(MoneyWatch) Whether you’re a new college graduate or a seasoned worker looking to change careers, getting a job without demonstrated work experience can be a real challenge. It’s the catch-22 of many entry-level positions — they want you to have experience, but because these are stepping-stone jobs, most applicants don’t simply don’t have it. There are some ways, however, to navigate this issue. Here are three tips:
Show them what you can do
If the interviewer keeps focusing on the fact that they want someone who can, for example, write clear press releases, and you’ve never written one, don’t panic. Just ask for 24 hours to give them a sample, and get to work crafting one that will impress. “This way, you can distinguish yourself as a memorable, capable candidate and also have a lower pressure opportunity to prepare your material outside of the interview environment,” says Selena Revzani, author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask — And Stand Up — For What They Want. “The interviewer will be wowed by your confidence in your abilities, your enthusiasm for the role, and your willingness to give extra effort.”
Demonstrate your abilities with stories
You may be asked to describe how you would handle certain challenges, and while you may not be able to discuss work matters you’ve navigated, you can certainly talk about college courses, internships and volunteer work, suggests Louise Kursmark, resume expert and founder of the career consulting firm Best Impression Career Services, Inc. Focus on how you met a specific challenge through certain actions, and what successful results you got because of those actions.
Research and focus your pitch
An interview is a give and take — pitching yourself while learning about the company that may be your new employer. The latter part simply requires preparing pertinent questions by doing research about the company and position. The first part also requires research, about what the company’s needs are and what is happening in the industry, and then figuring out where you fit into the larger plan says Pennell Locey, Vice President of Keystone Associates, a Boston-based recruiting firm. “Did you study something key to the role in school? (Did you) research/write about it? Did you volunteer? Do you bring energy, passion, rapid learning? Figure out which skills they can use.”
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View all articles by Amy Levin-Epstein on CBS MoneyWatch » Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.