Jumping out of college and into the real world can be an exciting time – that is, until you realize that rent, groceries and medical bills are a real thing and mom and dad won’t pay them anymore. So you need a job, but you just spent the last twenty-two years, give or take, of your life in a classroom. What are taxes? How do you pay them? What on earth is a 401k? And most importantly, how in the world are you going to find a job? Here are a few words of advice on landing a job with zero experience.
This might seem like the simplest question to ask, but hear me out – it’s important. While you might not have experience in your field, it’s unlikely that you’ve gone through life doing nothing at all. Say you spent a summer waiting tables – this isn’t necessarily worthless, depending on how you frame it. Sure, if your resume says “waited tables,” you may as well leave it out entirely. However, if you say “Food server, managed up to eight tables at a time, while gaining interpersonal communication skills, experience working under pressure, and time management capabilities,” then that’s an experience worth highlighting.
Beyond that, employers generally like to see that you’re a driven person. If you’re fresh out of college, it is important to note any student organizations or volunteering groups you were in, whether or not you held leadership positions. Even if these weren’t paid positions, they give the interviewer insight to both your interests, and your ability to go beyond your studies.
Odds are, you won’t get your dream job right out of the gate. Regardless of your degree, you’ll probably spend some time in an entry level position, doing something that might not even be related to your field of study. That being said, it isn’t fair to yourself and all of your hard work to jump at the first opportunity given to you.
During the application process, take chances. You might not meet all of the job requirements, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. Very rarely is a candidate a word-for-word match to the qualities in a job description. And what’s the worst thing that can happen? They say no and you move on.
Yes, having experience is an important thing in the job hunt. While it can be frustrating to compare yourself with people who may have years under their belts, you have to remember to emphasize the one thing you’ve got going for you – a clean slate. This is a powerful weapon, as it shows employers that you can be trained to do their job, their way, in contrast to the ten year veteran who assumes she already knows everything.
Spend some time on your resume! You could be the valedictorian of Harvard University, but if your resume looks like you threw it together over coffee this morning, most employers won’t give you a second glance. The appearance of the resume, aside from the content, is CRUCIAL to the interviewer’s first impression of your professionalism. Keeping it concise, using professional language, and making the appearance clean and accessible are key steps in getting yourself noticed.
At the interview, be nice to the janitor. Be nice to the secretary. Be nice to that one guy with the weird mustache that held the door for you on the way in. These people might be your future coworkers, and the way you treat them at the beginning says a lot to your employer about how you will fit in around the office.
Be alert, excited, positive and pleasant. As commonsense as this might sound, you really need to sell the fact that you want to work from 9-5 selling insurance to irritable customers. If they want to show you around, don’t trail behind – keep up. If they drone on and on, don’t zone out – ask questions.
As sad as it is, your appearance is the first thing the interviewer will see. You should look professional, but not overdone. Make sure your hair and makeup look good, without crossing into Kardasian territory. Pull out those nice clothes you got last Christmas, borrow your mom’s good pumps, and march that Hillary Clinton pantsuit right through the doors of success.
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