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Focus on Personal Accomplishments in Your Interview and Be Professional
Entering the job market with little or no professional work experience may feel daunting at first, but there are several ways to establish yourself as a worthwhile candidate. Many life experiences can be adapted to meet hiring criteria, and when paired with a positive outlook and professional demeanor, the next job you apply for could be yours.
Think Beyond Traditional Work Experience
A typical 9-to-5 job isn’t the only viable type of work experience hiring managers look for. Many employers focus on your skills, attitude, ability to learn and adapt, and your willingness to accept an entry-level job and work your way up. If you have never worked a traditional job, consider the other experiences you’ve had that give you employment-related qualifications.
- Volunteer work
- Home-based or self-employment work
Focus on Your Skill Set
Look for jobs that match your personal interests, skills or the hobbies in which you have first-hand, practical experience. For example, if you’re an avid scrapbooker, apply for a job at a craft store and bring along samples of your work to show off your skills. If you’ve been doing taxes for friends for years, look for work in a tax preparation agency and offer to demonstrate your abilities. If you’re a passionate reader, seek openings in book stores or libraries. Carefully read job descriptions and focus on the skills the employer is looking for. For example, if you’re applying for work in an office setting, highlight the computer programs you’re familiar with. This approach will help you find work you’ll be qualified for and enjoy.
Make the Most of What You Have
While you should never embellish your skills or work history on a job application, you can certainly make the most of what you’ve done and what you know, particularly when you tailor life experiences to meet the requirements of the position you’re seeking. For example:
- Serving on the PTA: “Coordinated scholastic and fundraising activities for grades K-5.”
- Babysitting: “Facilitated small-group enrichment opportunities for local children.”
- Running errands or caring for an older neighbor: “Provided a variety of elder-care services, including transportation, well-checks and socialization opportunities.”
Write a Winning Resume
Even if you’re asked to fill out a job application online, it’s still wise to craft a resume that allows you to elaborate on the skills and traits that would make you a good employee. You can often attach a resume to an online job app, and you can always bring one with you to an in-person interview. Many online job-search portals offer resume-building advice, or you can hire a professional resume writer to help you craft the perfect personal pitch. Do-it-yourself is another viable option. Key ingredients on a resume include:
- Name, address, telephone
- Cellphone and email address
- LinkedIn profile link
- List of educational credentials
- Past employment history, if any
- Volunteer history
- Public and civic work
- Awards and recognition
A word about references: A company may ask for references to contact to ask about your personal work ethic and your professionalism. Always ask people if you can use them as a reference, so they aren’t caught off guard. If you have no work experience, professional people who know you in a personal capacity can be good choices, as can teachers and coaches.
Other Ways to Impress a Hiring Manager
It’s not just work history that impresses hiring managers. When you write a cover letter to go with an online application, or when you have an interview, stress your enthusiasm, your professionalism and highlight why you want the job you’re seeking. Be prepared to answer questions about lack of experience, but put a positive spin on it.
“I realize I haven’t worked in an office before, but I’m great with multi-tasking. I love talking to people, I have exceptional computer skills, and I’m very organized. I was attracted to your company because of the work you do with animal welfare, and I would love to learn more about how I can grow into a real asset for the organization.”
When You’re a Teenager
If you’re a teen, or someone helping a teen find work, remember: Employers aren’t going to expect to see a lot of experience. In this instance, put the focus on volunteer and community work, academic standing and extra-curricular activities. Professional demeanor goes a long way as well, which means dressing professionally, following up an interview with a note of thanks, and making an effort to perform well if you get the job. It will help build a resume that leads to bigger and better opportunities.
Lisa McQuerrey has been an award-winning writer and author for more than 25 years. She specializes in business, finance, workplace/career and education. Publications she’s written for include Nevada Woman Magazine and Education.com.