What If You Have No Related Experience
I once met a young man who thought he had no related experience or skills to offer an employer. He was top of his class and very eager, but unsure “how to write a resume out of nothing”. Well, after much questioning about how he spent his summers and spare time when he wasn’t in class, doing homework or studying, it turns out he had spent countless hours helping his Uncle on the family’s dairy farm. – Aha! He did have some experience, along with demonstrated mechanical aptitude, creative problem-solving skills and a very strong work ethic. Therefore, we just had to find a way to make it relevant to the civil engineering jobs for which he planned to apply.
How Do You Get a Job With No Related Experience?
Even if you have never gotten any paid work experience, chances are there is something you can include in your resume and cover letter that illustrates your skills, abilities and willingness to learn. So, think about the projects you have done for school, volunteer experience, sports, or clubs in which you have participated. Perhaps read our blog on Job Searching for tips and tricks as well.
Leadership Skills = Experience
For example: if a company is looking for leadership skills and you were the captain of your high school football team, you will want to highlight what you accomplished during that role. While you may not have won any awards, you probably motivated the team to win some games, or stayed positive in the midst of a losing streak, or overcame the odds with a large number of players on the injured list.
Experiences Do Pay Off
If all you have truly done up to this point is attended school, ate, slept, and studied, that is OK. But, if you are going to embark on a job search, I would strongly encourage you to change your situation from no related experience to some experience.
For example, if you are still in school, perhaps there are some on-campus jobs that will fit into your schedule. Some employers will also take-on volunteers during busy times if they are not in a position to pay someone. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door and show real interest in the field. And, why not volunteer for a local charity or community group? They are always in need of assistance and can provide you with opportunities to gain awesome experience and meet new people. What could you possibly do for them? You will not know until you ask. In addition to experience, volunteer activities can also provide you with possible references.
Related Volunteer Opportunitues
All that being said, if a company is looking for more than 2 years of experience, having absolutely no related experience will likely disqualify you. However, substantial volunteer and part-time experience can count. Employers will not care if you only worked 7 hours per week if you did it for several years, or that you may not have been paid. Everybody has to start somewhere. If you are still in school and have an opportunity to participate in an internship or co-op program, please strongly consider it. Employers often receive incentives for hiring students that can make you more attractive as a candidate; and co-op/internship employers are committed to providing good learning opportunities and valuable work experiences for students.
Starting Points to Get Experience
If you are no longer in school and have no related experience, perhaps taking a basic or entry-level job in the field you are targeting and working your way up is the best route to get to the position you ultimately want. Alternatively, you could also take the type of job you want but in a different field, and build your experience until something opens-up in your target field and/or you have accumulated the required qualifications. Seldom do careers follow straight or short paths, so you need to be flexible and think long-term.
Figure Out the Long Term Goal
Your path may be a series of steps that include smaller goals, that lead to your ultimate goal. However, do not be surprised if there are also some twists and turns along the way. It is common for students in co-op jobs or people in stepping-stone jobs to discover something they enjoy more, or learn something that causes them to change their ultimate goal. Something else to be aware of is that as we go along the path in our working lives, the rest of our lives change as well, and that can lead to a shift in values and goals. On that note, whether you have some experience or no related experience, have you ever really thought about your values with regards to work?
What Do You Value the Most?
What is more important to you at this point: your ability to control the size of your pay cheque or knowing you are making the same amount steadily; your title or the size of the company; knowing you are contributing to your community, saving the environment, or helping people; the amount of travel required or the ability to work from home; the length of your commute or how much vacation time you get? Is what you do in your day-to-day duties key, or is the company culture or the people with whom you work more important at this stage of your career and life. If you have children or elderly parents, perhaps a flexible work schedule and comprehensive health benefits are at the top of your wish list.
Many of those things are not often discoverable prior to an interview but resources such as Glassdoor, Linkedin, company websites, and informational interviews might provide some insights. By knowing your top work values, you can focus your research and ask better questions in interviews.
Questions & Answers
The questions you ask can give an employer insight into your level of interest in the role and the company, your work values, and your personality. They can also let the employer know you are willing to learn if you have no related experience. The answers you receive will help you decide if you want to move to the next stage in the selection process and help you make a decision when you receive a job offer.
Back to the issue of seeming underqualified – Do not point out that you have no related experience (or any other shortfalls) in your cover letter but be prepared to address it in an interview IF asked about it.
In your resume, cover letters and interviews, focus on what you do have to offer the employer and make it clear how it relates to each job. Also ensure you let the employer know you are willing to learn and are coachable. You can mention how you learned similar things in previous roles. And in interviews, ask questions about available training. You would be amazed how often employers do not hire the people who seem most qualified. Employers can train on processes, products and services, technical aspects, and machinery. Things they can’t teach, include: people skills, work ethic, attention to detail, organization skills, flexibility, and communication.
Find Your Success Story
Most employers are also looking for “fit”. No matter how educated or skilled someone is, they will not last long in a job if they do not get along with others, do not believe in the mission and vision of the company, or are not willing to learn whatever is necessary for success in the role. While you might find it challenging to prove you are a strong candidate despite having no related experience, employers also face a huge challenge in judging whether or not candidates will be a good fit for their organization.