September 03, 2020
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How can college grads skip the seemingly endless cycle of never having enough experience? It’s actually possible for college grads to step into positions that require years of experience.
All it takes is a little confidence and a little hard work. If you’re willing to do the work, you’ll stand out from candidates that have a decade of experience under their belts.
The most important step is to be realistic. For instance, if you’ve just graduated from medical school, you can’t expect to step into the head surgeon’s position from day one. You will have to be more humble when you’re first starting out. This may mean having to apply for an entry-level position, especially if it’s at a company where you see a future for yourself.
The key is to spend your time applying for jobs that you have the best chance of getting. A senior-executive position might be out of the question, but a management position is still a realistic possibility.
Know Your Own Value
You can’t expect an employer to waive their experience requirements if you don’t even know your own worth. Applying for a job is like trying to market an unknown product to consumers. You have to make yourself sound like you’re everything they’d ever want. Remember, everyone started out without experience initially, but these are the same people running multi-billion dollar corporations today.
When applying for a job, you have to think of yourself from a boss’s perspective and not your parents who might think you’re perfect no matter what. Why should someone hire you? What value do you bring to the company?
While this article from Fast Company focuses on uncovering your value for a pay raise, it’s still relevant to recent college grads. As part of your cover letter or resume, include detailed stats and figures that showcase your true value to the company in relation to the position you’re applying for.
Market Your Soft Skills
Employers list all the technical skills they want a candidate to have. While you should focus on meeting as many of these as possible, don’t forget to market your soft skills. A highly experienced applicant might be terrible at working with others, but you might be a natural team leader.
According to Inc., some of the most valuable traits include honesty, accountability, being a mentor (show off your volunteer positions, if available) and constantly learning. If you can prove you have these soft skills, you’re more likely to be considered a low-risk hire over someone who doesn’t have any of these skills.
Don’t Bet Intimidated
Forget about the job descriptions for a moment. If you know you have the background to do the job, apply anyway. Many college graduates avoid jobs they’re perfect for due to the unrealistic descriptions.
It’s common for employers to get carried away or for HR to write descriptions for positions they know nothing about. They list every possible aspect of the dream employee, even if it’s impossible for that person to exist. Odds are, if you have the most relevant skills along with valuable soft skills, lacking some experience isn’t that big of a problem.
Sometimes companies are trying to replace someone who has been there for years. They forget how much that person learned while they were in that position. Showcase your ability and desire to constantly learn and improve yourself and you may stand out from other more experienced applicants. After all, being willing to learn quickly on the job ensures your skills will be tailored to that specific company. If you see skills listed you don’t have, add a plan for learning those skills to your resume.
Act Like You Have Experience
Write your resume and cover letter as if you are already an experienced professional. List relevant skills, examples of experience (classes, projects, volunteering), soft skills and plans to improve your skills. Go the extra mile with a candidate portfolio that further details your skills and experience. The idea is to come off as an applicant that’s serious about growing with a company. You do have some experience, even if it’s just school and extracurricular activities. Use those to your advantage and you’ll seem just as experienced as any other candidate.