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Getting Experience without Work Experience

Written by Bob Flanagan Posted in Work

Getting Experience without Work Experience

At an age where work experience may be minimal or non-existent, you may be unsure where to start with your CV and struggling to get anywhere because of a lack of work experience. You may feel like there is nothing to grab an employer’s attention and make them notice you.

However, despite popular belief, many employers regard work experience as being less important than other skills and qualities. Southwest Airlines in America, for example, recruits all of their employees with one simple philosophy in mind: “Hire for attitude, train for skill.”

They feel that they can train employees for physical tasks, yet cannot train them for the softer skills and qualities required for work, such as communication, teamwork, friendliness and approachability, and motivation and enthusiasm. As humans, we have around 500 skills we use in everyday life without even considering them as skills.

By realising and considering this when writing a CV, it may make the whole process less stressful and be an excellent starting point.

What if I lack Work Experience?

As a younger person, employers will not have the expectation that there will be a large amount of work experience to put on their CV.

They will be more interested in whether the skills and qualities possessed fit what they are looking for.

Lack of work experience doesn’t mean lack of skill, and a skill is a skill no matter where it has been used, as long as evidence of its use can be given. For example, you could use instances of assisting a fellow student at college to demonstrate customer service skills.

In a recent survey of local businesses in Norfolk, 70 employers were invited to complete a questionnaire on what they considered to be important on a CV, along with employee qualities.

Among the most important things on a CV, Work Experience was placed fifth in importance from nine choices, the top choice by prospective employers being Key Skills and Evidence. Even Qualifications were only rated as fourth most important.

Regarding qualities the top three choices were: Positive Attitude, Attendance and Punctuality, and Speaking and Listening Skills. Again, Qualifications rated a lowly sixth from seven choices; so many previous beliefs are now being turned on their head.

Further indication is given in comments invited within the questionnaire made by the business owners:

“They need to want to learn and do well”

“A positive attitude and the confidence to use their initiative are very high up on the list.”

“They need to sell themselves. How keen are they to learn and be reliable and enthusiastic?”

“They need to be smart, keen, willing and want to be an integral member of the business, helping to see the business reach its goals and targets.”

So, all hope is not lost when there is no work experience to evidence and no qualifications to present.

CV Writing Tips

Three tips I would always give for writing a CV:

  • Always tailor the CV to the role you are applying for. Employers will require specific skills for specific roles and will know if the same CV is being sent to everyone
  • Always tell the truth! Employers can dismiss employees who have been found to be untruthful on their CV
  • Always send a good covering letter to accompany your CV, again making it specific and relevant, not just a repeat of your CV.

If, however, you are still unsure as to what to put on your CV and how to improve skills, and gain and best present yourself and your skills in the best way, help is at hand. The TCHC MGN programme will help you do exactly that and support your journey, getting you to where you want to go.

Not only will you be able to share experiences with others in a similar position, you will have a tailored CV for your career path, and support to gain qualifications and work experience. You will also gain and improve your soft skills which are highly sought after by employers.

All of this help and support is only a phone call away.

About the Author

Bob Flanagan

After a long career in retail and retail management, I became a tutor of Employability Skills. From this, having qualified as a  career adviser in an adult role, I embarked on a career working with young people.

Previously I have worked in a community role with King’s Lynn Town FC, working with many schools and organisations around Norfolk. I am also a qualified FA football coach.

I believe it is important to always be honest about your skills and abilities, know your limits, and when to ask for help. There is always someone available to assist you.

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