How do I overcome ‘no experience, no job’?

I can’t get interviews (and if I get the interview then I don’t get the job) because I don’t have any experience. How can I break this cycle and show what I am capable of?

This is a really knotty problem, especially for graduates and career changers. What you can do depends to a certain extent on what field you work in, but the bottom line is, you need to try and make, find or create some experience to demonstrate.

Build a portfolio

If you work in a field that lends itself to creating some documentary evidence, consider making up a portfolio. For instance, if you want to work in marketing, you could choose from the 10 or 12 main marketing disciplines and set about creating three or four case studies to show what you can do.

Similarly, you can set out project plans, sample menus, (with or without photographs), sample budgets, sample policies, research briefs and bases of measurement, design solutions, outline PR campaigns, simple strategies, market analyses, press releases and so on. It’s not just designers or photographers who have portfolios!

If inspiration deserts you, pick out industry examples that are currently visible in the press, and say how you’d do things differently if it were your challenge.

Presenting your work

For each example, set out a ‘brief’ – an explanation of what you are trying to do – and how you would measure your success.

Present your work as a physical folio, a PowerPoint presentation, a PDF file, or a web site (but only do this if you are confident in graphic design, as a poorly designed web site can hurt more than help).

Promoting your work

For extra kudos (and networking to boot) approach contacts working in the industry to ‘crit’ what you’ve done, ask them if you may include their comments, and then you have both examples and professional comment to show off to potential employers.

Now you can add into your cover letter (and your CV) a line about where the employer can see examples of your capability, eg ‘to see examples of my capability, please go to’ or ‘I have a portfolio of worked examples which I can bring with me to interview’.

Offering to show or bring proof of your capability will mark you out from the pack, and it may well give you the head start you need. It shows dedication and passion, and if nothing else it is a brilliant answer to ‘what have you been doing while you’ve been unemployed?’

November 19th, 2009 | Category: capability, career changer, experience, graduate, stand out | No Comments »

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