It can be challenging to find a job that doesn’t require you to have prior experience. The US Department of Labor reported in 2016 that 47.8% of all civilian jobs posted required experience. So how do you get your first job?
There are several steps I recommend for my clients in this situation. First, read the job description with an eye toward your current activities. See if you might be able to build a bridge between unpaid work you are doing and the skills that potential employers want to see from job candidates.
For example, if you want to work in construction, you could fill a resume with projects you’ve completed for yourself and others. Include a Habitat for Humanity service project you worked on with your church group. Renovations and major repairs you’ve made on your own home are also relevant. Other activities can show your strengths as well. If you mowed lawns in the summer then you learned many skills related to construction — make sure potential employers are aware of them! You could not have kept a lawn-mowing job without a basic understanding of customer service, ability to follow through on commitments, and knack for using tools.
Your cover letter gives you a chance to explain why you would be an asset to your potential employer. Do not dwell on your lack of paid experience in this letter, but do acknowledge it. A statement like, “While I do not have paid experience in this field, I have acquired a great deal of practical experience through my work on… “, can help you achieve this.
Finally, if you are a student or recent grad you can include information about particular classes and experiences you have had at school. You wouldn’t want to list them all, but you could certainly bring some highlights into your resume or cover letter.
The bottom line is this: Future employers want to know that you have the skills you need. Use your career documents to show them that you are ready, willing, and able to take on the job.
What other experiences can you draw from as you create your first resume?