How do I get a job without experience?

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?

How do I find a good job?

We spend about 30% of our lives at work. This makes decisions about the type of work that we pursue very important to our overall happiness.   This is a complicated question, and we will break down the answer over a series of posts.

Step 1: Figure out what a “good job” means to you.

Some of the factors below will be very important to you as you consider your options.  Some will play a role in your decision but not be deal-breakers, while others will not matter to you at all.

  • What type of work do you like? What do you actually want to do all day?
  • What type of environment do you prefer to work in? Are you comfortable in an office, school, hospital, warehouse, the great outdoors, or a variety of settings?
  • How do you feel about work travel?
  • What type of training are you prepared to undertake for your work? How much time can you reasonably put in to this?
  • What financial commitment are you willing or able to make to your career?
  • What other commitments do you need to consider?
  • What hours would you like to work?
  • How do you prefer to be compensated? Do you prefer to be paid based on your time, effort, skills, or results?
  • Are you willing/able to relocate for your work? How does the commute factor in to your decision?
  • What geographic location is appealing to you? Is it important to you to live near a certain place, or in a certain size city / town?
  • Do you prefer to collaborate with a team as you do most of your work, or would you rather take full responsibility for part of a project and take care of it independently?
  • How do you feel about social interaction at work?
  • How do you feel about making decisions?
  • How much supervision do you need to feel comfortable at work? How do you feel about leading others?
  • How do you measure success?
  • What are 3-5 things you enjoy doing? What are 3-5 things that really bother you?
  • What are 3-5 things you take pride in? What are 3-5 things you wish you would prefer not to be judged on?
  • What are 3-5 things you look forward to doing? What are 3-5 things you dread?
  • Describe the best day you’ve ever had at work (or volunteer placement or school).
  • Describe the worst day you’ve ever had at work (or volunteer placement or school).

Follow up questions are important, so don’t get bogged down in these specific prompts as you think about your ideal job.   Reply below and let us know what other factors are important to you as you consider your happiness with work.