So, you’ve completed your apprenticeship or finished your studies. You have spent years honing your skills to prepare yourself for the labor market. You are full of anticipation and could not be more motivated. And then you suddenly find that virtually every job advertisement wants candidates who already have professional experience, on top of their bachelor’s or master’s degree! That can be frustrating and discouraging. But do not be deterred from your goal! We have some useful hints for you on how to successfully make the transition to the world of work.
Don’t let yourself be intimidated
Every company wants experienced people, obviously. It is therefore not surprising that most job ads are keen to see candidates with several years’ career experience. But take a closer look: Formulations such as “ideally” or “preferably” indirectly indicate that these “requirements” are nice to have but are not a must. Career beginners and fresh graduates should not be intimidated by such exacting demands, and should instead approach the application with confidence. Once you get an invitation to an interview, all those demands immediately become a secondary matter. The issue now is to come across convincingly as a person. Especially in lines of work for which there is brisk demand, you have a good chance of being taken on if the interview goes well. HR departments are well aware that everyone needs time to gather initial experience. And for a future employer, there are also benefits to having someone who has not yet been squeezed into a mold and is therefore still open to new things. It is often easier to integrate these people in the corporate culture and familiarize them with the company’s individual processes and structures.
Even beginners have experience
University projects, voluntary work, perhaps your first student job… All these are forms of work and can therefore rightly be understood as career experience gained during your studies. The skills and abilities you learned during these activities can, like professional experience, be applied to the advertised position. Alongside your bachelor’s or master’s degree, they give you a sound practical basis on which to launch your career. And let’s be honest: If you have just finished your studies, that alone gives you a wealth of subject-specific experience. Otherwise, you would never have passed your exams and earned your degree.
For you, the last few weeks and months have presumably been one long learning Marathon – all while running your household, possibly working to ensure a regular income and also dealing with a host of other everyday chores. This too can be chalked up as a wealth of experience in project management and self-management.
Motivation makes the difference
Even with no professional experience, candidates can demonstrate that they have a particularly keen interest in a given company. How? By making a personal reference to the job in the cover letter and making it clear why they of all people are the perfect choice for the advertised position. A healthy dose of self-confidence and the right motivation can make all the difference to a successful career launch. Have you been invited for an interview? Fantastic! Now you can authentically show the people you are talking to just how important your preferred job is to you, giving them clear evidence of your motivation. There is a reason why you specifically applied for this job. The better you explain this, the more positive an impression you will usually make.
Traineeships and internships as door openers
Haven’t yet managed to nail down a permanent job? Then how about becoming a trainee or doing an internship as a (temporary) solution? These experiences look good on any CV and can also be a first point of contact with potential employers. Internships may not always be very well paid, but they certainly give you valuable experience. The same goes for trainee programs, although here you don’t usually have to worry about your salary. Trainees are normally paid much the same as a beginner’s job. Another major advantage is that you will gain experience not only in your chosen line of work: Beyond that, you will familiarize yourself with the company’s structures and processes and get to know colleagues simply as people. That is invaluable when you do finally land that permanent position. At this point, you will be on a different level from day one, as you already know the company, your colleagues and your boss.
Take the initiative!
Don’t just respond to job ads: Sending an unsolicited application can likewise lead you to your dream job! If you take the initiative, that tells the potential employer that you are seriously interested in a job. Another benefit of choosing this option is that your application won’t get lost among a mass of competitors. Indeed, there is nothing to stop you from starting early and sending out applications even before you have finished your studies.
Get advice from someone with experience
Knowing the industry is important when you start a job. Instead of merely gleaning knowledge from books and the Internet, soon-to-be graduates should talk frankly with people who are already working in the line of business they themselves target: How did you and your colleagues end up in these jobs? What salary expectations are realistic? What is important in an interview? For students who will soon graduate or who have just graduated, first-hand tips are worth their weight in gold! Talking to “insiders” can also help by giving you details of specific companies: Company A is especially committed to this or that niche market, for example. Or company B is well known for its agreeable working atmosphere. In a close-call situation, possessing this kind of information can clinch a decision for or against a given candidate.
Explore other options
To make sure your application isn’t immediately discarded due to your lack of experience, it is a good idea to try to bypass the HR department. One way is to approach the boss directly. He or she is the one who makes the decision, who knows best who the company needs. Job fairs are another alternative. HR people attend these events in large numbers, so you get a chance to persuade them face to face. In a single day, you can establish valuable contacts that will undoubtedly pay dividends sooner or later. Yet another promising possibility is to activate personal contacts and relationships. Is your employer of choice a company in your region to which you already have connections? Then make use of them! No one will hold that against you, nor is it unfair toward other candidates. Rest assured: Anyone who has the opportunity will certainly make use of personal contacts in opening doors to their own career.
Temporary employment as a career springboard
Many academics and career beginners dream of going straight from university to a global corporation and immediately working on fascinating international projects. But in practice, the chances of that happening are very slight. Temporary employment can be a useful solution to this dilemma, and the benefits are self-evident: Applying is usually straightforward. Career beginners can gain initial experience across a variety of industries and thus build up their own network. Moreover, it is not unusual for them to be taken on by large companies if they are found to be suitable.
Rejected? Don’t despair!
You have been applying and applying and are left sitting on a pile of rejections? Don’t panic! That is not always a reflection on your qualifications or even the labor market. Sometimes, it simply depends on your line of work. It often takes longer for graduates in the humanities to find a job than, say, engineers or scientists. It can be very useful to talk to friends and acquaintances about this situation, because many people know what it is like struggling to land your first dream job. Talking to people who are successful today but who have gone through similar difficulties to yourself can ease the pressure you perceive and allay some of your self-doubt. You will also make the following discovery: However long it takes, the crucial thing is not to be put off by negative experiences. Instead, embrace these as valuable lessons learned! Sooner or later, you too will be sure to land your dream job and sign on the dotted line.