Landing Your First Job Without Previous Experience

When looking for a job, one line on the listing stops recent college graduates in their job-hunting tracks – “Required: X years of work experience.” Of course employers want you to have experience in the work force if they’re going to hire you. Employers want to make sure you have the skills and abilities necessary to thrive in a work environment. But it seems that all positions require previous experience these days – so where do you start?

In-college experiences

If you’re still in school, there are often opportunities on campus to gain some experience. You might have to think outside the box to get them. Consider applying to be an undergraduate assistant in a relevant class. As a finance major or accountant, taking on a treasurer role for a club might be a way to gain experience. If your future job will involve any writing, grab some articles for your campus newspaper. For some, a position within an organization may be a “stretch” to be called experience – but at least it’s something.


Volunteering in your community is a great way to gain valuable work experience when you can’t find an entry-level position that doesn’t require previous positions.  Again, like in-college experiences, you may have to think outside the box to find something “relevant.”

Volunteering abroad is even better. Not only did you have responsibilities to show up for, you gained independence and valuable leadership skills. You also learned from another culture, which can be a major interview talking point.


Many people consider internships positions for college students only. That’s a myth. Paid internships are available to college graduates. Find paid internships relevant to your job and apply. Because you’ve already graduated, you’ll be a competitive candidate for those positions.

Internships can also turn into jobs for some, especially if you’ve already graduated. In fact, some companies require you to intern with them before they’ll offer you a position. Don’t overlook internship opportunities just because you’ve already finished school.

Unrelated experience

Any experience is better than nothing. Some college students find themselves in the position of having to pay their way through school. This can take away any time that would otherwise be devoted to related extracurricular activities and internships. If you find yourself in this category, just find the ways that your experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Did you learn about leadership and teamwork while working at the local burger joint? Talk about that. It’s not the best way to fill in “work experience,” but it’s better than having a blank on your resume.

Make sure you feel confident to handle the position you’re applying for. Then figure out what you’ve done that makes you sure you can do the job. Was it that class you took junior year? Once you narrow it down, figure out the best way to showcase that experience to the employer. If you’re not having any luck, consider volunteering or interning to beef up that “work experience” section.

Landing Your First Job Without Previous Experience

As a recruiter or hiring manager what’s the best piece of advice you have for those stuck in this situation? 

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Matt Herndon

Matt Herndon is a dad and husband who loves to write about almost anything, especially leadership development and family. He won't write about cats or politics. Connect with Matt.


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