Maybe you’re a fresh graduate, or maybe you’re simply seeking a career change, but it always stings when you scroll through Indeed and Glassdoor only to stumble across the words: “five years of experience required.” For an entry-level position, this is all backwards. How are you, a person with minimal experience, supposed to land an accesible job with a basic resume? Now comes the period of plowing through applications and tenaciously whipping up personalized cover letters trying to sell yourself.
If you didn’t have enough time (or the option) in college to have a full-fledged internship or applicable work experience, it may seem like an impossible task to break into your industry of choice. Don’t let yourself give up right off the bat, though. There are so many other ways to make it, without faking it! Confidence and solid communication skills are pure gold no matter which direction you head, so get those two down before starting the whole application process. Wondering how else you can score that entry-level job without feeling underqualified? Read on.
1. Submit a personal blog with your application
A well-presented blog that highlights your personal voice and passion for the company (and career field) will show hiring managers your enthusiasm. Submit the link to your blog with your application, so that it’s presented with your resume and cover letter. That way, even if your resume is slim, the company will be intrigued by the creativity and packaging you’re able to present via your blog. It’s an example that shows what you’re capable of and what you can do for the company, bringing the focus away from your lack of professional experience.
There are plenty of ways to create a page that clearly shows what you are passionate about and skilled in. If you’re trying to break into journalism, you can write feature articles about your college community or create videos that showcase your tailored efforts. You might also want to include links to your digital presence elsewhere, such as a photography (Instagram or VSCO), code (Github), or music (Soundcloud) portfolio. Just make sure all the info you include is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
2. Study job descriptions to match keywords
Another good practice is to get a grasp on the general qualifications necessary for this position. It makes a difference if the wording used in your resume and cover letter aligns with the same language on their LinkedIn listing or professional mission statement.
For example, if the job listing says they’re looking for someone who has “attention to detail” or “knows how to use analytics,” that’s the same messaging you’ll want to include in your materials. Even if you don’t have five years of internship experience in the industry, the hiring manager will know you boast the same qualities they’re looking for in a candidate!
3. Use your networking contacts to get eyes on your application
Networking is still in, and you can totally use your professional contacts to help you land a job. Get in touch with past professors, colleagues and supervisors who can help you connect with opportunities at specific companies. For example, if you have a close relationship with your professor, and the entry-level job you’re applying to happens to be at a company they’ve worked with or have contacts at, you can ask them to give you a quick email recommendation or reach out on your behalf.
And we promise, this isn’t asking too much! It will increase the chances that a hiring manager views your application, and it’s a way to show you’re a hard worker – because a recommendation from a professional who knows your work ethic IRL proves that you’re a qualified candidate. Sometimes who you know matters more than what you put on your resume, and this can work to your benefit.
4. Put ALL the effort into making your cover letter shine
Your cover letter is a longer version of your resume that elaborates on the professional experience you’ve had in the past. It gives you a chance to talk about way more than what’s on your resume, but most importantly it gives you a voice to paint yourself as the best candidate, even if your resume feels like slim pickings. Employers will definitely consider taking a chance on you if they believe you’re a great fit. Get creative—perhaps turn it in as a poem, video or prototype— and let it stand out as something totally unexpected.
5. Spruce up your social media profiles
Follow your dream companies and role models shamelessly on the Internet. Then, revamp your social media to best align with the industry values. Check out profiles and portfolios for some inspiration and start listing down key aspects that define your industry and your role models in it. Clean up outdated bios and contact info ASAP, and get your new career started on the right foot.
When beginning the job search, remember to do your research and have a strong support system to encourage you when things get tough. Also, celebrate those little wins sprinkled through the process – they make it all the better. You got this!
Photo source: Mia Moessinger