How To Start Your Career With No Job Experience

Check out our advice for fresh graduates, career switchers, and students if you want to learn how to find a job and start your career even if you have no work experience.
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You’ve found a job ad that caught your eye. And then, you get to the dreaded part: “Minimum 2 years experience in a similar position”. How can you start your career with no job experience? Fret not – we’ve got you covered. 

As a recent graduate or a professional looking to shift careers, this can undermine your confidence and prevent you from applying at all. It may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, but it is possible to get your first job without previous job experience.

Whether you are a student with no prior job experience, or a seasoned professional making a career change, getting a job with no work experience is possible if you prepare for it.

I am a Graduate: How can I Start in a Job With No Prior Job Experience?

Be clear about your motivations

Before you even start applying for your dream job, you need to know why you’re doing it. No, needing a job to pay the rent is not motivation enough in the eyes of a recruiter. 

Why do you want to work in that position or industry? There’s a good reason recruiters ask similar questions during the application process and during interviews. It helps them measure how motivated you are. High motivation will keep you engaged, happy to learn, and will make you a more pleasant and collaborative coworker—these are traits a recruiter is looking for. 

Companies do their best to keep employees motivated—from awards and bonuses to fun perks. But all the extrinsic motivation in the world won’t keep you happy and productive if your intrinsic motivation is low. 

When looking into your motivations, keep in mind both the requirements of the position and the niche in which the company operates. 

Do your research

Nowadays, a degree is not a pathway to just one career. On the contrary, it can open doors to several career paths and industries. However, having so many options doesn’t mean you should apply to every single one. With job hunting, fewer targeted applications will yield better results than generic mass applications. And the only way to take the time to personalise each application is to make sure you’re only applying to the positions you’re most interested in. 

So, where do you start your research? The first place should be with your university’s career centre. Universities have plenty of resources to guide students in their transition into the workforce. Advisors and events like job fairs and workshops are a great starting point. So, what do you need to find out in your research? Ask yourself:

  • What does an average day in this job look like? 
  • Do I see myself following this career path in 5 years? In 15 years? 
  • What’s the most exciting part of this career path? 
  • How does it align with my values and long-term goals? 
  • Does it align with my personality and what I expect from a job? 
  • How would I use my skills and strengths? 
  • Does it offer growth and learning opportunities?

The best way to research, however, is to talk to people in your circl. If you have no work experience and know no one in your industry, join online groups or reach out to people on LinkedIn. Worried you won’t hear from anyone on LinkedIn? Here’s what you can do to get a positive response every time.

All experience is useful

Now that you know what your motivation is, it’s time to look at job adverts.

Sometimes, even entry-level jobs will require a year or two of experience. But don’t get discouraged just yet. Experience doesn’t mean a previous job at a company. Volunteering, internships, hobbies, student projects, and freelance work also count to showcase your abilities. If you’re unemployed, consider doing any of these things. They’ll teach you new skills, introduce you to new people, and possibly open more doors while waiting for the right opportunity.

You can also work as a freelancer or consultant and still make money while gaining experience.

Go for a functional resume

One final, crucial task to undergo before you apply is to get your resume ready. With no work experience to show on the page, writing a resume can be a daunting task.

There are a few resume types out there. Each one highlights different aspects of your skills and experience. The most common resume type is the chronological resume. But, it’s not the right one for someone looking for a job with no work experience.

Instead, go for a functional resume. This type of resume showcases your abilities and experiences that make you the best candidate for the job. List the key skills you have that match the position and support each one with a few accomplishments, like so. Don’t worry—accomplishment doesn’t mean just major awards or impressive numbers. Completing a project successfully, assuming leadership during a project, or setting up a system that helped save time are some achievements you can list.

Read more about how to write a winning CV for your experience level in 2021.

I am a Career Switcher: How can I Find Work With No Relevant Job Experience?

Network

If your goal is to switch careers after a few years in your previous industry, you’re probably no stranger to job hunting, resume writing, and interviewing. However, career changes can be nerve-racking, as it feels you’re starting over from scratch. Even if you’re starting a career with no job experience in your new industry, you do have more resources than you did as a recent graduate. 

This includes a network of associates, mentors, former colleagues and managers, and acquaintances from business events.

Job boards do help find new job openings, but your network will be essential to access those jobs not advertised online. Many times, companies have to pay to post their job vacancies and recruiters get hundreds of applications, so it’s more convenient to hire someone from within the company or who was referred by a trusted employee.

Upskill

Building up your skills is crucial to get new jobs at any stage in your career. The good news is, unless your new profession is regulated (for example, health care, law or engineering), it’s unlikely you’ll need a new degree.

Depending on your previous job experience and how long you’ve been in the workforce, you’ll need to upgrade some skills and learn new ones from scratch. Also, pay special attention to soft skills and software and tools companies use. There are plenty of courses online to bridge any gaps and update your skills, from technical to soft skills. Upskilling can be daunting if you don’t know where to start or if it feels you have a lot to catch up with, but you can make a plan to start with the most urgent skills and work your way from there.

Use a Combination Resume

Ready to apply? The next step is to write your resume, but how do you go about it? Several resume models highlight different aspects of your experience and skills. For people looking to make a career change, a combination resume is the best option. They showcase your most important skills, leverage the job experience you do have, and can help answer questions about your career change.

For your career switch, you want to show how you’ve tackled previous challenges, and the value you brought to previous employers. Share some of your achievements at earlier jobs, and how your work benefited your team. How did you save your company’s time and money? How did you lead a group or took charge of a project to completion? What did you do to make a project successful?

If you don’t know where to start, talk to people in your new industry to find out what they’re looking for, what they value, and what success looks like at the level you’re aspiring to enter.

Read more about how to write a successful resume for your experience level in 2021.

I am a Student: How can I prepare to avoid feeling that I have No Job Experience?

Manage your expectations

As a student, it’s normal to aim at entry-level jobs, which require little to no job experience. While getting a job in your desired industry would be ideal, be open to the possibility of getting other jobs just to get you started. 

Jobs that require little to no qualifications can show important traits like punctuality, responsibility, leadership skills and communication. In an entry-level or unqualified job, you might not start with the most glamorous tasks, but it’s an important step to ensure you gain the skills to find better opportunities down the line.

Make the most out of your student experience

Grades are important, but even more important are the experiences you gain and the people you meet. Get involved in faculty events and student groups, reach out to your professors to offer help with their projects, or ask your career advisor about any opportunities to work on campus. Places like university libraries often take in students a few hours per week on a volunteer basis.

Then, when the time comes to write your resume, you’ll have a broader range of experiences beyond your academic achievements and you’ll be able to describe your time at university as if it was a job.

Furthermore, include any job you’ve had, no matter how short—even summer jobs, unpaid time helping at a family business or baby-sitting. Any job you’ve done successfully will show you are serious about what you do and are keen to learn.

Prepare for the interview

The one thing you can do to avoid nerves before and during an interview is to be prepared. Start by looking up common interview questions and prepare answers for them, and note any potential hangups a recruiter may have about your experience. For example, be ready to explain gaps in your work or academic history. Also, take the time to research the company—go to their website and read more about its story, values, and find out more about what it does. When you show up prepared, you’ll feel more confident, allowing your true personality to shine.

Which of these big companies would you want to work for?
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What are some jobs that generally do not require prior work experience?

Customer Service

Love talking to people and solving problems? Customer service is often the first step in many people’s entry into the workforce, as many positions require no work experience. To succeed in this role you’ll need excellent communication skills, basic computer skills, problem-solving skills and a positive attitude.

👉 Browse Customer Service Jobs on GrabJobs

Retail Sales

Working in retail is a great option for students looking for seasonal or part-time jobs. Friendliness and teamwork are essential to this position. Some responsibilities are assisting clients in-store and arrange merchandise.

👉 Browse Retail Jobs on GrabJobs

Administrative Assistant

As an administrative assistant, you’ll learn how the business works from the ground up. Admin assistants handle phone calls, emails, paperwork, take notes during meetings and help with other projects. You might think that there will be less demand for admin assistants as companies downsize or dispose of their offices to go remote. 

On the contrary, the role of admin assistant will only transform to handle hybrid — remote and on-site — and fully remote teams. Another alternative is to become a virtual assistant, handling administrative and marketing tasks for entrepreneurs and other professionals.

👉 Browse Administrative Assistant Jobs on GrabJobs

Medical Assistant

As a medical assistant, you’ll perform light medical examinations like taking temperature, assisting during examinations, and support different office tasks. You will need a certification, but no previous work experience is required. This position is perfect if you’re interested in getting your foot in the door in the health care industry and start your career with no work experience.

👉 Browse Medical Assistant Jobs on GrabJobs

Sales Representative

This is one of the most dynamic entry-level jobs out there. It’s perfect for those keen to interact with several people every day and develop their interpersonal skills. As a sales representative, you’ll build relationships with clients and understand their needs to pitch the products or services to solve their problems. While you don’t need previous experience, taking marketing or sales courses will give you an advantage.

👉 Browse Sales Representative Jobs on GrabJobs

We hope this article has helped you out with your job hunt and we wish you all the best ahead!

Check out some of the other available part-time jobs here!

Valentin Berard

Valentin Berard

COO at GrabJobs. Valentin leads strategic and operational activities regionally. Background in Business Development and Recruitment. Passionate about social innovation, he constantly strives to find solutions to real-world problems through harnessing smart technology. Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeberard/