Applying for a job with no experience

You want to move onward and upward with your career? You see an opportunity you want to take, but you don’t have experience? Let’s talk about applying for a job with no experience.

Do you really have no experience?

Applying for a job with no experience
Applying for a job with no experience is sometimes a misnomer. When you write up your resume, dig deep, and list only job duties and education that will be useful to your new boss.

The first thing I can say about applying for a job with no experience is that unless it’s an entry-level job or the employer is desperate, you probably won’t get the job. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, you probably have experience and you just need to find a way to express it.

I assume you have some job history. Look for duties you did over the course of any job you had that relate to the job you want. I know a ton of people who sold computers at retail in the 90s who used that experience to get IT jobs. Sure, I spent some time putting product on shelves and changing price tags. But tons of customers called the store asking technical support questions because they knew they wouldn’t spend as much time on hold if they called the manufacturer. So I spent a lot of time on the phone answering customer questions. And if a customer wanted to know if a product we sold would work on their computer, I was usually the guy who ended up figuring it out.

So while it was retail, in a lot of ways it was helpdesk experience. Early in my career I didn’t do as good of a job of spinning it like that as I could have.

If you’ve ever worked in a hardware store and you’re trying to get into a construction job, do something similar. Play up the time you spent answering questions.

A lot of people just throw their fast-food and retail jobs on their resumes to try to show that they’re capable of holding down a job and hope for the best. There’s value in that, but be sure to look in those roles for relevant experience and play that up. Don’t mention duties that aren’t relevant to the new job. That’s actually backfired on me at times.

What about volunteer experience?

If you have volunteer experience that’s relevant, that counts. If you’re trying to get an entry-level construction job and you’ve volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, that counts. You built something that someone is living in now, and it shows you’re a good person to boot.

I did some computer repair for churches and schools near me when I was a teenager, and I could have used that to pad my resume early in my career if I’d needed to.

Education counts too

The other thing to keep in mind if you’re applying for a job with no experience is education. What classes did you take in high school or college that are relevant to the job you want? Include a summary of that in your education section. Including my high school and college education on my resume just makes it look like I’m trying to waste six lines, but if I include a line stating that I took four semesters of computer programming in high school, then maybe that’s not quite as much of a waste.

Think about any classes that you took that are relevant to the job and summarize them in your education section. It doesn’t count like professional experience, but if you took shop classes, that strongly suggests you won’t be spending your first day on the job learning how to use a hammer.

Have realistic expectations

My final word of advice to you, if you’re applying for a job with no experience or limited experience, is to keep your expectations in check. I can think of a couple of times when new junior-level employees came in and a manager or even an executive came up to me and asked me to mentor them. In one case in particular, the guy felt the work was beneath him and he didn’t want to do it. The guy had no professional experience, no relevant degree, and I’m not even certain if he had a high school diploma, but he thought he could waltz in and get a six-figure job as a senior-level security analyst right away.

I told him as long as he did the work, did a good job, and showed initiative, he’d probably get promoted in six months. Instead, he rarely did the work, did a bad job when he did, and caused a lot of trouble. He got himself fired in less than six weeks.

His replacement had more experience, but he didn’t think the work was beneath him. He did the work, did a good job, showed initiative, and got promoted in about six months. Funny thing, that.

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