A common dilemma for both the college graduate and the person looking to change careers is that they don’t have the required experience asked for in a job description. How, they ask, do I get experience if no one will hire me?
I won’t lie to you. This does make the task of landing the first job in the field you’ve chosen a lot tougher. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not impossible. We’ve helped plenty of people in the same boat as you, and every one of them found what they were looking for in the end. But, it’s not easy. It requires that you set your priorities right at the beginning to have any sort of success. Here is what your priorities need to be as you begin on your quest to start or change your career.
1. Be Mentally Prepared
You have to be ready to hear “No” a lot. When you start your search, expect to get enough rejection form letters to wallpaper a rather large room. Rejection is not as easy to accept as we like to think it should be. It’s a blow to our ego, can feel deflating, and for some, it leads to depression. You will also have a lot of false starts. You’ll get a phone screen, then an interview, then a second interview...things are looking good...you think you will finally get an offer...and then, nothing. You wait and wait to hear from someone. Eventually, you decide to give the recruiter a call. He doesn’t answer. But an hour later you get yet another rejection email, this time from the recruiter you just left a message with. It’s a cruel, cold world we are living in and, unfortunately, stories like this are getting more common. Get ready for it.
The job search is an emotional roller coaster. It’s a lot of ups and downs with bumps and jerks in between. Always remember that this is a temporary state. The pain you will go through will eventually end. It is an endurance test for the mentally hardy. Be prepared for it as best you can, though no one is ever totally ready. Everyone thinks their situation is different and the search won’t take that long. Maybe not, but be ready for it if it does. You’re going to have good days and bad days. Just keep plugging away at it and good things will come.
2. Skill Acquisition
As important as experience may be, having a good set of skills goes a heck of a long way in getting past the experience you are lacking. This may require you take some online courses or night classes at the local community college. It might also mean volunteering your time with an organization you are involved with where you can do something that allows you to get better at particular skills.
For instance, if the type of job you’re looking for requires knowledge and ability in using html coding, read some books on it, take a class, and then talk to leaders in your church to offer helping them with their website. The more skills you can include in your resume and LinkedIn profile the better.
I also wouldn’t recommend that the skills you learn be overly focused in one area. It’s good to have a balance between hard and soft skills. Ones that are always useful are accounting, writing and business communication, presentation, persuasion, technology, etc.
At this point, you really need to get out and meet people. This is more important than applying to jobs online - I’m not kidding!
“Why” you ask? Because you’re an unknown entity without a lot of the experience they are looking for. So, it’s incumbent on you to become known. Use LinkedIn and your current network of friends to get started.
Introduce yourself to others in the field you desire to be a part of. Ask them for advice (don’t ask them for a job). How did they get started? What was their path? Why did they choose the field to begin with? What are some of their challenges? What did they need to learn before getting good at their job?
Ask whatever else you can think of as you talk over a cup of coffee. At the conclusion, ask them if they can introduce you to someone else in the field that would be good to talk with. Bring along your resume, but don’t give it to them unless they ask for it. Instead, have personal business cards made that you can give to them so you can stay in touch.
4. Market and Sell Your Potential
What most people fail to realize is that when they are looking for a new job, they are in the business of marketing and sales. Even those people who think they’d make a terrible salesperson are forced to figure out how to do this.
So, what do successful marketing and salespeople do? I should tell you what they don’t do first. They don’t think about how desperately they need to make the sale. If you start taking this mindset, you’ll reek of it when you network or interview. And you’ll never land an offer. No one hires based on their level of pity for you.
What successful marketing and salespeople do instead is think about the customer and what their wants and needs are. Here is where your networking will come in handy - it’s literally market research that you’re doing. Once you know what their needs are, you can create the message on how you’re going to meet those needs. You can talk about all the skills you’ve acquired in past jobs that are transferable as well as the new ones you’re working on that you’ll use in the new job. Show your passion for the field. Be excited about the company and the opportunity. Demonstrate your potential.
Do that and you’ll be a successful marketing and salesperson of your product: you.
5. Taking a Step Back to Move Forward
It’s hard for the career changer and the college grad who expected to have a corner office right away, to take a lower level position. It can mean less money. It bruises the ego. You don’t feel like you’ve quite “made it.”
However, sometimes it’s the best way to at least start heading in the right direction. Plus, getting a regular income is nice, too. While swallowing some of your pride is never fun, it is sometimes necessary. So, don’t shut those opportunities out if it’s in your field and working for the right company. One thing you do want to be sure of, is that there are growth opportunities beyond it that will available.
Once you’ve made it to the other side of your journey, the path forward will be a lot less rocky and difficult. I remember the difference in length of time it took me to find my first job and my second was at least a couple months shorter. So, take heart, once you get over this first hump, the rest of your journey will be a little less arduous.