A man working on new skills for a career change

How To Get Experience Without Experience

Answering job-huntings most annoying riddle…

“Required Qualifications: 3 years’ exper….”

* clicks ‘Next’*

If you’re looking to change career, it can feel like Catch-22.  You need experience to get a job.  But you need a job to get experience. 

Don’t give up – this is how to get the experience you need (or repackage the experience you have) so that your application makes it past the cut.


Even if it’s unpaid, the benefits of an internship or work shadowing could be worth the financial hit.  As well as giving you something for your résumé, there’s nothing better than spending time “on the inside” when it comes to working out whether a career is really the one for you.

Many internships aren’t formally advertised, and arise instead out of more informal meetings and connections.  Which bring us to …

Getting some face time

Whether or not you believe that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, it’s pretty clear that networking – meeting people in the industry in person – can help get a foot in the door.  50 – 80% of jobs are reportedly never advertised at all, but come instead through personal contacts. 

It will always be easier to explain your situation and show your passion in person than on the page.  Plus, with each conversation you’ll understand more about the industry, which can only help your future applications.


Charities and non-profits are always looking for volunteers, often in ‘traditional’ roles like marketing, IT or business administration.   

They’re likely to be less concerned about past experience, but the experience that you gain could well be enough to get you over the first hurdle for paid roles.  

Plus you’ll get the satisfaction of helping a good cause!

Be Creative

No, we’re not telling you to lie on your résumé! 

Instead think – “When they ask for experience, what skills are they actually looking for?  And can I show I’ve got those skills through other means?” A course you’ve completed, say, or transferrable skills you’ve acquired.

Then use your cover letter or refocus your résumé to highlight that.  Make your diverse background a positive selling point: after all, it’s what will make your application stand out from the rest.

Are You Experienced?