Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s a well-known logic puzzle that has no definitive answer. And for anyone entering the job market fresh out of university or any other form of education, it’s a saying that feels all too familiar. That’s because the challenge faced by millions of job seekers is that they can’t get a job without experience and they can’t get experience without a job.
Browse the employment section in the local paper or scour the internet job boards and you might see dozens of suitable or interesting positions available. But almost all of them will say things like ‘minimum three years’ experience required’ or list required skills that can only be learned on the job. It’s very frustrating but it doesn’t have to be the dead end that it seems.
There are ways and means of finding employment, even if you lack experience. We’re going to look at the various ways that it’s possible to enter the employment market, despite having a CV that resembles Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.
Graduate employment schemes
Some larger employers recognise the difficulty for graduates of getting jobs without the necessary experience and run graduate programmes specifically aimed at students entering the workplace. They offer good starting salaries, on the job training, skill acquisition and the prospect of progress within the company. More importantly, you are given the opportunity to acquire experience and beef up your CV for future positions.
Check out the graduate job listing sites or visit your graduate jobs fair to see what kind of roles and options are available.
Rather than just aimlessly skimming the paper for a job you find interesting, be proactive. Find the latest jobs in Norwich and Norfolk online, in trade papers, at graduate fairs, and through networking contacts. Think outside the box and you can find a greater variety of vacant positions.
Also, apply directly to companies and businesses you admire. The chances are they’ll have nothing, but you never know. And at the very least they’ll remember your name and face for next time. Businesses are always looking for candidates who show some get up and go, so don’t wait for the jobs to come to you.
Internships and apprenticeships
Another great way of acquiring skills and experience is to look for internships or apprenticeships in related fields. The two differ in that an internship is usually a temporary arrangement with little or no financial remuneration, whereas an apprenticeship is long-term and paid (albeit with a small initial wage).
The main issue with internships is that you need to be able to afford to live for the duration of your programme. In a place like London that can involve a huge amount of money, leading to claims that unpaid internships are exploitative and unfairly benefit more affluent people. However, an internship is also a great way of getting a foot in the door and proving what you can do.
An apprenticeship is also a great way of learning skills and gaining experience first-hand, often from someone with years of knowledge.
When it comes to getting a job, it is very often who you know not what you know that can get you ahead. People like to employ known quantities, which means candidates they already know and trust. Do your best to network, attend events, ask questions and try to meet people who work in the industry. That way when a job does come up, you will already be on the radar.
Be prepared to start at the bottom
As much as you’d like to start on a big salary and make the important decisions, you almost always have to start from the bottom. Be prepared to put the hours in and don’t hide from the boring or nasty jobs. If you really want to climb the ladder quickly, then you need to get noticed. And although it might not feel like anyone is watching when you’re a junior, talent usually stands out.
Reading through the listings or conducting an online job search can be demoralising but remember that very often the adverts outline the ideal candidate a company is looking for. It doesn’t mean that the company is going to find such a person, or that they really expect to. If a job looks interesting, apply. You never know what might happen and you might be just what that company needs, they just hadn’t worked that out until they met you. As the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
Emphasise your skills
When you do apply, never lie on your CV. Be honest about the skills you do and don’t have but place an emphasis on your talents. You need to try and make potential employers realise that you have the raw ability to help their business, and that lack of experience is something that can easily be remedied. As the saying goes, the form is temporary, a class is permanent.
Practice interview techniques
Once you’ve applied for jobs, the next stage is the interview. This is the time when you get to demonstrate that a lack of experience is no barrier to your progress and that you possess all the qualities their business needs. Work on your interview technique, prepare answers to questions you think you might be asked, get a friend or family member to run through a mock interview with you, and think about how to best present yourself.
Think about where to find jobs, be prepared to work for free to get experience, start at the bottom and work your way up, and network. These are all great ways of finding a job without experience. Be bold, put yourself out there and make the first move. Finding a job is as much about luck and timing as it is experience, and the more you look, the better chance you stand of being in the right place at the right time. And when the opportunity comes, be ready to grab it with both hands.