Winning Talent for Great Employers

How to Overcome a Lack of Direct Work Experience

By Elizabeth Robichaud

As a new graduate, one of the biggest challenges you face is navigating the "Catch 22" of needing a job to gain work experience but also needing work experience to get a job! The key is in the presentation and the positioning of the specific skills you acquired through your course work, co-ops and internships. By emphasizing specific details about what you did during your education (on your cover letter and resumé), it is possible to overcome an employer's request for years of work experience.

TIP: When looking for entry-level positions, don’t immediately discount job descriptions that ask for one to three years experience. If your personality and education reflect a fit for the company, you could land the position.

Recent graduates will rely on their school projects and coursework to demonstrate their skills and experience. Highlight major projects on your resumé and be sure to include the following information:

  • Describe the team environment (lab, computer-based, in-person, etc.)
  • The tools, software, skills and techniques used
  • Describe the project objectives and how they were met
  • Describe the results using action words and quantifiable terms
  • Be sure to boast about your GPA if you scored an A- or higher or if you were in the top 15% in the class

TIP: Action words give your resumé impact. Avoid past tense verbs and be assertive and confident in your accomplishments. Boston College has an excellent list of examples divided by skill set.

In addition to your resumé and cover letter, use social media to your benefit. Websites such as LinkedIn, about.me or vizualize.me offer you an opportunity to expand on details of projects, personal and professional interests.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS: Keep your social media profiles clean but accessible, especially if you cite social media experience that relates directly to the platform. Employers will look to see how you engage online.

Remember not to post or tweet anything that you wouldn’t want printed in a newspaper or read by a family member.

In social media biographies, place disclaimers if you maintain a personal and professional or organizational account. For example, a Twitter community manager could link to their work username and add the phrase “All views are my own.” to distinguish between what it personal and what is professional.

LinkedIn Key Tips:

  • Update and review your profile at least every three months
  • Select a personalized URL so that you are easily searchable
  • Use a QR code to link to LinkedIn from your paper resumé
  • Include a professional and up-to-date headshot
  • Fill out all sections, including languages, keywords, awards and skills

about.me Key Tips:

  • Customize your profile to reflect the same design as your website or blog
  • Use about.me as a launch pad to link to all your relevant social media and websites
  • Update your about.me a minimum of once a season

vizualize.me Key Tips:

  • Keeping your LinkedIn up-to-date will ensure that your vizualize.me is current
  • Add a portfolio to show examples of work
  • Add your level of expertise and number of years of experience to your skills
  • vizualize.me allows you to experiment with infographic resumés while maintaining a traditional paper resumé.

~Elizabeth Robichaud is a bilingual up-and-coming professional communicator. A member of IABC Toronto, Elizabeth is graduating this spring from the post-graduate certificate in public relations at Centennial College.

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