It’s always exciting to find job postings that seem like a direct match to what you want. There is, after all, nothing like the buzz of excitement you get when you realize that work exists that ticks all the boxes.
But the excitement can quickly deflate once you realize you have a lack of experience for a key qualification the HR personnel would be certainly looking for: experience. If you’re a fresh college graduate, or you just made a transition from two non-related career paths, you may have to work doubly, if not triply hard, to prove you can get the job done.
Is it possible to get a job offer, with a lack of experience that is relevant?
The quick answer is yes. Most lists of qualifications in a job ad, unless stated otherwise, represent ideal candidates for a position (or at least the field standard), not non-negotiable characteristics a company is looking for in an applicant. If you’re confident that you can fulfill the job description (or perform well) given your current set of skills and qualifications, it may simply be a matter of getting your confidence across.
Consider the following tips on how you can get past the ‘lack of experience’ roadblock.
1. Prove that you have the right skill set for the job.
Transferable skills can be more impressive than positions you’ve held. This certainly is the case when you’re applying for work you don’t have direct experience for.
Transferable skills, as the term implies, refers to skills you’ve acquired in one work experience that you can still use in another job. Communication skills like active listening and anger de-escalation are examples of transferable skills. The same goes with problem-solving skills like critical thinking and effective decision-making.
If you don’t have relevant direct experience for a job, the best thing to do is illustrate how you already possess many skills needed to get the job done. If you’re applying for a PR position, for example, but you have no direct public relations experience, show how being a Red Cross volunteer in charge of a city-wide safety campaign has sharpened your skills at creating networks and getting buy-in from stakeholders. (Non-paying work, such as leadership in clubs or volunteer work, is good drawing point if you’re a fresh graduate.) If you can paint a picture of how well you can navigate the work required, then you may even get the edge against supposedly better qualified applicants.
2. Present your work portfolio.
Some types of jobs can be won by good work samples, so do invest in crafting an excellent portfolio. If you’re applying as a software developer, for example, corporate experience may become irrelevant once you’re able to present the high quality of work that you can do. A well-executed business plan, one you wrote for an undergraduate class, may also be able to illustrate that you have project management potential. Your collection of drawings, even if they were produced as a hobbyist, can also win you a graphic design gig if they’re actually really good.
The key words, of course, are “really good.” Your work portfolio has to be stellar if you want it to stand out from the crowd. If you’re confident in your skills and talents, insist on making a presentation. It’ll be worth it if you can successfully sell yourself.
3. Show your access to training and development.
If you can prove that you have great aptitude for learning — a good score on IQ and aptitude tests can illustrate this — and that your undergraduate grades in relevant subjects are impressive enough, then you can simply offer to bridge your lack of experience with additional training, preferable before the job starts. This applies most especially to cases where your lack of experience is in the use of technical skills such as use of particular software or a particular work methodology.
You may, for example, share how you can present a certification of accomplishment in the presentation software Articulate within the next month, if proficiency in Articulate is really critical to the job. Assertively offering extra training is actually impressive in itself, as it presents you as a person who is not just open to learning, but also motivated to get the job at hand and capable of pursuing his or her own continuous education.
4. Lastly, make sacrifices.
If you’re honestly determined to get a job, especially if there are other forces pulling you towards a company e.g. its prestigious name or its positive work culture, then consider the possibility of offering concessions to increase your competitive advantage (and compensate for your lack of experience). You may, for example, offer to work at a lower rate than what the company usually gives to get your foot in the door. You may present yourself as qualified for two part-time positions instead of just one; hiring just one person to man two projects can actually save the company a lot of money. Or you can commit to long term work — something that is valued in a company with a high turnover rate. In essence, find ways to sweeten the pot for the recruitment specialist/hiring manager.
Note that this strategy does not mean that you would have to devalue your work or accept abysmal conditions just because you lack experience. It just means evaluating your personal values and checking where you can make reasonable compromises — compromises that would benefit the company’s bottom line, and therefore make you more attractive. Realistically, after all, people who have a lack of experience in a job tend to be placed at the bottom of the resume pile; you need something to draw the HR’s eye. If you can contract for a clear end to the concessions, such as an evaluation for an ascent in pay grade every 6 months, then this just might buy you enough time to prove your worth.