6 job search strategies for overcoming a lack of related work experience

How do you land a job offer when you’re competing against applicants who have more experience than you do? It’s the rock and the hard place where job seekers often get stuck. You can’t get a job without having related experience. But you can’t develop experience until you get a job.

Internships, co op experiences, part-time jobs and volunteer opportunities are all great avenues for gaining related experience before applying for jobs. But pay attention to these strategies that you can use now.

1. Apply for jobs like you are a seasoned professional. Your lack of experience isn’t an excuse for not knowing how to conduct an effective job search. Do you have a top-notch resume and great interviewing skills? Are you researching and identifying companies? Are you networking and having informational meetings with others in the profession? Because effective, seasoned job seekers are.

2. Develop your personal brand. Identify your skills, values and talents. They help define who you are and that’s what employers are interested in knowing. Brainstorm a long list of each, then choose the top five you’re best at and/or enjoy doing the most. Use this top five list to create an elevator speech or verbal business card. Practice sharing this business card with family and friends so you’ll be ready to share it in interviews and networking meetings.

3. Don’t overlook your soft skills; sell them. When asked what employers look for when recruiting candidates, soft skills top the list.  The bottom line is, possessing a strong knowledge base won’t matter to an employer if you can’t effectively communicate, work independently or in groups with minimal supervision. These are a sample of the soft skills employers seek. Review your background to see where you have developed these skills. Make sure the employer knows about them.

4. Have a pristine online presence.  You demonstrate a lack of commitment, professionalism and maturity if your online presence is less than stellar. Your Facebook profile should not leave anyone questioning your character. Your LinkedIn profile should merit employers wanting to contact you or other professionals wanting to connect with you.

5. Hang out with professionals you aspire to be someday. The players sitting on the bench learn the most by hanging out with the team’s starters. Connect with professionals in your field. Join LinkedIn groups and both post questions and reply to others’ comments. Follow professionals on Twitter and use the retweet and reply buttons frequently. Attend seminars and meetings where you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to people in the profession.

6. Never apologize for your lack of experience. The job candidate whose cover letter begins “While I don’t have the specific experience you’re looking for…” won’t be called for an interview. The job interviewer who only tells a recruiter “I don’t have experience doing that task” won’t receive a job offer. Rather, write a cover letter that connects your skill set to the job. If an employer asks about a specific skill set that you don’t have, be honest but immediately change focus. “I don’t have experience with that particular task, but in my previous job I learned these skills that are applicable. Furthermore, my previous supervisor will tell you I’m a fast learner because I quickly learned new information for my previous position and excelled at it.”

These tips may seem simple. But sometimes the simplest suggestions make the biggest difference.




9 job search tips I learned from Sesame Street

Happy Birthday Sesame Street! The television show that has entertained and educated millions of children turns 45 this week.

It’s likely that Big Bird, Grover and Cookie Monster were some of your first childhood friends. Some of you may have young children now who are getting to know these furry Muppets and the life lessons they’ve been teaching since 1969. The world has changed a lot since then. The world of work has, too. But it’s amazing how many of these lessons still hold true today, even when it comes to career planning.

What are some items you learned from Sesame Street that you can apply to the job search?

Your ABCs. Each Sesame Street episode is brought to you by a letter and a number. Both are helpful even with specific elements of your job search like your resume! Use numbers and statistics on a resume to make it stand apart from the others. And triple check your spelling so it won’t stand out for the wrong reasons.

Knowing a second language is helpful…and marketable! Thanks to Sesame Street, many of us learned to count to ten in Spanish. Fast forward to today’s job market where employers actively seek candidates with foreign language skills. Using the keyword “bilingual” brings up over 70,000 job matches on Indeed.com. If you know more than one language, make sure you market this skill in your job search.

The world (of work) is diverse and connected. Regardless of your language knowledge, you’ll be working in a very diverse world of work.

The different kinds of jobs are so vast. Sesame Street introduced children to so many different employers. Mr. Hooper’s Store, the Fix-It-Shop, the post office, subway station and Laundromat, just to name a few. Viewers saw many jobs in action, including a store owner, postal carrier, firefighter and police officer. And this was on one tiny street. So imagine how many thousands of jobs exist in the world of work.

It’s okay to be afraid. Finding your own career path, writing resumes, having job interviews, making decisions about job offers – all of it can be scary. It’s okay to admit your career fears. It’s important to seek out resources to help you navigate them.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Perseverance is key to a successful job search. Keep submitting resumes, keep contacting people for informational interviews. Reach out to contacts through LinkedIn. Even after an interview where the end result isn’t a job offer, know that the next interview could have the result you’re looking for.

Getting along with others. Employers consistently rank teamwork as a top skill they’re seeking.

Know who you are…and like who you are. Are you an introvert or outspoken? What do you value more: A stable or flexible work schedule? With both questions there’s no right or wrong answer. What’s essential is knowing what’s important to you and using those values to guide your career search.

Everyone needs support. While you’re a student and during your job search having a support network is important. Whether it’s friends, family or both, look for someone to share ideas, questions and concerns.

8 signs you shouldn’t take this job

Saying no to a job offer is hard. If you just started your job search or have been looking for work for a while, saying no to a paycheck is tough. But sometimes it may be necessary.

If your personal circumstances permit you to do so, screen job opportunities carefully. Not for scams – although watch out for these, too – but for lemons. A legitimate job could be sour enough that you’ll be back to the job search within months or weeks of being hired.

Avoid the heartache by paying attention to these red flags when you apply for job openings:

Numerous job postings from one office. If you see multiple openings in one office, the good news is they may have an increased need for new workers. But be careful of high turnaround that could indicate a bad work environment.

Sketchy answer to “why is this position available?” This is a reasonable question that you should ask. You want to know if it’s a newly created position, did the predecessor leave or was she promoted? Or did something happen that no one really wants to discuss? Be wary of answers to the question that seem carefully crafted but don’t say a whole lot, or answers that contain more “ums” and pauses than concrete information.

Shady or vague job descriptions. A job description should tell the duties and responsibilities expected as well as list qualifications (skills, education, work background) sought. If a job opening lists little information or describes the position using language that leaves you suspicious, there might be a problem. It doesn’t mean you can’t take the interview, but it does mean you should ask many questions (and look for satisfactory answers).

Poor reviews. Websites like Glassdoor.com provide the opportunity for employees to post reviews. But it’s important to remember that online review sites are often used for negative reviewing. For every bad review, there may be 10 good ones that never get written. However, it’s helpful to research a company or department through LinkedIn and word-of-mouth. If friends wrinkle an eyebrow when you mention  interviewing at Company X, ask them what’s up.

Refusing to let you meet potential coworkers or tour the office. Was a future colleague on the interview panel? If not, were you given a tour of the office allowing you to meet future coworkers? Or were you whisked away to an office for the interview and only permitted to meet with HR representatives? You should pay close attention to an interviewer who seems unsettled by your request to see where you’d be working.

Tense or unhappy office vibe. If you are given the chance to tour the office, pay more attention to the ambiance than the office size or furniture. Do you see smiling employees? Are people engaged in conversation? Or is there a sense that people are angry, scared or bored?   

A quick interview. A brief interview could mean it was determined you don’t meet the qualifications or the interviewer isn’t interested in your specific qualifications and just wants to hire someone. Be on guard if there is no substance or “meat” to their questions or interest in your answers.

A job offer from an interview. It’s rare to receive a job offer at the end of an interview. Employers often review all applicant interviews before deciding, as well as check references before making job offers. It’s a big red flag if the employer’s final statement at the interview’s end is “You’re hired, when you can you start?”

There is the reality that even recruiters sometimes conduct bad interviews. Office tours may give off an unhappy vibe if employees are sick or just having a bad day. But when your gut is telling you something seems off, pay attention