Finding your first job feels like catch-22: you need a job to get a job. Here are some ways around that!
Recruitment statistics from 2017 suggest that more than 90% of employers expect at least some work experience from freshers. Most of them (65%) require relevant experience.
Don’t worry, you can fix this. Depending on how much time you have, we’ll show you two strategies for tackling this challenge.
1. Get Experience!
Hey! I know you rolled your eyes!
I remember this advice from way back when I was looking for my first job. Trust me, I was worried I’d go full Bruce Banner and Hulk Smash whoever dared share this nugget of wisdom.
If employers want experience, give them some. We’ll show you how you can go from zero to hero in a few minutes of work.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to pull double shifts as an intern to make your resume better.
Here are some ways you can spruce up your resume within a short period of time:
- Do volunteer work
- Get an internship
Again, you don’t want to be a full-time gofer. You just need to get your foot in the door.
Browse online job boards, college websites, and simply ask around. Even a few days or weeks volunteering for an NGO is way more than an empty experience section on your resume. (Not to mention you’d be making the world a better place, so kudos to you!)
I get it. Landing an internship is oftentimes hard in its own right. In a way, it’s like applying for a job in the first place: you might need to submit your resume, go through the equivalent of a recruitment process, and nail the interview. But you’re not trying to land an internship with Google here. Just enough experience to prove you can navigate the workplace and you’re done.
Freelancing might mean creating a basic website for that mom and pop store down the road, helping some people move house, doing some translation work for a few friends—whatever is somehow relevant to the career you want to pursue.
At this point, your focus is to get some work experience and get a feel of what it’s like to make decisions, take orders, and prove your application is worthy of being considered by the Wizard of Oz (i.e., the hiring manager.)
Still asking yourself, “How am I supposed to get experience if every job requires experience?”
Now, time for plan B—
2. Highlight Relevant Experience and Education
No work experience? No internships? No volunteering? No time to make up for that?
The only thing you can do now is to brainstorm:
- What skills you possess
- What education you have and what courses you took
- What interests and extracurricular activities seem relevant
Pro Tip: If you truly haven’t got a single project to showcase on your resume, move your Education section above the Work Experience section. Always put your strongest assets as high up on your resume as possible.
3. Beef up Your Education and Coursework
Now, when you sit down and write up your education section, highlight any job-relevant courses you took.
For example, if you’re applying for the position of customer service representative, you might want to mention courses which helped you build computer and communication skills.
If the job you’re applying for is something you learned about at school, make sure you mention this—
Perhaps you majored in English Literature, but took a course in digital marketing and caught the bug. Expand your education write-up by including that course.
Pro Tip: Some experts argue that GPAs don’t matter, but if yours is solid, i.e., as close to a perfect 4.0 as possible, you might want to put it on your resume. Some companies actually require candidates to disclose their GPA and looking it up is the first step to sieve out the majority of the candidates.
4. Make the Most of Your Skills
Next, go through any skills you possess that are job-relevant.
Applying for an entry-level position at a young company? Know your way around G Suite? Put it on your resume.
Will your job require a lot of travel? Have a driver’s license? Great.
Skills like these are referred to as technical skills. Try to prove you possess them—
Let’s say the job ad requires you to update the company’s WordPress-powered website. Do you run a WordPress blog? Put that on your resume and explain what you can do. Don’t just write WordPress in the skills section.
5. When it comes to skills, you need to quantify whenever possible.
Let’s say your prospective job requires you to do a lot of typing. You could take an online typing test and show the recruiter how efficient you are!
Will you have to drive a lot? The employer will be happy to read you’ve had a clean driver’s license for five years.
What’s more, there are some transferable skills you possess. These are abilities that come in handy no matter what you’re doing—
Perhaps you helped out with organizing a concert or another event? There you go, you’ve got organizational skills. Again, be specific about what you did, and explain why you did a good job of this.
And then you’ve got soft skills. These are so-called people skills like communication.
Pro Tip: Don’t underestimate soft skills. The majority of recruiters expect their candidates to possess them—even in highly technical jobs.
Oh, and don’t forget any licenses or certificates that might come in handy on the job.
If you speak a foreign language, don’t hide that from the employer and put that on your resume.
Here’s the bottom line—
No matter what you think, employers understand that candidates looking for their first job and entry-level positions don’t have years of experience. Sure, they love to see a solid history of employment. But then again, there are clearly jobs for candidates with no experience out there.
In a way, what you have to do is to prove you can be trusted to learn fast on the job.
Make the most of what experience you already have and get more. Leverage your educational background to prove you possess some relevant know-how (Read Now: How To Maximize Your Education To Get Hired).
Writing a resume is all about rewriting. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not happy with your first draft.
And, last but not least, applying for jobs is a bit of a numbers game. Don’t give up. The more lottery tickets you have, the more likely you are to win!
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