At EthicalJobs.com.au we often hear from newly graduated job seekers who are stuck in the job hunt Catch-22 – you can’t get a job without experience but you can’t get experience without first having a job!
But, don’t despair. If you are fresh out of Uni or TAFE, you may have some great skills and experience that isn’t reflected in your job history. The key is articulating how these skills are transferable to your potential new job.
How much do employers care about work experience?
In our most recent survey of employers who advertise on EthicalJobs.com.au, we asked what the top five most important qualities they look for in a job applicant were. The response looked like this:
“What are the most important qualities of your best candidates?” – responses from 250 ethical employers.
As you can see, demonstrating your skill set for a job ranks higher than work experience, so it’s possible – even likely – you can be offered a great job without being the candidate with the most experience.
So, how do you identify what skills you do have? And, most importantly, how do you convey that experience to a potential employer so you can land an ethical job?
First, you need to know what skills potential employers are looking for.
The easiest way to do this is by looking at the key selection criteria in position descriptions and job ads. However, there are lots of skills and experience that are common across multiple sectors and positions.
- Ability to work in a team
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to solve problems and develop solutions
- Ability to research and analyse complex data
- High level organisational skills and ability to prioritise
- Proficiency in computer applications and technology skills
- Ability to adapt and be flexible
- Ability to sell, influence or lead
The great thing about this list is absolutely none of those qualities require a qualification or a long work history. In fact, you could have skills in all of these areas either from your time studying, or from unrelated work or volunteering.
To sell your skills to potential employers, you need to come up with some concrete examples that you can use in your job applications or job interview.
We’ve come up with a few samples to get you started!
1. Ability to work in a team
Love them or hate them, group projects are often a part of study. Think of a team project or piece of group work that you were a part of.
Group activities give you the experience working with a diverse group of people towards a common goal. If you’ve had to work with challenging people as part of your assignments, even better! You can talk about how you dealt with any issues within the team to ultimately achieve success.
Experience in a sporting team, dance or performance group could also be used here.
2. Strong communication skills
For written communication, you could use an example of an essay or assignment you have written as part of your studies. Or, if you’ve been a volunteer, you may have written an instruction manual or a policy that clearly illustrates how you’re able to communicate with others through a written document.
For spoken communication, it’s likely that you’ve had to present in front of class during your study, so consider using a specific presentation as an example of how you succeeded.
Outside of study, you may have been part of a debate or drama club that has given you the confidence and skills to be an excellent communicator.
3. Ability to solve problems and develop solutions
This doesn’t have to be high level strategic problem solving. Perhaps you’ve experienced a challenge while working on a Uni or Tafe assignment, for example:
“One of my group science experiments at uni wasn’t working as planned. The assignment was due later that day so we had a tight deadline. After working through the problem together step-by-step we realised that one key ingredient was missing! By working methodically and as a team we were able to complete the assignment on time.”
4. Ability to research and analyse complex data
Almost any assignment you might have done in an undergraduate degree – or even at school – can be used as an example of dealing with complex data.
Pick a strong example of an assignment you completed and describe the sorts of information you were dealing with. It’s best if you were analysing both qualitative and quantitative data and can talk about what you learnt from it, what you found surprising and ultimately what conclusions you drew.
5. High level organisational skills and ability to prioritise
Given how busy we all are these days, you should be able to find plenty of examples for this one!
Were you juggling full time study, short and long-term undergrad assignments, part time work and extra curricular activities? Talk about how you prioritised your work throughout the year and how you made sure that you got things done on a day-to-day basis and succeeded.
6. Proficiency in computer applications and technology skills
Most new graduates are digital natives so having experience in word processing and web applications will be a given.
What about adapting to new, unfamiliar technology? Did you have to use applications at university like journal databases, statistics packages or university-specific systems? Even if they aren’t relevant to the sector you are trying to get a job in, being able to work across multiple platforms and adapt quickly is important.
7. Ability to adapt and be flexible
Did they introduce new policies or procedures at your university, or an organisation where you’ve volunteered? Ideally if you helped lead others through this change either formally (perhaps as a trainer or official group leader) or informally (just helping a friend or colleague out) then mention this in your application or interview as a way to demonstrate not only how you adapt to change, you lead others through it
8. Ability to sell, influence or lead
You might not think that “selling” has much to do with most not-for-profit jobs, but many roles in the sector need you to convince people – either organisational donors or members, other staff, or clients – to do what you want them to.
Perhaps you’ve collected money for a charity, been involved in a social or environmental campaign, persuaded your classmates to pursue a new angle on a group assignment, or convinced a friend or colleague to participate in a volunteer program with you.
Work experience isn’t the only way to get an ethical job. If you haven’t been using your transferable skills in your job applications, perhaps think about writing some of them down today to include in your next one!
This post was based on the original article “Just graduated? Focus on transferable skills to land your first job” from Idealist.org