How Do You Work Around a Lack of Work Experience?

Entry Level Job SeekerIf you’re a new or recent grad, the lack of experience may seem to disqualify you for many jobs.

However, I’ve seen numerous success stories with clients who have overcome this dilemma, and I want to share some strategies about how you can do that, too.

Here are some things that help entry-level job seekers stand out when they don’t have a ton of experience:

Build Relationships

With limited experience your network, existing relationships, and eagerness to pursue new connections will go a long way. It will be easy to disqualify you if your resume does not have deep experience.

If you can build new relationships, demonstrate your enthusiasm, exhibit your energy and enthusiasm, you can make inroads on the “lack of experience” issue.

Learn to overcome the fear and dread of networking. Listen to my conversation with John Muscarello of Endless Job Offers.

Focus on Skills

In the debate about experience I like to point out that only a few years ago, the iPhone didn’t even exist. No one could have hired app developers with deep experience, because there weren’t any.

Experience may matter, and adaptability matters as well. Find a way to take the experience you DO have, and translate it into the skills that employer is looking for. See my video on Why Should They Hire You which walks you through translating your prior experience into value statements.

Your conversation may go like this:

Employer: “Oh, I see you don’t have any experience in the jewelry industry.”

You: “Well, would it be important to have someone in this job who can manage a social media campaign, grow followers and execute messaging that is consistent with the brand?”

Employer: “Well… yes.”

You: “Those are the skills I have that you need in this job. And I’ll bring them from day 1 to grow followership and attract clients.”

Most new grads have more experience and skills than they give themselves credit for, and then struggle with turning it into value statements for employers.

Investigate the Employer

When you’re competing with little experience, one advantage you can have is to gather as much information as possible.

If you have an information edge, and really investigate a potential employer, you can ask more powerful questions and have a different conversation than someone who didn’t do their homework.

Investigate the employer, the competition, the customers, and even former employees to get immersed in their position, issues and opportunities. Then develop killer questions that will make you stand out.

Ask Better Questions Than Anyone Else

Take your investigative information and develop a great list of questions that will set you apart from other candidates. Even as an entry-level candidate, show your interest in the organization by bringing your best game in every network conversation, informational interview or networking conversation you have.

Differentiate Yourself With Work Product

Find a way to take what experience you do have and produce a work sample with it.

  • If you coordinated a sorority event, perhaps outline your role, the objective, your action plan and the results you got.
  • If you started your own business perhaps summarize your plan, progress and results in a quick slide deck, white paper or video.
  • If you had an internship, bring work product that summarizes the projects you worked on, your role and your contributions to the team.

Even though your experience may not be identical to what the employer is looking for, work product can go a long way in demonstrating how you think, present yourself, and approach problem-solving and results.

Offer a Start-Up Plan

When I was a hiring manager, I always wanted to hire someone who really wanted that job.

I didn’t want to hire someone who “wanted to get his or her foot in the door.” In fact that often got them eliminated right off the bat.

One way you can show your enthusiasm for that job and overcome the experience gap, is to present a startup plan if you get the job. I once presented a 30-60-90 day plan for a job I really wanted (I was hired). I knew the industry but I didn’t have the experience they wanted in the job. By presenting a plan, I was able to demonstrate my critical thinking skills, ability to see the field and then shift the conversation to talk about what I would do in the job.

You can do the same. Create a simple 90-day plan, identify the important tasks and objectives you would target and present that as part of your interview process.

Stamp Your Feet and Whine

I share this with you as a funny story that could have gone either way.

A recent grad knew exactly what she was looking for in a job, and was getting a number of interviews. She was frequently on the short list, but then told, “We went with someone with more experience.”

At a point of frustration, after many rejections for someone with more experience, she said to the employer, “How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me because I don’t have experience?” She was exasperated.

Funny thing is, they called her back, said they agreed with her, and offered her a job! She’s been there ever since. I’m not advocating this as a strategy, but sometimes, funny things happen in the job search!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friend, Lea McLeod!


Lea McLeodAbout the Author: Lea McLeod is author of the Resume Coloring Book. Check it out if you are struggling with writing your resume in today’s job market. She’s also founder of the Job Success Lab so that you can GO PRO in any job! Follow her on Twitter and her blog:




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