How are you supposed to get a job when every entry-level position requires at least two to five years of experience?

Whether you're fresh out of school or changing careers, you'll notice many entry-level positions require job experience. How does that even make sense?

We're with you: It's totally frustrating. After all, what's the point of listing a job as entry-level if you need at least two years of experience?

But before you throw in the towel, there are ways you can tweak your resume and job application to work around this requirement. But first … 

Why do entry-level jobs require experience anyway?

There are a number of reasons why an entry-level job requires at least Xyears of experience. 

First of all, listing a “years of experience” requirement can help employers narrow the job applicant pool. If companies posted entry-level jobs requiring zero experience, then they could get flooded with unqualified applicants who don't know the first thing about the industry.

Second, the definition of “entry level” varies from job to job, company to company, and industry to industry. Some folks in the HR department might feel as though an entry-level applicant should come with some experience — even if that's an internship or senior project — while others might be more willing to hire someone with literally no experience; it's all pretty subjective.

How do I get experience if no one will hire me?

Just like “entry level,” the way hiring managers define “experience” also varies. For instance, two years of experience for some employers might mean two years in the workforce. For others, two years interning or freelancing will work.

Understanding this helps you answer the next question: How do you get more experience if no one will hire you?

Chances are, you have more experience than you might think. Here are a few ways employers might define experience: 

  • An internship, fellowship, or apprenticeship — and yes, even unpaid internships can count as experience

  • Side gigs or freelance work in your industry

  • Skills-based volunteer positions

  • Leadership roles within a club or organization

  • A semester-long project

How to make your resume shine — even without job experience

So maybe technically you don't have experience in the form of a full-time job, but that's OK. The key is to really make your resume shine with the experience you do have. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

1. Write a powerful resume summary 

No, this isn't an outdated objective statement where you talk about your career goals 10 years from now. Instead, a summary statement is your chance to highlight who you are professionally and what you can do for a company. 

Since you don't have experience in the workforce yet, this is your opportunity to really show an employer what you can bring to the table. It should be short and sweet and to the point. Here's an example of a resume summary for an entry-level job:

Recent cum laude graduate from top-ranking university with experience promoting brands and marketing products and services to businesses and consumers. Received recognition from the Humane Rescue Alliance for launching a Facebook adoption page for a local animal shelter, increasing adoption rates by 50%.

Your resume summary doesn't need to be longer than a few lines, and you should tailor it to each job application so you can highlight your most relevant skills for the role in question.

2. Create a skills section

Although you might not have work experience, you do have skills, so it's important to create a skills section on your resume.

Don't list skills like “communication” or “MS Word.” Instead, think about your hard and soft skills. Your hard skills will be the more technical skills you learned in your classes; maybe you're a Photoshop pro or you know Python. Meanwhile, your soft skills are more personal skills, which includes: 

  • A strong work ethic

  • Creative problem solving

  • Forward-thinking

  • Time management

  • Team player

You'll also want to think about your transferable skills, or “portable” skills — especially if you are making a career change. These are the skills you can take with you from experience to experience. 

For instance, maybe you gained strong organizational skills in a volunteer role. That skill will “transfer” well to any job.

3. Make a list of your achievements and activities

Sit down with a pen and paper and start writing a list of all your achievements and activities. Maybe you wrote for the college newspaper, were recognized in an honors society, or perhaps you were captain of your club softball team. Whatever it is, write it down!

From that list, you'll want to pick and choose which experiences to include on your resume. Because you'll want to tailor your resume to each job application with the most relevant experiences, this may look different each time. 

But by brainstorming this “master list” of achievements and activities, you'll boost your confidence (you probably have more experience than you think) and make it easier on yourself as you fill out job applications.

Finally, it doesn't hurt to just apply

At the end of the day, remember this: The chance of someone ticking off every single box under “job requirements” is pretty slim. If you don't have exactly two years of experience under your belt but you otherwise qualify for the job, then still apply.

At the end of the day, don't overthink it and just be honest. The worst thing that can happen is they say no — but at least you tried.

If you're a recent grad or you're looking to make a big career change, a professional resume writer can make sure your resume really shines. 

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