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.




Are you doing ALL that you can to find a job?

Accenture, a global consulting company, recently released its 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey. The survey examines the difference between graduates’ expectations of the world of work and the reality of that world. The results are pretty interesting.

One statistic in particular stands out: 69% of 2014 graduates expect to find work within the first six months after graduation. However, for graduates of the classes of 2012 and 2013 only 42% found jobs within the first six months after earning their degrees.

Factors that affect the length of a job search:

  • The state of the local and national economy
  • Quantity of jobs in a candidate’s preferred location (not many film jobs in Iowa, for example)
  • Demand for a candidate’s skill level and degree
  • A job seeker’s flexibility regarding types of jobs, geographic location, salary, etc.
  • Quality of the job search

The fifth factor – quality of the candidate’s job search- is critical and one that the job seeker completely controls. For graduates who didn’t find a job within the first six months after graduation, it’s worth asking what their efforts were like. If you’re job searching, ask yourself: Are you doing everything, using every resource and considering every option in your job search? Before answer yes, ask yourself if you’ve done the following:

1. Join professional associations: Every industry, from accounting to zoology, has a representing association or society. Members have access to membership directories, job search databases and other resources. 

2. Join regional groups: Most major cities organize groups that allow residents to meet others. A city’s Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for locating such groups. Meetup.com is another source. The common interest might be professional, cultural, hobbies or a combination.  

3. Attend meetings and seminars: Simply joining a group isn’t enough. Be an active member. Attend networking meetings, seminars and conferences. Meet people face-to-face.

4. Become active on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a social media outlet for professional purposes. It needs to be part of your job search toolbox. Learn how to create a LinkedIn profile and utilize this critical job search tool. The CPCC Career Services LinkedIn How To video can help.

5. Volunteer: Get involved in a local community group or cause that interests you. You’ll meet people who share a common interest in that group or cause. Volunteering is one more avenue for meeting people.

6. Conduct informational interviews: Find a professional working in your targeted industry. Contact someone employed at a company you want to work for. Set up a 30 minute meeting to  talk about the company or the profession, ask questions about the person’s career path and receive suggestions for your job search.

Networking is the commonality for all of these tips.

Most job searches take longer than anticipated and it’s not uncommon to spend more than six months searching. But regardless of industry, geographic location or flexibility when considering options, job searching takes longer if you aren’t actively connecting with others.



Break the elevator etiquette rule (and four other ways to find job networking opportunities)

Networking. It’s the one word that collectively makes most job seekers cringe. But cliché phrases such as “not networking means not working” exist for a reason. When it comes to job searching and career exploration, networking is the number one tool. It’s the key to unlocking doors you won’t find through job fairs, on-campus recruiting and online job boards.

Networking opportunities exist all around you. Here are five outlets for sneaking networking occasions into your life.

1. Work at networking events: If you are a member of a professional association, don’t just attend the conference. Volunteer to help organize the meetings and conferences that everyone is attending. You likely won’t have to pay to attend the event, can be privy to the guest list and make connections with other volunteers.

2. Volunteer at “non-networking” events: Instead of running in the 5K, serve on the committee to help organize it. Is the organization you volunteer for coordinating a fundraiser? Join the group to help plan it. Look for joining opportunities through your place of worship, child’s school or other venues where you can work alongside other people.

3. Look for disguised networking events: Book clubs, exercise classes, moms’ groups/play groups. The reason for gathering isn’t to network, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. Knowing that you already have something in common with others in the group makes these outlets less intimidating.

4. Break the elevator etiquette rule: Or strike up a conversation with the person you see every day at the bus stop. There are one-to-one networking opportunities around you every day. It won’t work every time, but you’d be surprised how often it does. Are you going to land a job interview through engaging in small talk on the elevator? Maybe not. But you might land an informational interview – which could lead to a job offer down the road. You’ll never know unless you try.

5. View family and friends from a networking perspective: It’s time to look at aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends in a different light. Do they know you’re job searching? Do they know the industries you’re interested in? Because if they don’t know, then you don’t know connections they may have to those industries.


Talk to a career counselor about developing your networking strategies. It’s a part of job searching that can’t be ignored.