Experience Is Essential

I have a scenario you may be familiar with. You’re applying for a job. You reflect on what you want to do next, what engages you and what you can realistically get from your next move. Let’s suppose you’ve studied towards qualifications to work in a particular skilled sector of the economy. You can’t wait to re-start your career and get the experience you need to make a success of things. Unfortunately, every time you browse the job pages looking for something suitable there’s something stopping you: “previous experience essential” specified on virtually all ads (including for roles you thought may be beneath you in terms of pay and duties).

It’s probably of little comfort if you’re in this position, but it could be a lot worse. Personal traits as valuable as determination, a work ethic and intelligence can’t be taught, whereas the technical skills required to do many jobs can. Surprisingly quickly if you care enough. Despite appearances.

Why is the job market like this? The issue is not with you, and is one of cost: employers know that the job market is currently saturated with candidates who possess bags of experience in specific areas. Right or wrong they would sooner hire these candidates who will require minimal re-training, as opposed to gambling on an unknown quantity with potential. But it’s also true that you aren’t as excluded as you might think, and a slight alteration of your job-hunting technique may pay dividends.

Although there is just cause to be sceptical of this approach (and if you can afford to go un-waged for a short time) an internship isn’t a bad way to go. Obviously, you need to have a good look at the real merits of this. Make sure that you will be getting invaluable experience at the basement level of the career path you want to commit to, if you aren’t being considered in the job market. A year ago I contemplated doing this, and even moving two hundred miles away. My reasoning was that it was better to try this than continue to stagnate, learn nothing new and be undervalued. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. In my case I decided against solely because I wasn’t financially secure enough. Eventually things turned around for me, and I was offered the kind of work I wanted, after building up the basic experience in longer-term temp roles.

If you are still without the “essential” experience try thinking about any transferrable skills that you have from an unrelated area. If you have these, you can score points by owning up to a lack of practical job experience in your covering letter, simultaneously explaining everything that you do have to offer. Also emphasize your adaptability and willingness to learn. Individuals who have demonstrated that they can be high-value in one area often times can be so in others, and this won’t be overlooked.

Finally, it would be wrong not to stress patience. Competition is high for the foreseeable future, and this means that every one of your prospective employers (and there may be a few) will need little excuse not to consider you, unless you are in an exceptionally skilled niche. Where does this leave you? Nowhere perfect, but take heart from knowing that when you’ve cracked it, and landed your desired role, you’ve also achieved what many have never had to.

About the author:
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