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Qualified But Not Experienced

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

by Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

Three years of relevant experience required.

For many job seekers, this simple job description statement is the kiss of death.

If you want to change careers, you feel doomed by the frustration of not having the relevant experience. If you happen to be a student or recent graduate, it’s a catch 22. How are you supposed to get experience when you don’t have the experience to get a job?

When faced with this conundrum, there are three things to keep in mind as you go about the job search.

1. Focus on transferable skills. Transferable skills are your secret weapon. They often get overlooked, but they can be your best ally.

When you are applying for a new job you must make yourself as “hirable” as possible to the recruiting director reviewing your resume. When you are listing your bullet points beneath each job title, really focus on what that recruiting director wants to see (without lying of course).

Let’s say you worked in marketing, but you want to move into finance. When you craft your finance resume, move all of the bullet points to the top that have anything to do with finance.

Even though it may not have been your biggest accomplishment, your very first bullet point might say something like:

Managed $300,000 annual budget consistently exceeding company’s forecasting objectives

2. Think outside the job. Often, job seekers limit the experience section on their resume to paid jobs. That can be a big mistake, especially if you’re looking to switch careers.

Volunteer work, boards and affiliations, and - for college students – leadership roles, can be tremendous opportunities to show off your relevant experience.

Here’s an example. I worked once with a teacher who was looking to get into sales. Now we all know you have to do a bit of “selling” to the 5th graders, but it’s not really all that relevant for a sales job. She lamented her lack of experience until she told me that she was one of the top fund raisers for a charity that she worked with on the weekends and over the summer. She had sold more than $150,000 worth of pledges and donations!

We moved that to the top of her resume, and lo and behold she landed a sales job.

A great tip for all of you looking to switch fields or start something new is to get some experience outside the job, and then add it to your resume.

3.  Be realistic. Switching careers or getting that first job is tough. You should approach the market with reasonable expectations. It’s one thing to parlay your college job promoting campus activities into a great entry level PR job. It’s quite another to try to turn that same experience into a role as Director of Corporate Communications at Yahoo!.

If you are switching professions mid-career, be prepared to take a pay cut, to start out at the ground level, or to work for a boss that’s ten years younger. Sure, it’s not the best scenario, but if you realize what you’re up against, it can help ease the disappointment.

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