It’s an old line, repeated by countless new college graduates and featured in most any movie or TV show where someone is looking for a job: “The job says ‘experience needed’ but how am I supposed to gain any experience if no one will hire me?”
I’ve run into a similar speed bump in the last year, both as I searched for full-time jobs and freelance gigs. I can write on just about any topic and have content strategy skills that can be applied to any industry, but people specifically want someone with experience in (fill in the blank field). That’s narrowed the pool of jobs I’m even considered for significantly since there are some industries I’ve simply had little to no experience with.
I don’t necessarily blame them. I get it. They want someone who they feel is most qualified for the job and I don’t have experience in some industries. I haven’t done a lot of healthcare work. I haven’t done a lot of food industry work. When asked, I’ve made the case that the experience I do have is easily translated into other industries because I’ve focused on processes, not specifics, but that hasn’t gone very far. There are apparently plenty of other applicants who check more of the boxes than I do and who therefore jump to the front of the line.
Similar issues were seen during my time in the PR agency world. There were quite a few occasions where I’d be part of a pitch team or hear about a pitch that was happening only to find out later that we’d lost because we didn’t have enough experience in X field.
Freelancing has opened me up to more industries. I have a bit more technology, engineering and other experience than I did a year ago, all of which is good and may open up more opportunities down the road. Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone who has any substantial number of years of work history behind them is supposed to counter this. To go back to the opening line, how am I supposed to gain experience if no one will hire me?
Without an opportunity to prove myself, I’m pigeonholed into certain fields. There are worse situations to be in, but when you’re trying to cast as wide a net as possible, limitations aren’t your friend.
Unlike demonstrable skills such as email marketing and Facebook advertising, this isn’t something a Hubspot or Lynda course will correct. You can’t take a 12-hour online tutorial in healthcare marketing and add it to your resume. Well…you probably can, but it’s not going to be worth very much in the eyes of potential employers.
No, what I’ve found is you just have to keep plugging along. Keep explaining that the skills you have can be applied to any sort of program in any industry. Say “yes” to opportunities that will take you outside your comfort zone and open up new avenues. Eventually, that will pay off. I continue to believe that.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.