How to get a Job with Minimal Work Experience
Even if you are very keen - and sometimes even if you have good qualifications - it can be hard to find a job when you have minimal work experience in that role or industry.
If an employer feels as though there is another candidate who has done the job before then they will see that as a much safer bet than taking a risk on someone who has no track record.
So how do you break this vicious circle? How do you get a job that requires experience if no-one is willing to give you any experience?! Hopefully, this article will help people who are looking to start their working life as well as those who might be considering a career change for some reason, so please take a look and see if there are any suggestions that might work for you.
Firstly, think about your dream job
This might seem like leaping a bit too far ahead, thinking about your dream job before you've even got your first one. However, it can be really useful to focus on the job you would ideally have and work backwards from there - many people have taken a circuitous route to success in their ideal career but they often had a fixed goal in mind.
Focusing on your dream job can also provide you with a sense of purpose when you inevitably hit obstacles along the way. You might have to do unpaid work experience (see below) or you might have to take time out to complete qualifications, but if you know what you are heading towards then it will all seem worth it.
Get your CV in good shape
Once you have identified the roles and industries in which you would like to work, you will need to create your CV in order to send out to prospective employers. There are some brilliant tips on how to do this in this article.
Don't ever be tempted to lie on your CV as the chances are high that you will get found out. However, don't undersell yourself either. This piece of paper (or, more likely, electronic document) is the first impression you will make, so take the time to double and triple check for good spelling, grammar and general common sense.
This article from Reed (a recruitment agency) gives great advice about how to explain any gaps in your CV. Even if you have no gaps it is still a good read and will help you get the gist of how to present potentially difficult pieces of information.
Consider unpaid work experience and volunteer work
To start with, you may have to be prepare to do volunteer work or an unpaid internship / work experience. If you are in immediate need of money then maybe this would have to be alongside another paid job if necessary.
As an adult you may feel that it is inappropriate for you to work for no money, but as long as it's a temporary situation it can be a great way to show people how committed your are to your career. Gaining hands-on experience will provide you with valuable material for your CV and if you make a good impression it may also provide you with someone willing to give you a good reference when you apply for paid work, which is a huge bonus.
Be sure to make the most of the time you spend doing unpaid work experience and don't allow yourself to slack off because you are not being paid. The more you put in now, the more you will get out of it later.
Build yourself a network of contacts
As mentioned above, having someone credible who is willing to vouch for you can go a long way to balancing out a lack of work experience. Therefore, it's worth investing the time in seeking out people who are in some way involved with your chosen career, be it a friend of a friend who currently works in that industry; someone else who is starting out in their career and whom you could bounce ideas off; someone who has seen you work in a different job but who will back up your claims to be hard working, punctual, polite, etc.
If possible, seek out local networking groups online - this is where social media can really come into its own. You could also go along to networking events at local colleges, universities, libraries or Job Centres.
Make a great first impression
This is important in all areas of life, whether it's a networking events, in interview or just a chat with someone who might be able to help you. Simple ways to impress people before you've said a word include being punctual, dressing appropriately for the occasion, speaking clearly, maintaining eye contact, being positive, and so on. Think about what draws you to someone when you meet them for the first time and try to emulate that yourself.
See people in person if possible
If you have minimal work experience you might find that your CV doesn't feel like the best representation of yourself, so try and meet up with prospective employers in person if you can. This might be done formally by arranging a meeting, or more informally by simply dropping off your job application form and CV in person.
If you follow the tips above suggesting how to make a good first impression, you may well find that you come across better in person than on paper and it's true that once people have had human contact with someone they are more likely to remember them.
Identify where your CV is most lacking and fill the gaps
It would be wonderful if you were able to proactively start to fill up any gaps in your CV while you work towards obtaining a job. Are you lacking in IT experience, in which case could you take an online course to build them up? Have you had minimal opportunity to work with people, in which case could you organise a community event or volunteer at your local hospital in order to show that you are able to interact successfully with others?
Little improvements here and there can make the world of difference, so you should consider your CV a work in progress, helping you to gain experience on the path towards that dream job you have in mind.