The Excedrin headache number one of employment problems; you need experience to prove to employers that you can do the job. But how can you get experience if nobody will hire you? Here's how.
Three weeks ago I surveyed 159 job seekers by email to get their answers to this question: "What one thing could I do to make your job search easier?"
I received a ton of responses, with so many questions and problems that it would take 10 or 20 articles to answer them all.
But time is short and attention spans are shorter.
So, I picked two common job search problems to answer here. Ready?
Problem #1: "How can I find a job when I don't have any experience in my field? I have an associate's degree in business administration."
Solution: This is the classic Catch-22 -- the Excedrin Headache #1 of employment problems. You need experience to prove to employers that you can do the job. But how can you get experience if nobody will hire you?
One way to cut through this knotty problem is to stop waiting for somebody to give you experience and, instead, go get it on your own. You will then be more attractive to employers.
How do you go about getting experience in your field? Here are two ways:
1) Broaden your definition of "experience." If you have used your relevant skills and education in any capacity at all, consider including that under the rubric of experience. After all, paid work, part-time work and volunteer work are all work.
If you seek an entry-level job as a project manager, for example, and you have managed projects at a local charity or school, consider counting that as experience on your resume. Just be sure to "do the thinking for the reader" and include on your resume the specific results of what happened when you led those projects to successful completion. How much time or money did you save or earn as a result? Specifically?!?
2) Get part-time experience doing what you want to do full time. Lots of temporary employment agencies and Web sites offer contract positions you can do to polish your skills for employers. Check the Yellow Pages or post your resume on sites like NetTemps.com, Guru.com, Elance.com, or RentACoder.com. Who knows? If you sparkle in a temporary assignment, it could turn into a full-time position -- it happens all the time.
Final tip: When it comes to "giving yourself experience," consider the Wright Brothers. Orville and Wilbur did their first work as a hobby, without pay. And we all know how that turned out ...
Problem #2: "Can you describe a sure-fire way to get past gatekeepers and right to hiring managers?"
Solution: While there's no foolproof way to do this short of knocking on doors and asking for interviews, e-mail can help you get past gatekeepers -- if you use it creatively.
Here's a way to connect with a hiring authority directly by e-mail -- even if you don't know their e-mail address -- courtesy of executive recruiter Harry Joiner (www.marketingheadhunter.com).
Visit the Whois Search web site (www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois) and type in the URL of the company you want to work for. When looking at the results, note the format of the email address of the firm's Administrative Contact. Then, send an e-mail to your contact using that format.
Example: If the Webmaster's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and the hiring manager's name is Steve Johnson, send an e-mail to email@example.com.
If you need help finding the names of company officers, scour their Web site first, looking for a site map or other listing of managers' names. Next, try searching Hoovers.com or Jigsaw.com (if you can't afford a subscription to these two sites, call your local library and ask if you can gain access via their computers).