The answer is yes!
Define experience: Experience can be defined as being placed in a situation, learning from the situation and applying that knowledge to impact the future.
During a recent seminar, I was asked the question: “How can I sell myself to a future employer if I lack the 2 years of work experience they list on a job posting?” The quick answer is that it depends on the job and the type of experience the employer is looking for.
Everyone has experience that they can leverage to impact the future. Experience can come in many forms. I once was a captain of a football team and needed to motivate my team to beat the undefeated rival. I once had to pull an all-nighter at Kent State to prepare for a Macro Economic test and finish a consumer behavior paper. I once had to deal with an angry customer at the Italian Restaurant where I was a server. So, experience comes in many forms, you need to reflect and identify your experiences as they relate to the potential job that you are interested in.
When employers ask for experience, they are anticipating that your past experiences will translate to future success. This article is all about the experience you already have and how to identify ways to leverage it and sell it during an interview.
There are two types of work experience: technical experience and general experience. Employers often confuse the two when they are developing job descriptions for entry level positions. Technical experience might be required for a new position where the employer needs very specific technical aptitude and ability such as software expertise, experience working with a customer relationship management system or ability to use a specific type of software. General work experience is often the type of experience employers are really looking for in entry level positions such as the ability to work in teams, deal with conflict, time management, ability to multitask, communication ability, and organizational skills, to name a few.
Consider your situation. You have spent a few years in college, been involved in social and professional organizations and adapted to different situations and working with people. As an employer, that is what I am looking for. If I hire you, will you be able to learn the job, adapt to the environment, get along with others and deal with different types of situations. Within your professional organization, have you: 1) had to deal with conflict, 2) spent time motivating others, 3) communicated with or persuaded people, or 4) been required to work in a team environment? What about school. Have you had to learn new things and adapt that knowledge to a specific project or class? This is the general experience I recommend leveraging and selling during the interview. Do not sell yourself short, you have more experience that you think.
A recent survey I conducted revealed the most important experience employers are looking for:
Communication skills: Writing ability, presentation abilities and ability to articulate well defined thoughts.
Ability to learn new things: The executives stated that they want new hires that can learn quickly in an evolving business world.
Flexible and able to adapt: In today’s economy, it is critical that you have the ability to adapt to new situations. Jobs are no longer singular tasks. Due to economic times, employers want to hire people that have the ability to do multiple things and be ok with it. “that’s not my job” is no longer acceptable in today’s tough job market.
Multitasking: Have the ability to focus on multiple projects, tasks and activities. There is no better generation that this generation. You grew up with exploding technology such as interactive video games, the internet, texting and immediate communication.
Organized: Time management skills, follow-through ability and a proven ability to finish tasks, projects and assignments.
Team oriented: Ability to get along with others, deal with conflict and team dynamics and work together to complete a task
Have you ever held a job or internship? This could show your ability to work in an office environment which would involve business acumen, maturity, focus and attitude.
Internships can help students apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired through their involvement with professional or social organizations throughout their college career. Students may also learn new skills while on the job, under the guidance of a mentor or work team. Many companies have formal internship programs that help the intern acclimate to the firm, integrate into the team and better understand how projects get done as well as the skills needed to complete various tasks. This type of environment is especially useful for students to gain ‘hands on’ experience in a work environment.
Do you have a summer job? No matter what job you have, there are aspects of every job that can translate to experience such as teamwork, delegation, communication, time management, follow-through, ability to learn.
Are you an officer in a professional organization? This can reveal your ability to lead, motivate, communicate, accomplishment driven, ability to multitask.
Have you ever been a project leader for a school project? This can show your ability to get things done, apply knowledge to solve a problem, delegation skills.
All of these provide a solid base of experience and can be utilized to position background and meet experience requirements. The next time you read a job description or posting that calls for work experience, try to analyze the type of experience the employer might be looking for and apply your background to it.
About the Author: Augustine is a nationally acclaimed author and professional speaker focused on career development and corporate people strategies. He is the Author of the book How Hard Are You Knocking? and has been featured on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC and reviewed in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The National Association for Campus Activities. He has made numerous radio and television appearances and has presented to over 300 organizations and 100,000 people throughout the United States. He is a contributing writer to Inc. Magazine, Fast Company and Monster.com on topics pertaining to the people strategies of successful organizations. His newest award winning seminar is titled “Landing a Job in a Difficult Economy” To learn more about Tim, his books and seminars series, please visit www.howhardareyouknocking.com or contact him directly at 734-786-7162.