No experience…need not apply?

September 11, 2023

This spring my 16-year-old daughter embarked on a journey to find her first part time job.  She was strategic with her planning: first, get her driver’s license and access to a car (check), then secure a part time position (that she could continue working throughout the summer) and do both of these before the middle of June when she would be swamped studying for finals. With all this in mind, she had a window of about 3 months.

What she soon found out she didn’t have…was the experience required by so many employers to be hired into an entry level job. This not only surprised her but also posed the question: how do you gain experience when you can’t get hired…because you lack experience?

Indeed defines an entry level job as one “that requires minimal education and professional work experience”. They go on to say that in some situations entry level jobs may still require specialized skills or higher academic qualifications. These facts were confirmed repeatedly as she read through numerous job descriptions. Many minimum wage retail and restaurant employers want experience working with the public or customer service experience, and lots of the time these qualifications are more than “just an asset”.

Needing to pivot and “beef” up her application package, she investigated different ways to get a job with little to no experience. As a result of her efforts, we put together a list of ideas to help you if you’re in the same boat:

  1. Identify your transferable skills and take the time to clearly outline these in your cover letter and resume. Transferable skills, also known as ‘soft skills’ are capabilities that can be applied to many jobs. Our daughter is good at organizing her busy school schedule and dedicates long hours studying to achieve her marks. She also has many activities on the go at once. These skills (that she is using already) allowed her to create a long list that included: organization, focus, hard work, multi-tasking, etc.
  2. The next important thing to do is take the skills and write a strong resume and well written cover letter. Each skill you list should be backed up with an experience that displays the skill.  If the position she was applying for had specific criteria she also made sure to include that. One example is a pet care worker position that required the applicant to ‘like’ animals. We have a large dog and cat at home, so her cover letter included this information along with her volunteer time at the Regina Humane Society.
  3. Perhaps the most important action she took (with Mom and Dad’s help) was to tell friends, family, teachers, neighbours and anyone who would listen that she was looking for a part time job. In the professional world this would be called ‘networking’. At the end of the day, two of the three job interviews she secured were from word-of-mouth inquiries.
  4. Lastly, getting work experience can come from many different paths. Volunteering (as mentioned above) is a great way to gain experience and if the volunteer coordinator can give a reference that is even better! Highlight extracurricular activities that you participate in and don’t discount helping neighbours with last-minute babysitting requests. Many transferable skills can come from your adventures in babysitting!

At the end of June my daughter secured part time employment for the summer and has recently accepted a second part time job with better hours for a high school student. The difficulties she encountered in her first job search have turned into the advice she now gives friends and family in the same situation. Perseverance is key to any job search and it’s the same for entry level positions!

-Revenue Growth Team at Directwest