We’ve all been there. You’re looking for your first job and to get it you need to have some experience - but how do you get experience if you haven’t got a job? It’s a classic catch 22.
In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions from first time job seekers is how do I apply for a job when I haven’t got experience of working? Well, the good news is that there are ways and means, of getting your first job and gaining experience.
But before we do, first you have to accept that there are simply some jobs where an employer must have an experienced person and nothing else will do. Very often this is where they cannot afford the time and expense of training a newcomer. In this case, they’re going to be looking for people who’ve already done the job before and there’s nothing you can do about that.
Gaining some work experience isn’t impossible, and it helps to start looking as early as possible. For this you need to be proactive – which means instead of waiting for a job to be advertised you have to start knocking on doors even when a job isn't openly available.
Try to find work in organisations and offer your services on a trial, or even a ‘work experience’ basis. Find the name of someone who is in charge of the particular department or outlet you want to work in and write to them. It could be a hairdressers shop, a vet, a factory or an advertising agency.
Work experience is non-paid but is an option for school leavers for up to six months after leaving school or Sixth Form College. Very often, if you show the necessary enthusiasm and aptitude, you’ll be offered some sort of position or at least the promise of a job when a situation arises.
Internships and apprenticeships
Some companies have a scheme for gaining work experience called ‘internships’ whereby they take in a limited number of new people in order to let them gain the all important insights.
Apprenticeships are usually a longer term and more formal commitment by a company to take you on and train you under the guidance of the company’s professionals as you work. You are therefore being trained and paid.
Writing to an employer that has not advertised a job
There’s nothing to stop you writing a polite letter to any employer asking if they are willing to let you gain some work experience at their company. Many people have started their whole careers in just such a way.
But whether you are writing to a local newspaper or a retail outlet or a busy office, you need to make sure you find the right person to write to. So you need to do a little research by asking the company in question who to write to.
Once you’ve got a name, write a good cover letter to explain what you are looking for (it doesn’t have to be long, but it needs to show that you are very enthusiastic and have an interest in their company). You’ll also need to attach your CV.
As a first time job seeker, no employer is going to expect you to have a full CV of work experience. This means most of your CV will be made up of your qualifications and schools. But that’s no excuse not to try and put together a really good CV. For example, if you did any work experience during the holidays, you’ll be expected to put that on your CV. Also, if you have done anything noteworthy, such as raised money for charity on a sponsored walk; or you have done any community work; or you were given an award for something. These are things that you can put on a first CV to give your potential employer a chance to see what sort of a person you are. In short, you need to put some effort into your first CV to make more of yourself and bring out your qualities.
If the job you’re going for involves trust or working with money, for example, then any employer is going to be impressed that you raised money for charity or working in a busy shop during your holidays…Get the picture?