You’re about to launch into the real world for the first time after college or university. You’ve got a good educational background under your belt, but the problem is you’ve got zero hands-on experience. Even though you know you’re smart, and you’ve done well in the world of academia, you know you’ll learn fast because you’re enthusiastic and fully capable, you’re still feeling under-qualified for anything better than entry-level positions because of (there’s that word again) experience. Maybe you’ve even given up on finding your dream job after graduating college and have resigned to take the first position that’s offered to you.
You don't want to settle for less, or worse--get stuck in a place for so long you stagnate and become complacent. Your fears around this are very real, and you’re not sure how to guarantee this won’t happen to you. You feel like your options are very limited. You realize that the time you spent in college didn’t teach you much about actually finding your dream job. You want a solid game plan for kicking butt out there, regardless of your experience.
There is light at the end of this tunnel, my friend.
This is the real problem
The root of your problem is with what you already believe, which controls your level of confidence and how you appear. If you’re stuck in this situation, you probably believe that no one will want to hire you because of your experience level--am I right?
The first thing you need to do is start seeing your lack of experience as a strength. Shift your mindset from thinking that nobody wants to hire you to believing your lack of experience can actually be advantageous to an employer. Here’s how:
Experience vs. Adaptability and Enthusiasm
"Little experience" doesn’t mean stupid or incapable. You’ve worked hard; you’ve learned a lot, studied and completed assignments in school. Work is not that different. You learn something, study the company’s way of doing it, and then you go off and get it done. There are a lot more variables and a lot of different situations you’ll encounter, so it’s not quite as straightforward as school, but it’s essentially the same process. It’s challenging in a different way, and I’d argue that prior experience alone is not what makes someone successful in the workforce.
Anyone (even with a lot of experience) still needs to learn the lay of the land. They’ll still have to figure out how to work and communicate best with each of their colleagues, become in tune with the company’s policies, and require some level of training, no matter what their experience is. No amount of experience will prepare someone for a brand-new work environment because every single one is completely different.
People with less experience are resourceful. They know how to do research, and they know how to find answers. They just came from a place where that’s basically all they did! I know this because I was that person with no experience, finding my path in the dark. Anything is figureoutable (thanks, Marie Forleo), and there is a way for you to figure out almost any situation you’re stuck in without an answer.
Likeability vs. Experience
This one is big. The truth is that if someone who has a ton of experience, goes into an interview room, and they ramble, speak arrogantly, or do anything that turns the interviewer off in any way, her experience doesn’t do her any good. Let’s call her Candidate A.
Put that person up against Candidate B: Someone who has little experience, but they’re a delight to speak with, they are enthusiastic, have great ideas that they bring to the interview, and are filling the room with passion and great energy. They have great answers to the questions! They ask great questions themselves!
The fact that they don’t have the experience that Candidate A had doesn’t matter.
When it comes down to it, people are hired based on emotion. I can’t tell you how many times a hiring manager would be torn between Candidate A and Candidate B, and when it came down to it, they listened to their gut, and the decision was made on how they felt about the person--not how much experience the person had. To tell you the truth, that’s what goes on behind the scenes. When it comes to interviews, this phrase from Maya Angelou will never not be relevant:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Connecting vs. Applying
You’ve got a great resume and cover letter. The career center probably looked it over, and you feel confident that your documents are good. The problem is you don’t seem to be getting any action. Your phone isn’t ringing off the hook, and “waiting to hear back” is something you do a lot. A lot of new graduates become discouraged when they apply for several positions and hear nothing back.
Finding a job by applying for a job that hundreds or thousands of others have applied for isn’t good for your ego--or for results.
Your best bet is to connect with people one on one. If done right, an average of 1 in 10 strangers will reply to you, which is a lot better odds than the first option. Most people don’t do this is because it isn’t in the conventional ‘rule book,’ but if you do, your odds of success go up tremendously.
Break the rules. Go against conventional norms (especially when job hunting)--it pays to take a different approach. You’re worth the gamble because you’re enthused, fresh off the grill, and full of passion. Go in with the belief that you’re valuable for the reasons covered in this post, and your attitude, energy and drive will come across as strength--not weakness. Passionate people are always interesting (and very hireable)!
Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job! She's been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Download her Free Guide: How to Nail an Interview You're Unqualified For.
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