Few things are both as exciting and intimidating as stepping foot in a new industry (especially for first-time workers). However, a lack of experience in your field can prove a great employment barrier – a prominent struggle among many young Australians.
In 2018, the Foundation for Young Australians released a report on this very issue. Titled “The New Work Reality”, their findings discovered that 75% of young people cited a lack of experience and credentials as their biggest barrier to gaining full-time work.
Though industry experience is certainly favoured among employers; there are alternative ways of getting on the career ladder. Below, we discuss five common methods of getting your foot in the industry door, despite a lacking professional track record.
Focus on your soft and transferable skills
Rather than sprucing up your resume with previous job titles, first-time job seekers in a new field are encouraged to highlight their transferable experiences, abilities, and soft skills.
Transferable skills and job experience are non-industry-specific; making them valuable credentials for any field. For example, those looking to pursue management roles with no previous managerial experience can instead focus on the interpersonal and administrative skills they’ve gained from former jobs, internships, or educational training. Perhaps they’ve also engaged in previous tasks where a certain level of leadership was required.
Whatever relevant abilities you do have, emphasize them to build a more skills-based CV, rather than one that concentrates on your work history. These resumes have the benefit of showing off what you currently have to offer, rather than reflecting on past experience.
“Soft skills” will play major part in this – also known as “non-coachable” skills or core competencies applicable to any role. Regardless of industry experience, Dave Owens (recruiting director of Addison Group) states that the following traits are essential for any successful employee candidate: professionalism, excellent communication, ability to collaborate, competitiveness, resilience, and intellectual curiosity.
These (at times, inherent) characteristics determine a worker’s success, as they can be used to mould the ideal employee with enough training and mentorship.
Above all, don’t forget to exhibit passion. Attitude and ambition can get you far, even with a limited resume. Show your drive to take on new challenges and learn new skills. The right character can easily make a lasting, positive impression on your potential employer; coupled with transferable experience, you’ll paint yourself as a candidate worth investing in.
Take advantage of work placements, volunteer opportunities, or upskilling
You may not have the professional work history of a seasoned employee, but previous work placements or volunteer experience are the next best thing.
Determine areas for improvement on your resume, and take on these “work experience” opportunities to bolster them. In an article by Business News Daily, Dr. Andrew Lancaster of UniCurve recommends that current students take advantage of the clubs, associations, and extracurricular activities available to them.
Such experiences are most valuable when related to your chosen industry; though most will build on your interpersonal and leadership skills, nonetheless. They also show your ability to take initiative – a highly regarded trait among employers – and can help build your network of industry connections.
Some experts even recommend “exchanging time for experience”. While working for free is far from appealing, the knowledge and training gained from such positions can help get your foot in the door. This is also a helpful route for those already in a company; if you’re looking to move to a different department, you can volunteer to help with relevant projects and learn from experienced professionals.
Finally, you may want to consider pursuing further study. This needn’t be a full-on bachelor’s or master’s degree – plenty of short, hands-on courses are currently available to help train you in the industry skills you need.
In fact, the practice is favoured among employers – with a recent Hays survey reporting that 77% of employers (out of 2,000 participants) were more likely to shortlist a candidate who regularly upskilled.
AIICT, for example, offers online diploma courses in website development and information technology. Lead by experts in their field, students train in practical applications across areas such as networking, administration, website design, and security – earning them industry-recognised qualifications to bolster their ICT credentials.
Build a portfolio yourself
Research shows that a typical corporate job attracts an average of 250 applications.
Don’t get lost in a sea of bland resumes; learn to build an outstanding work portfolio that offers evidence of all the relevant skills and experience you’ve acquired.
Though effective for all job-seekers with industry experience or otherwise, this practice is especially valuable for those with a lacking professional record. Having your own portfolio allows you to take on self-made projects and assignments within your industry, proving employers that you not only have the smarts and talents for success – but the initiative to drive them yourself.
Additionally, a portfolio showcases your work narrative in a creative, compelling way; something often absent in a standard resume. It clues employers in on your current career progress, future goals, and potential as a member of their company. In an interview, you can lay your best achievements out as proof, while discussing any challenges or lessons you may have learned along the way. These give employers a clearer vision of your potential role in their business and compatibility with their current company culture.
With a portfolio, you’re giving companies a more in-depth look into your employee potential – regardless of your previous work history.
Network with the right people
Finally, as intimidating as it may seem, never underestimate the power of networking.
Though often dubbed with negative connotations of “forced” interactions and stressful schmoozing, networking reigns as the most effective form of job-hunting. In fact, statistics show that 85% of open job positions are filled through networking with the right people.
As mentioned, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but it doesn’t have to live up to its stereotypes. Such environments needn’t be all about trying to impress; instead, individuals are encouraged to strike up curious, authentic conversations with interesting professionals they meet.
While these new contacts may not get you your dream job off the bat (especially for first-timers in an industry), they might just offer you the work experience opportunities you need to get started. With enough effort and commitment, you may just turn a new internship into a full-time gig (research shows that 60% of the time, these placements evolve into a solid job offer!).
Though conferences are a popular go-to for networking, you can also benefit from attending a careers fair. Employers from various industries exhibit and market their company at such events, meeting with potential hires and networking with other field leaders themselves. It’s a perfect place for conversing with the heads of admirable companies while offering your CV in person.
At the very least, you’ll learn more about the industry from experienced professionals while expanding your connections.
Looking to boost your resume?
As mentioned, upskilling and further training is a popular pathway to gaining industry credentials. At the Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT), those pursuing a career in the ICT field can gain the vendor-certified, nationally-accredited training they need to get ahead. With flexible, online courses in information technology and website development, you can train yourself in work-ready technical skills at your own pace and schedule. Enquire today to get your start in ICT.