This is an article by Vicky Oliver
Now that you’ve earned your certificate or degree, you’re ready to find the paid position of your dreams. Yet your resume shows only seasonal jobs, and most of your potential career experience comes only from classroom work. How do you convince that first-choice employer to give you a chance?


First, keep in mind that everyone at some point begins their career without much true work experience. After all, if employers weren’t willing to hire workers without experience, no one would have a job. Your challenge is to convince potential employers that you’re the best inexperienced candidate of the bunch.
Secondly, don’t try to cover up your lack of experience through deception or embellishments that will come back to bite you. Forthrightness about your lack of career experience shows that you’re honest and genuine. Acknowledge that your experience may not perfectly sync with the job requirements, but be ready to make the case that you’re able to offer value to the company.


Use these suggestions to persuade your interviewer that you’re worth the risk, regardless of your lack of on-the-job experience:

1. Articulate your captivation with the company.

Hiring managers will give you more consideration if they know that, instead of including them in sending blanket job applications, you have especially targeted their organization. Give explicit examples of what has drawn you to them. This could include why you have a personal connection to the organization’s mission, what inspired your career choice in their field, or how a past or present employee steered you to them with their enthusiasm for the culture or ability to make a difference in the world. Flattery, if authentic, will get you everywhere.


2. Emphasize your noteworthy skills from past positions or experiences. 

As much as you’re able, shift the conversation away from what experience you don’t have to the skills you do have that will make you a stellar employee. Whether you were a nanny, a camp counselor, or bagged groceries at a neighborhood store, share the ways in which you connected with customers or employers that showcase how you’ve honed your communication, listening, problem-solving, and other interpersonal skills. You can also bring up experience you gained from college courses, such as the teamwork capabilities you refined while working on team projects and critical thinking proficiencies learned from defending points of view. Offer specific examples that give your interviewer evidence of how you came by your competencies. Are you an athlete? Be sure to play up your dedication to a training regimen or your experience as a member on a team. Candidates who play sports score extra points with employers.

3. Invite past employers/instructors to post testimonials. 

Apart from providing references on your resume, take the initiative to gather glowing reports of your work or educational pursuits from others. For example, if you had a strong connection with a mentor, a coach, or an internship supervisor, reach out and ask them to share a few sentences about their impression of you and your work ethic. You can do this through LinkedIn or by providing the interviewer’s contact so they can send it directly to the hiring manager. You may also want to pull a quote or two to add in your cover letter. Offering a third-party testimonial to your own persuasive explanations gives them added credibility.


4. Start your own on-the-job training before you land the job.

Once you’ve taken aim at a company or a specific position you hope to attain, act as though you’ve started in the role. If you know you’ll need skills that you’ve yet to have attained, find an online course or certificate program and train yourself. Join the professional association or networking group associated with the field to develop new contacts and learn more about the industry’s trends and challenges. Create a digital portfolio to post the work you’ve accomplished in the field you’re targeting. Take time to burnish your LinkedIn profile so that it reflects your pursuit of your dream position. Hunt down internships or volunteer positions that can provide training in transferable skills. Why wait to get started?  Your efforts will give you a leg-up for when an opening emerges.


5. Remain in touch even if you’re initially turned down. 

Respond to a rejection with a hand-written thank you note that mentions not only what you gained from the application and interview process, but also your ongoing interest should another position become available. It’s not unheard of for the hiring manager’s top choice to bow out — or down the road to not work out. Inquiring about internship opportunities is another possible way to underscore your strong interest in the organization.  Even if you exhaust current opportunities, check in with the contact person after a few months’ time if you’re still job hunting. Persistence will often pay off.


Remember as you embark on your pursuit of a career that it’s rare for applicants to have every skill associated with a position. When you emphasize the value you can bring to the role by way of your enthusiasm, initiative, people skills, and work ethic, you better position yourself for professional success.


About the Guest Post Author:
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-bestselling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse, 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print and online outlets. Vicky Oliver is the Nonfiction Editor at LIT Magazine, the Journal of the New School Masters in Fine Arts Creative Writing, and teaches essay writing at the New York Writers Workshop. For more information, visit