Finding That Entry-Level Job with Zero Experience? Totally Doable

How to Land an Entry-level Job as a Post-grad with No Experience
by Career Contessa
January 23, 2017
You've graduated, worked internships, maybe even freelanced. But how do you make the jump into your first full-time job and actually start your career? 
It's a common issue: while you may have excelled at school, once you've dropped off the cap and gown, you've got a big problem: a blank (or nearly blank) resume.

1. Make sure your side hustle (or internships or volunteer work) are in your desired industry

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you're responsible for paying rent and trying to decide between a paid gig folding shirts at Urban Outfitters and an unpaid internship in your ideal field, you'll probably feel trapped. This is tough love, but here's our best advice: do both.

When you're starting out, the stress of working two jobs or committing to more than 40 hours a week to juggle your dream and pay your rent may seem daunting. But you won't have to do it long, and you'll have the rest of your life and career to look back on it. Maybe you'll spend this year missing out on weekend outings with friends because you're slinging coffee on the side while working an internship during the week or because you're working on freelance projects as soon as you get home from a day job, but next year? You'll be in a better place than everyone you know. It won't last forever, and you'll be grateful you did it.

2. Stop Putting Your Efforts Into Online Applications

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of candidates will submit their resumes through online job postings. Most of those submissions will never reach a real human.

Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? The argument is that 20% of your work yields 80% of your results and vice versa. In other words, stop focusing all your time on mass emailing cover letters (what recruiters call "spray and pray") and dedicate your attention to the 20% of your efforts that matter—highly targeting and personalizing your search. That means, finding companies you love (more on that here) and filling gaps in your skills that you know you'll need. And it means informational interviews (more on that in tip #4).

3. You Can't Tell Your Abilities, So Show Them

You may not have years of experience for a big name company, but every company or position is different. It's the skills that will translate to any job you land. Chances are you're not showing off your skills and work as much as you could be.

Here's a real example scenario: 

Recently, Career Contessa had an intern whose dream was to work at Refinery29 (or another online lifestyle brand or publication). There are hundreds of people out there who will fight for the same entry-level job at big names like R29, right? But by the time she'd landed at CC, she'd already worked for a couple other places, including interning for a summer at Clique Media Group. By interning for smaller companies, she was able to write articles to add to her portfolio. Intern or not, her byline proves she's got experience working with other publications. She can point to tangible products she created that prove her skills despite not having any experience working full-time in the industry.

Writing careers are all about...well, writing. So a one-page resume isn't the best way of showing your skills off. Instead, focus on making it easy for a hiring manager to view your writing samples. Some great ways include having a personal portfolio website, adding writing samples to your LinkedIn profile (under “Publications”), and/or starting a blog. Do one or all three of these things. 

Even if you're not interested in going into writing, the same advice applies. Building a portfolio of projects—even personal side hustles—is a great way to demonstrate your go get 'em attitude. 

4. Linkedin Is Your New Best Friend

It may seem stuffy and confusing, but LinkedIn is your single best opportunity to even the playing field. Think of it like this: resumes are two-dimensional. LinkedIn shows off your work, experiences, and skills in 3D. By optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you can prioritize your strongest areas, request recommendations that will back up your expertise in ways that three or four bullet points on a resume can't, and you'll start popping up in hiring managers' LinkedIn searches. The added bonus? Many other recent grads won't prioritize the LinkedIn presence, meaning you'll have less competition there.

Psst: Check out our webinar on Optimizing Your LinkedIn profile for extra pointers. 

5. Maintain Your Relationships AND CREATE NEW ONES

I know it seems cliché, but it really is all about who you know and the relationships you build. Hopefully, you have a great career center or alumni network available to you, but if you're largely on your own, you can start making connections by hosting informational interviews with magazine editors you know, either through your network or via a cold email sent through a LinkedIn search. Reaching out to strangers is hard, but it gets easier the more you do it. I did, and it's what led me from a dead-end day job to a career at Hulu without any previous experience in the field. 

6. DON'T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF

Lastly, I’ll tell you to stay persistent because it WILL happen. And if you don’t believe me, then take it from one of our past interviews, Sheryl George. Sheryl, an Associate Beauty Editor for InStyle, advises aspiring editors to: “Be persistent. I graduated with six internships under my belt, but it still took me a year and a half to land a full-time job after graduation.” So make a few tweaks to show off your skills, start building relationships, and stick with it.

Good luck!

Did this advice help? Can we give you more tips? We'll answer any questions you have about your job search in the comments below.