How To Score That Entry-Level Job with Zero Experience

By Lauren McGoodwin

You’ve graduated, worked internships, maybe even freelanced. But how do you make the jump to actually start your career and find a job with zero experience under your belt? It’s a common issue – while you may have excelled at school, once you’ve dropped off the cap and gown, you’ve got a nearly blank resumé. But don’t worry, my team at Career Contessa and I have got you covered with tips on how to nail your dream job in no time.

featured image via the design files

photo via homepolish

Choose internships, volunteer work, or side hustles that are in your desired industry

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re responsible for paying rent and trying to decide between a paid gig folding shirts at Urban Outfitters and an unpaid internship in your ideal field, you’ll probably feel trapped. This is tough love, but here’s our best advice: do both.

When you’re starting out, the stress of working two jobs or committing to more than 40 hours a week to juggle your dream and pay your rent may seem daunting. But you won’t have to do it long, and you’ll have the rest of your life and career to look back on it. Maybe you’ll spend this year missing out on weekend outings with friends because you’re slinging coffee on the side while working an internship during the week, or because you’re working on freelance projects as soon as you get home from a day job, but next year? You’ll be in a better place than everyone you know. It won’t last forever, and you’ll be grateful you did it. And if you’re not sure where to start, fill out this Figure Out Your Next Career Move downloadable worksheet.

photo via stocksy

Send out fewer, but more personalized, job applications.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of candidates will submit their resumés through online job postings. Most of those submissions will never reach a real human. Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? The argument is that 20% of your work yields 80% of your results and vice versa.

In other words, stop focusing all your time on mass emailing cover letters, and dedicate your attention to the 20% of your efforts that matter – highly targeting and personalizing your search. That means, finding companies you love and filling gaps in your skills that you know you’ll need.

photo via design sponge

Build up your portfolio of personal projects.

You may not have years of experience for a big name company, but you can still show off the skills you learned at an internship or work you did for your side hustle. For example, a career in writing is all about, well, writing. So a one-page resumé isn’t the best way of showing off your skills. Instead, focus on making it easy for a hiring manager to view your writing samples. Create a website for your personal portfolio, add writing samples to your LinkedIn profile, or start a blog.

Even if you’re not interested in going into writing, the same advice applies. Building a portfolio of projects, even personal side hustles, is a great way to demonstrate your go get ’em attitude.

photo via rue mag

LinkedIn is what will bring your resumé to life

It may seem stuffy and confusing, but LinkedIn is your single best opportunity to even the playing field. Think of it like this: resumés are two-dimensional. LinkedIn shows off your work, experiences, and skills in 3D. By optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you can prioritize your strongest areas, request recommendations that will back up your expertise, and you’ll start popping up in hiring managers’ LinkedIn searches. Check out our webinar on optimizing your LinkedIn profile for extra pointers.

photo via hello fashion

Grow your professional network and maintain relationships

I know it seems cliché, but it really is all about who you know and the relationships you build. Hopefully, you have a great career center or alumni network available to you, but if you’re largely on your own, you can start making connections by attending informational interviews with people who work at companies that you’re interested in. Find connections through your network or even send out cold emails after running a LinkedIn search. Reaching out to strangers is hard, but it gets easier the more you do it.

photo via the everygirl

Keep going and it will happen

Lastly, I’ll tell you to stay persistent because it will happen. And if you don’t believe me, then take it from Sheryl George, an Associate Beauty Editor for InStyle. She says, “Be persistent. I graduated with six internships under my belt, but it still took me a year and a half to land a full-time job after graduation.” So make a few tweaks to show off your skills, start building relationships, and stick with it.