Whether you are a new immigrant, a student, or changing careers, you are not alone: We have all started out having little to no work experience. You may have asked yourself, “How do I gain experience when experience is a requirement for most jobs?” Although this does present a challenge, there are many ways you can overcome this obstacle.
Job Search Support
In Canada, you can register with your local immigrant-serving organization. If you are in the U.S., check out this interactive map on programs and services by state. These organizations help with job search strategies, temporary job placements, and training to enter the job market. They offer employment services; to help you assess and build on your skills, and they provide advice on pursuing your employment goals. Inquire about job placements that can help you get started on building your experience. Additionally, one-on-one employment support is often available to help you assess your skills, market your transferable skills, and seek opportunities to help build your experience.
Assess Your Skills
Once you have visited an immigrant-serving organization, they can get you started on identifying the skills and attributes you bring to employers. Questions you may need to ask yourself include:
- What are my strengths?
- What do people tell me I am good at?
- What skills do I possess to enable me to do the jobs I am considering?
- In what capacity have I used my skills?
- What can I do to strengthen my skills?
Consider the skills you use for functions other than work. These transferable skills can help you market yourself to employers. Skills such as taking care of a child or relative, helping out in a family or friend’s business, cleaning a home, or even fixing a car can all be considered tasks that are transferable in an employment setting.
Build Your Network
A major strategy when job searching is networking. A well-built network can help you get leverage on your job search journey. For example, if you are on LinkedIn, you can ask your contacts to endorse your skills or give you a recommendation. Employers often review your LinkedIn profile to get a better understanding of your skills and experience. Consider asking previous teachers, facilitators, individuals you have helped in some capacity, former classmates, and supervisors for an endorsement. You can also continue to build your network by attending career fairs like the IEP conference, and other events where you can network, such as conferences, mentoring events, and industry meet-ups. Also, consider conducting informational interviews to find out more about your industry and how to build your network.
Volunteering for an organization gives you the opportunity to build on your skills. This involves performing duties or completing projects for an organization without pay. Identify the area(s) that you may need more experience in and seek out volunteer positions where you can gain this experience. Volunteering will help you build your skills, market the experience on your resume and cover letter, and gain references. To research volunteer opportunities you can start by viewing the Volunteer Canada website for insight on roles for which you may be interested in applying.
Part-Time, Temporary, and Contract Work
Consider applying for part-time or temporary work to help you develop your skills and understand the North American workplace culture. The Job Bank has part-time and temporary roles you can search for based on location, field, and educational requirements. These types of positions sometimes require little to no work experience and can help you start building on your experience. Temporary agencies are another way to gain work experience. These agencies help provide a variety of short-term workplace experiences and can help you build connections with employers.
Upgrade Your Skills
If employers are looking for a skill set that you may not have, consider enrolling in professional development training or post-secondary education. When researching programs, look for those that have a practical component that can give you the experience you need, such as a co-op placement or an internship. Remember to also look out for networking opportunities, such as in the classroom and on a placement site.
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Leverage Your Skills
When you understand the skills you possess you can start to communicate to employers how you can make a difference. Whether it’s your communication, organizational, or technical abilities, articulate how your skills will help meet the needs of the employer. Research the roles you are interested in applying for and match the skills you possess to the skills employers want. For example, if an employer is looking for a candidate with excellent analytical skills, provide an example of a time you used your analytical skills to resolve a problem.
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These strategies can help you move forward to seek employment opportunities when you have limited or no work experience. Building your profile is an ongoing process, but once you start, you will be able to present your skills to employers and match them to positions within their organizations.