When You Don’t Have Enough Work Experience

Conducting training workshops for job-seekers can keep a trainer grounded and tuned in to the questions and concerns job-seekers have about finding their next job. In one such workshop, a participant wanted to know: “How does a person get past not having all the qualifications for a job they’re interested in?”

This is a very good question, and one of great concern to individuals who are just entering or re-entering the workforce. There are opportunities for anyone who takes the time to carefully position himself/herself as a viable candidate for available jobs. With this in mind, here is my answer to the question:

It’s quite possible that you (or someone you know) are a job-hunter with very little actual workplace experience. You may be a stay-at-home mom, or a college grad. You may have run your own business for a long time. You may have worked years ago and recently decided to re-enter the workforce. Whatever your situation, you are now facing the daunting task of positioning yourself for consideration as a capable individual who has the skills needed for today’s workplace. But the lack of experience in the workplace is not always an indication of lack of skills. You may have developed relevant skill-sets outside of the work environment in various situations such as running a household, volunteering in a community organization, or even in your church. When you know how to do things, but have never really used those skills in a work environment, it requires a bit of creativity to position yourself as a viable candidate.

Let’s look at a few of the skills that you have developed along the way:

Time Management: Who knows more about time management than a busy Mom? Coordinating everyone’s schedules to make sure family members get to their various activities, household chores are completed and all the various elements of a successful family are handled requires time management skills. This skill transfers well to the workplace where there are multiple projects and schedules to keep up with.

Supervision and Management: Think of all the times you’ve led community projects and had to supervise a team of volunteers in executing your goals. Supervisory skills need you to be able to get work done through others. In the workplace, this is a transferable skill for positions where you may have direct reports. Being able to outline how you have supervised and managed others and listing some of your successes and accomplishments while using those skills can go a long way in demonstrating the value you can bring to an organization.

Budgeting: Ever had to manage a budget? Whether for groceries, a major household project, or managing funds from a fundraiser for your church, if those responsibilities fell into your lap AND you handled the decision-making that came along with the responsibility, you have something you can work with!

Communication: This involves scenarios such as listening intently when your child is recounting an important event in his life, or to that man or woman you helped out at the shelter; knowing how to respond kindly to a difficult situation; understanding that your posture, eye contact, and smile are all forms of communication that must be nurtured and developed. Additionally, your ability to communicate messages and information, either verbally or in writing is an important and desirable skill for the workplace. Do you do any of these things well?

Project Planning: It doesn’t matter if the project was home improvement, or planning the annual charity ball for your church or non-profit organization. Planning and managing a project involves keeping up with multiple moving parts, assigning and tracking tasks, financial planning, identifying major milestones, leading a team, working with vendors, managing deadlines, knowing when to push due dates, and so much more! Do you have this type of experience? This is a transferable skill that could add value in the workplace.

Handling Conflict: Do you ever encounter conflict in your day-to-day life? If you’re alive, it is virtually impossible for you to avoid all conflict. How would you rate your skills as a person who knows how to diffuse potentially explosive situations? Are you a good mediator? Are you fair in your assessment and evaluation of conflict situations? Are you able to gain consensus and help mitigate the fallout? If you have expertly dealt with conflict in a way that yielded agreeable results, you may be able to stress this skill as it applies to the workplace.

These are just a handful of the skills you need to function effectively in today’s workplace. Other important skills include computer literacy, analytical skills, flexibility, problem-solving, and teamwork (read more here). The key for job seekers with little or no work experience is to be able to define how you have used these skills in your past and be able to translate those non-work experiences into scenarios that will foretell the transferability of your skills to the work environment.

Be careful to understand that while some employers will give credit for life experience, many will also require a minimum level of educational credentials and actual work experience for certain positions. Therefore if you are entering the workforce with little or no work experience don’t be surprised if you find that most of the opportunities within your reach are entry-level. There is wisdom in the adage that you get in where you fit in. Your goal should be to get your foot in the door, and work your way to the top of the ladder.

In summary, do a careful assessment of your skill-set. Research the types of skills required of employees in the fields you want to enter. Carefully map your experiences to those skills and be prepared to share the details of how you have developed those skills-set using real life examples.

Additional Resources:


[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]