Leaving school or university to look for a job can be quite the daunting task. It seems as if everyone is looking for experience before offering the job, but do they understand that you need the job to get the experience?
They do understand that, but it’s up to you to make them realise that you do, in fact, have some experience that they’re looking for. Let’s try to understand why all experience is relevant experience.
Where you study and how you study is relevant experience. Well, you can make it seem that way. Let’s say you study via correspondence. This essentially means you’re used to deadlines, can motivate yourself, have organisational traits, are able to multitask and are great at time management. In an interview, these are all answers to the “what are your strengths” or “do you consider yourself…” questions.
Finding responsibility in your studies, which is three or four years of “experience”, and connecting it what your work ethic would be like, is one way of turning studying into the experience. We could also say that those who study overseas have the experience to bring back home based on new insight learned from a different country that you feel you can successfully apply in South Africa, for example.
And don’t forget to put all your qualifications on your CV. Online HR management courses, social media diplomas and official marketing degrees are all qualifications you have earned and that can be useful to a potential employer.
If you were a perfect, head of the debating club, valedictorian, junior editor for your student newspaper or part of any association in school or university, you have experience. You know how to lead or work in a group. You know what it’s like to have external responsibility on top of your studies.
You also have the credibility that goes with those associations and can use those contacts as references on your CV while you’re still building your resumé. And this also goes with any work experience you may have.
It’s hard to see how being a host at a restaurant for a year could possibly get you a job in account management, but the connection is there. You are friendly and great at making instant relationships with customers that, along with the food, bring them back every weekend. This charismatic skill is key to customer relations positions and can definitely prove beneficial.
Coaching a sport can also prove credible experience for an office job. How you may ask? Well, if you’re responsible for setting up training programs, delegating other coaches, controlling students and holding members accountable for payments – you are firm, able to make decisions, take on (as well as pass on) responsibility and are able to manage admin tasks.
Volunteering for charities and NGOs is also experience that can be used similarly as the examples above, but, obviously, based on what your role as volunteer consisted of. But volunteering also gives potential employers an idea of the kind of person you are and the character that you will bring to the office.
If you can make the connections for yourself that are honestly based on what you’ve learned from previous jobs that are seemingly unrelated, it will definitely make you stand out in an interview.
There are jobs out there that don’t require experience and it would be a good idea to work those contracts for more credibility and office experience for yourself. Employers are likely to train you either way, but it’s a bonus if you at least know what it’s like to work in an office environment and what the expectancy is.
Yes, it’s hard to get to that interview process if you haven’t got the required experience that they’re asking for on the application, but if you still think you have something to offer – grab their attention in a cover letter, whether they ask for one or not. Introduce yourself, your skills and how they relate to the job, and why they need to hire you. That ought to grab their attention.
They’re looking for what makes you a unique candidate and you can have your entire life’s experience in your favour. You just need to know how to work it into a conversation of relevance. Keep your CV updated and when you have experience that trumps your charity volunteering in relevance, be sure to take it off. You don’t need clutter to harm your CV.