Beginner’s Guide to Getting a Job When You Have Limited Experience

By David Albritton

Ok college students – let’s talk about ways to help you find a great job after you graduate – even if you have limited experience.

This is often perplexing situation for many students because some employers want you to already have experience by the time you apply for their open role(s).

Not to fear, as there are traditional methods that still work and innovative techniques that can help you get the job offer you want.

Traditional Strategies for Getting a Job With Limited Experience 

1. Plan ahead. Even if graduation day is a long way off, you can take steps now to enhance your future job search. Develop a strong relationship with your campus adviser and the career services center, as they may have valuable suggestions for what you can do now to improve your future career prospects. They frequently have solid relationships with companies that have job opportunities and may be helpful with connecting you to opportunities.

2. Showcase all your accomplishments. Over time, your resume will be filled with all the experience you’ve gained and responsibilities you’ve had in future jobs, but as you begin, there will be less to draw from to fill up the page on the resume. Take the time to review all the victories in your life wherever they occurred, since you have a track record even before you get your first paid position. You may have played a sport in high school and was elected team captain, which shows a potential employer that you are a natural leader. Or you could have been the editor of your college newsletter, which shows you were able to manage your time and schedule to handle a diverse set of responsibilities beyond your school work.

3. Do volunteer work. Volunteering in support of a local nonprofit or other organization can help you make contacts, learn skills and demonstrate your community spirit. Pick a cause you care about and propose projects that will make the best use of your abilities. With whatever you do, try to default to being a leader amongst your peers, so you can highlight that fact as a differentiating consideration for future employers.

4. Complete an internship. Internships are a great way to break into the workforce. Many employers hire former interns because they get to know you and value your contributions. If you want to be more competitive versus others who are seeking the same jobs you are upon graduation, then gaining valuable and direct experience in internships related to your expected chosen career field has almost become a requirement. Without it, you will face a tougher uphill climb as you seek employment. Make internships a priority. Your campus career services center can help. 

5. Seek part time jobs. Summer jobs and jobs you’ve had while in college count. Analyze your daily responsibilities and try to equate those experiences to something that is relevant and relatable to your chosen career field. Leadership, increased business acumen, solid communication skills and successful outcomes while on the job are important to focus on and highlight.

6. Format your resume to your advantage. Employers will want to see your full background, but you can combine a chronological and functional format. Highlight your academic and extracurricular activities and showcase areas where you showed leadership abilities, provided a differentiating contribution to a successful outcome or developed a new skill and/or capability.

7. Focus on transferrable skills. Good employees are usually team players who can communicate well and solve problems. Go into interviews prepared with stories that prove you’ve got what it takes to succeed in the role you’re vying for.

8. Use referrals and testimonials. Ask key people to make introductions for you. Advance calls and testimonial letters will get your applications noticed.

9. Network vigorously. Take every opportunity to network. Let people know what kind of position you’re seeking. Attend industry events and follow up on promising leads with either a handwritten note or email. Networking can be challenging to some people, but it truly begins with a single contact. Use your relationship with that person to get introduced to other people in their network…and so on.

10. Be honest. It’s wise to make the most of your accomplishments, but avoid exaggerating. Mistakes can be costly for your reputation, as you only have one time to make a first impression.

11. Be willing to start small. Aim to get your foot in the door and once you get on the other side, use every minute of every day to go above and beyond to develop a strong reputation as someone who delivers on time, every time. You may be able to negotiate a higher salary later after you deliver results.

12. Maintain a professional image. Dress for the next position you aspire to. Ensure your conversation and humor are appropriate for the company culture. Be extremely mindful of your social media presence in terms of the types of posts you create or forward, what pictures you post or forward and even the language you use. Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager of a job you’re pursuing and ask yourself, “Would I hire me?” 

Innovative Strategies for Getting a Job With Limited Experience 

1. Start a blog. Writing skills are essential for many careers. Give potential employers a link to your blog. It’s also a great opportunity to let them see your knowledge and insight about your chosen field.

2. Take advantage of social media. Identify people you want to meet online and do some background research on them, their company and their contacts. Use your existing  connections to help you get in touch with these individuals if you aren’t already connected. Try to read their bios, access recent speeches they’ve given or media articles they’re featured or quoted in.

3. Use search filters. Many job search engines have filters where you can sort jobs by the years of experience required. It’s an easy way to save time and eliminate dead ends.

4. Put together a multimedia portfolio. Technology makes it possible for anyone to put together a dazzling digital presentation on a low budget. Use videos, photographs and work samples to set your job application apart from the pack.

Hard work and strategic thinking can make your job search successful even when you have limited experience. Network, get creative and be persistent. We all have to start somewhere. Let these strategies help you sell your potential to a new employer.

Good luck!

David J. Albritton, ACC is an accredited executive/leadership/career coach and the founder of the executive coaching firm, Nineteen88 Strategies, LLC. He spent more than 30 years in the PR/Comms profession, which includes time as the Chief Communications Officer at Exelis Inc., in addition to serving outside of our profession as President, General Motors Defense. He currently serves as an Independent Director on the board of Embecta Corp. (NASDAQ: EMBC), a $1.2B diabetes care business. This guest post also appears today on David’s LinkedIn page.

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