The Gradlife – How to get experience (without experience)

So, you want to build your work experience…

But all the jobs you apply for ask for experience to get started – even the entry-level ones. Go figure.

Luckily though, there are a number of options out there to help you build your skills and impress employers enough to take a chance on you. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

And whether it’s work experience in the traditional sense, be it paid or unpaid, taking on new opportunities through volunteering, leadership programs, or work placements, or even just demonstrating your current skills more effectively, a lack of employment history can be overcome.

Here are a few of my top tips to help you solve a very common problem.


Show what else you can do

It’s important to know for yourself, and what you have to offer.

What are the things that make you you? And what qualities, skills or attributes can an employer benefit from by having you as an employee?

One of the best ways to answer these questions is to search for a role you’re interested in, and then evaluate yourself against the requirements.

During this process you will notice areas you are quite strong in, and others where may slightly underperform. And, you know what? That’s okay.

Aside from the aforementioned experience catch-22, or a qualification you don’t have, it will almost always comes down to having the right mindset. So you should never underestimate the importance of soft skills.

In fact, you’ll undoubtedly have events or experiences you can draw from, which you can use to demonstrate your skills more effectively. If you keep these experiences as relevant to their chosen attributes as possible, and show what impact they had, they can be just as persuasive as working within the industry itself.

In other words, packaged in the right way, transferable skills could become your new best friend.

Randall Fact – Just because you don’t have ‘direct’ experience, it doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer. Find the thing that makes you distinct, identify it – and highlight it.

Hard skills vs. soft skills

What are soft skills?



AKA ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’.

If you’re struggling to find experience in your industry then it’s highly important to take advantage of events such as meet and greets, networking and even Q & A’s.

To put it simply, any opportunity to meet an employer is an opportunity not to be missed. Research your industry and find out what functions or events are held and are open to the public, but be sure to make sure you have an idea of who usually attends, to ensure that your trip is worthwhile.

Making the right connections and having the right introductions can help open up doors that not even qualifications can. So, try and improve your net worth by increasing your network.

But a word of warning…before you begin connecting, make sure that all social media outlets are clear and presentable. First impressions always count (even if they’re only online).

How to make your social profiles recruiter-safe

Five ways social media is costing you the job



Keep learning

What do you do whilst patiently waiting for someone to give you an opportunity? Try to look for ways to create them for yourself.

There are always options out there to sharpen your skills, whether it’s by taking a course, or becoming a mentor to help teach someone else what you’ve learnt.

Not only will you get a chance to add to your attributes, it’s also a great way to get over one of the biggest turns offs for employers – unexplainable gaps in candidate’s CVs.

Obviously there will be times where these gaps can’t be helped, but by try to find ways to keep yourself (and your career prospects) active and busy, the more you learn the more you can offer.

Remember: Knowledge is power.

How to: Explain a gap in your CV


Be realistic (without quitting)

I often hear people saying things like ‘manage your expectations’, and ‘be realistic ‘.

And I tend to agree. Of course, when trying to get work experience and, eventually, a full-time job, your targets need to be achievable. But whilst it’s important to set yourself reachable goals, you should to never be tempted to undersell yourself. Or, even worse, give up.

No matter what stage of your career you’re in, finding your dream job is never easy.

So, be consistent – and persistent. Just because you may not have heard back this time or the next five times, it doesn’t mean you should completely give up. And if you don’t get the call? Always take initiative and try reaching out to a recruiter directly.

It could be that something completely unrelated to experience has been the barrier. But, if you don’t ask, you won’t kow.

Finally, it would be pointless (and very time consuming) for you to throw everything you have into trying to do something that you may not be ready for yet.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t work in the industry at all. You might just need to aim your sights at a more entry-level position, which helps you build your skills and work your way up.

Don’t rule out a field completely, just because you’re looking for the wrong kind of roles.

Why haven’t they called?

Four ways to follow up after an application



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