of individuals, I’ve noticed the ones who tend to get to where they want quickly are those who have the confidence and awareness of their own skills and abilities. I work with a lot of people who undersell their skills and throw up negative comments about their experience before an employer has even checked them out.
It’s an old saying, but if you don’t love you why will anyone else? This is true when applying for work! In the job market you need to be your own biggest fan, and this doesn’t mean getting egotistical, it just means having a strong awareness for what your strengths are, how your strengths/skills match the roles you want to do and being able to articulate this positively to an employer.
Practice objection handling so that if an employer asks you about your experience, you don’t tell you haven’t got any – you turn it around, so something like ‘The closest experience I have for this role was when I worked for ABC company as a XYZ. In this role I achieved THIS which means I have THESE skills which line up really well with THIS part of the job with yourselves.’ This is what will impress a potential employer – positive and proactive!
I sign off nearly all my articles with the same advice – if it isn’t working stop doing it! Change your approach. Don’t sit and apply for 100 jobs a day and not hear back. I can guarantee that if you’re not getting anywhere, it’s not because of experience or a lack of jobs, but how you’re applying and how you’re marketing yourself to employers.
Always keep a timeline of activity and if you’re not getting the response you want, refresh what you’re doing and seek extra advice where you can.
photo by: amanda