Every year 1000s of graduates and others face the challenge of “Come back when you have more experience”. But it’s not just graduates. It is people from the military.
People from public sector organizations trying to work in the private sector. people trying to change sectors. people trying to change careers. You get the picture.
It’s tough, but rather than make assumptions on the past we look at some ways to break this cycle
The problem – Job or Experience?
The problem is often said to be qualifications vs work experience. Or is it? Unfortunately it is much more complex than that.
Over the last 20+ years the average employer size has shrunk. Businesses are getting smaller. It was not that long ago that most people were employed in organizations that employed more than 1000 people. Today 80% of people are employed in firms of less than 50 people. Larger firms had large training functions. Large employers were used to taking people without experience and developing them. They could take the risk, for if the training did not fully work out, there would be other suitable roles for them.
Now everything has changed. Firms are small. they are lean. They have little slack or capacity to take people, “off the job” to train others. Smaller firms often need people ready to ‘hit the ground running’.
Experience or Qualification?
Increasingly in this world a higher percentage of people have higher qualifications. So the bar is being raised. There are jobs that a degree is now an entry requirement of, and yet 20 years ago it was a starter level job!
So today most people have a higher qualification. So now it’s down to experience as the differentiator.
Experience is needed…. but how you get it counts.
But with most roles stating “experience required” how do you get it?
Human Resources Experience
For example many people aspire to get into HR, but there is oversupply, so recruiters can be choosy. The key is to get a job in a firm that has HR, over time show an interest, and seek a sideways move. Alternately as an assistant manager some HR tasks are delegated, so this counts.
For roles like healthcare informatics, go for low level admin roles in hospitals where you know they will have informatics roles.
Then when you have been in for 6+ months start looking at internal job boards. as 99% of jobs are advertised internally first!
These are just 2 such examples.
The 2 keys to getting experience are:
a) get in at a low level – in ANY role in the organization
b) Once in, look for sideways moves
Don’t ignore the work experience
Many in education overlook the basics. For many employers they do not want to be the first person to hire you. It’s hard work! So make sure you have been an employee somewhere. Doing anything. Most jobs, even bar work involved being social, collaborating, talking to people, customer service, administration etc.
Also look for placements. even just a few weeks over a summer can help.
What came first, the job or the experience?
In most organizations for a variety of reasons there has been ‘downsizing’ or ‘right-sizing’. What this means in reality is less people doing the work. Managers having larger teams. less assistant managers. less administration. people doing their own administration. Less levels. Less job training.
In days gone by there were junior admin, admin, senior admin, office manager type roles. Now they have all gone. Organizations are flatter, this means getting the promotion is harder. It is not just in administration either. this is true in clinical areas, engineering, IT etc.
With flatness comes the need to appoint people with experience. There is not the “fat” in the business to train people in the way there once was.
Look for the types of employer that have the role you aspire to. Assuming you have the correct academic qualifications, then look for lower level roles. Your goal is to get work experience. Get company experience. To be known and trusted. So that when opportunities come along you can take a sideways step.
There is no denying that the world of work as and is changing. That means that traditional expectations of careers also needs to change. the “job for life” went in the 1990s. Now approaches to jobs, work and careers also needs to change and adapt.
In most jobs there are elements of other jobs. Managers do HR activities. Sales do Customer service. All departments need to do their own analytics. The experience for other jobs is there. It’s ‘just’ a case of seeking it out!
Even IT is often done in other functions – or at least part of it. Enough to put on your Resume or CV. Think creatively – BUT NEVER LIE!
Employers want experience before they will give most roles. So look for alternative ways of building up that elusive experience first!