Overcoming the "No Experience - No Job" barrier to finding work
• By Karin Lewis, Toronto Job Search Examiner and Workforce Specialist, JVS Toronto
The old frustrating Catch-22 of “you can’t get a job without experience, but you need a job to get experience” is faced by a many job searchers, including new graduates, recent immigrants, career changers or simply those entering the work force after a long absence. When browsing online job postings, it becomes obvious that employers seem to expect extensive and specialised work experience for even the seemingly simplest positions. There are, however, some creative successful strategies to confronting these experience gaps, which could be implemented at various stages of the job search process, from the initial stage of resume writing, all the way to the interview.
Obviously, the two ways to tackle these challenges are to either seek out experience or to find a way to get hired without it.
Gaining experience can be difficult and time consuming, though well worth the effort. This can be done through internships, exchange programs, practice firms, and volunteering, These methods enable candidates to chose the skills they want to develop as well as to spend time getting to know (and be known by) employers.
By far, the most effective way to gain access to employers is through networking. The key is to network with a purpose and to try and meet with employers with a specific agenda in mind. Specifically, it can be very effective to try to create an opportunity to offer the employer something which they need. Many candidates are setting out to create their own internships, though offering specific services and time to employers. Other creative ways to gain experience includes blogging on a subject of expertise, or writing freelance articles in local community newspapers, online or in print.
With summer holidays nearing, the job market changes. Employers (and customers) take vacations and in some industries hiring slows, as sales and service needs drop. But that is not the case for all employers – certain sectors are very busy in summer, including art and festivals, recreation, hospitality, children’s camps, and others. These employers often hire for summer jobs. This recruitment usually begins in March/April and often continues up to June. Some of these positions are created through various levels of government, such as federal, provincial and municipal summer jobs programs. Others are available in the private sector, with employers such as summer camps, large attractions (for example, in the Greater Toronto Canada’s Wonderland hires a large number of people in the early summer.
Getting hired without the expected experience is all about self marketing. The nature of job qualifications listed by employers on postings often indicate that their expectations are not necessarily clearly thought though nor are they the best criteria for a specific job. Sometimes qualifications seem either too general (“some customer service experience or equivalent”) or too specific (“10 years experience serving high end customers, ensuring complete satisfaction”). Either way, employers may be missing out on potentially excellent candidates, who may bring to their companies a whole set of transferable skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management (described as Emotional Intelligence Constructs). The challenge for job searchers is to persuade employers that their unique skills and experience are sufficiently valuable, and enable employers to overlook their listed criteria.
Many employers will admit that while certain technical, job-specific skills are required, their biggest challenge is to identify candidates with the best transferable skills. The first opportunity to tell employers about such skills is on the resume, and there is a specific resume format that allows for these to be highlighted, called a Functional Resume. Regardless of the resume format, though, job searchers should always be able to describe their skills in transferable terms, allowing for potential employers to understand how their background and skills may be applicable for the new job . The same principles can be effectively applied to writing cover letters and interviewing.
Overall, probably the biggest challenge for candidates is maintain the positive, “can-do” type attitude that employers expect. This can be a very tall order when the job search process begins dragging on and wearing the searcher down in what feels like a cut throat and highly competitive process. The challenge for candidates is to continue to preserver and sustain a deliberate and thoughtful approach, while maintaining the kind of enthusiasm and optimism that will impress employers and leave a meaningful impact. If you need inspiration and perspective, here’s a story to inspire.
Nick Vujicic, No Arms, No Legs, No Worries!