Career Calling

February 8, 2013

The Experience Myth

I was recently working with two experienced professionals who were making a career change based on completing a master’s degree.  In both cases, my clients felt that they were limited by a lack of experience.  I frequently hear a similar complaint from new college grads.  In one sense this concern is legitimate.  Employers often prefer to hire people who have worked in a given industry or job function.  However,  that type of candidate is not always available, which is how doors open for career changers and new graduates.

If a job seeker doesn’t have experience, what can she offer employers?  She has two important qualities to sell:  knowledge and hands-on skills.  Almost every kind of academic program teaches skills that employers need.  Rather than fill a resume with classes or irrelevant extracurricular activities, present the skills that the employer is looking for.  If you know how to do something, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have experience at a workplace.  Highlight work done in projects or class activities.  Another key point that grads often ignore is the knowledge that they bring to an employer.  New grads often bring the latest knowledge and ideas.  That’s a valuable asset, and one that should be promoted in resumes and job interviews.  As Daniel Pink writes in his fine career guide, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need:  “Think strengths, not weaknesses.”

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