Applying for a job with no experience may feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, but don’t give up – learn what you can do to boost your chances of success. You need experience to get a job, and a job to get experience. This can feel disheartening but remember that you’re not alone. Finding a job with little or no experience isn’t impossible – you just need determination to uncover the right opportunities.
There are plenty of ways to give your CV a boost, gain the skills that potential employers are after and get your foot in the door.
Look for Internships and Apprenticeships
If you’re struggling to secure a long-term or permanent position, internships and apprenticeships are great ways to gain that much-needed experience. They make it possible to earn a wage while acquiring first-hand knowledge of a job or organisation, and are useful for building a network of contacts and can sometimes lead to permanent employment.
An internship looks impressive on your CV and can make you stand out from the crowd. Some larger companies may offer a formal internship programme, so check the websites of organisations you’re interested in to see what’s available. Internships can last from a couple of weeks to a year, and they’re very popular – expect to face a competitive application process, especially at larger companies.
On an apprenticeship you’ll be employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification. You’ll sign a contract with your employer, who then trains you in a specific profession. Apprenticeships are a long-term agreement and can take from one to four years to complete. Most apprentices are guaranteed a job on completion of their programme.
Volunteering positions are more easily secured than an internship and they’re guaranteed to boost your employability, especially if you have no relevant experience. Although unpaid, you’ll profit from the skills and contacts you gain.
Volunteering experience shows commitment, initiative and a strong work ethic – after all, you’re working for free – which are all valuable, appealing traits to prospective employers. You’ll also develop a range of sought-after, transferable skills, such as teamwork, confidence, time management, adaptability, communication and organisation.
Try to gain volunteer work relevant to the area you’d like to work in.
Build your network
When you’re starting out with no experience, who you know can be just as important as what you know. A recommendation to an employer from a personal contact can go a long way. But how do you build up a network of contacts if you’re struggling to enter the world of work?
If you’re at university, utilise the contacts available to you before you graduate. Make the most of career fairs, recruitment networking events and employer talks or lectures. Visit your university careers service to see if they can put you in touch with employers in your area of interest.
Keep in touch with lecturers and people you meet on work experience placements or internships and fellow volunteers – you never know when these contacts might come in useful.
Social media is also an effective way of building and maintaining your professional network. Being present on sites such as LinkedIn and following and connecting with companies and individuals in your chosen field can yield impressive results.
Emphasise the skills you have
Work experience, internships and volunteering are essential for ensuring that your CV doesn’t look empty at the application stage.
Focus your CV on the skills you do have, rather than the ones you don’t. Analyse the job description and list all the skills and personal qualities that make you a good fit for the job. Be sure to emphasise soft and transferable skills such as communication, leadership ability, team working and attention to detail.
However, if you lack direct experience in your chosen field, demonstrate your passion and motivation to learn. Highlight examples of your dedication and commitment to learning, gained through volunteering work, internships or work shadowing.
Target realistic roles
There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but if you’ve no previous experience starting your job search by applying for senior roles is pointless. Be realistic and instead target entry-level jobs and be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up.