Ask a Recruiter: What Experiences Count as Experience

ask_a_recruiterFinding the right job to fit your skills and personality can be difficult—especially when you’re starting a new career. We know there’s a lot to learn, and we want to help by answering your questions. Our very own industry experts at Express Employment Professionals are posting their recruitment and hiring answers right here on the Movin’ On Up blog.

In the fourth installment of our series, “Ask a Recruiter,” we’re excited to feature a question from Movin’ On Up reader, Caroline.
Caroline asks, “I’m a recent college graduate and need some help finding a job. I don’t want to take the first job that’s out there, but it seems like every entry-level job I’m interested in requires 3-5 years of experience. How am I qualified for anything at this point?”

This is a great question, Caroline! There are a lot of jobs out there that do this, and when it comes to entry-level jobs, you may find some with requirements that seem a little ridiculous. I recently had a conversation with a young grad who complained about this very same thing. She even showed me this tweet. It may feel like employers are asking you to walk on the moon before you apply, but this isn’t actually the case.Entry Level Job

The typical job ad goes something like this: “Account Executive—entry level, 3-5 years of experience required.”

When you’re a new graduate that “3-5 years of experience” concept can be intimidating, but employers are using that stipulation to weed out the unqualified. You’d be surprised how many people are turned off of applying for a job by it. What they want really want is someone who is driven and has a few skills already in the bag.

The new entry-level job, experts say, is the internship—this provides young professionals with the much needed experience companies desire. According to Courtney Lukitsh, principal and founder of Gotham Public Relations, “A junior prospect should be eager, very smart, have a few internships under their belt, and approach me with specific questions about the industry and the practice.”

In the minds of employers, the experience you need can come in many forms. Here are a few for you to consider:

  • Internships – Had an internship? Excellent, because that counts. List it on your resume under experience and explain what your responsibilities were and any impact you had. Whether it is paid or unpaid, it counts as experience.
  • Volunteering – Volunteering for an organization you are passionate about can go a long way toward making you more employable. It can also count as that elusive experience. Just think about it. You’ll be sharpening your skillset and showing off your expertise in a variety of ways through planning, organizing events, managing information, leading teams, writing, public speaking, and team work. According to theCorporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), volunteering raises your odds of finding employment in today’s job market by 27%. Now that’s a leg up on the competition.
  • Relevant Coursework – If you just finished your degree, you do have some experience. You spent several years of your life getting experience in the area, so don’t be intimidated by that 3-5 years requirement. Get around this by adding a section on your resume that highlights specific upper-level courses and projects you have completed.A degree isn’t technically experience, but it shows that you can commit and complete something, so show it off.
  • Extracurricular Activities – Whether you have served as an officer in an academic club, been elected to student council, or served on a committee in a sorority or fraternity, you have been building experience. Your work is worth highlighting, so add it to your resume.
  • Part-Time Jobs – This isn’t something I’d normally recommend, but when you are looking for an entry level job, it counts! Just create a separate resume heading titled “Work Experience” and place those items near the bottom of your resume.

Bottom line: Just apply. You may feel like you’re not qualified, but you might be underestimating yourself. Don’t be intimidated by the experience requirement. Think outside the box and get creative with what qualifies as experience. If you think the job is perfect for you, go for it. Forget the requirement. Go in there, sell yourself, and land the job.

Thanks for asking, Caroline! And thank you to Joe Paquette from Express for providing the answer!

Do you have a question about the job search, hiring, or recruiting process? Now’s your chance to have your question answered by industry professionals who find, interview, and hire people every day. Ask your question in the comments section below and check back to read what our experts have to say!

Check out previous installments in the “Ask a Recruiter” series:

Movin’ On Up is brought to you by Express Employment Professionals.

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