Dear Job Seekers: Stop Apologizing for the Experience You Don't Have
Let’s say you’re applying for a new job, but you have limited relevant experience. You’ve cleaned up your resume and crafted a beautiful cover letter outlining the value you hope to create for the company and how you see the skills you’ve built transferring to this new position. In other words, you’ve taken exactly the right approach.
But before you hit send, stop and ask yourself: Are you making this common, but damaging, mistake?
One mistake I see all the time in this scenario is calling out your lack of experience for the hiring manager. You might not even notice you’re doing it, but you are any time you start a sentence like this:
- “Despite my limited experience with marketing…”
- “Although I do not have experience directly managing people…”
- “While I only have work experience doing administrative tasks…”
The reason this mistake is easy to make is because it seems like a seamless transition from why you’re interested in the position into how you are qualified beyond the typical relevant work experience recruiters look for. Problem is, when you write this, you’re essentially saying that you’re not a great hire, that you’re not quite the right fit for the role, or even that you would be starting from square one. And that’s just not the case!
Whatever your previous experience, you will likely be bringing with you tons of transferable skills. So, instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, a better way to move on to your qualifications is to state your skills and ability to contribute directly. Stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position. Here’s how it might look instead:
- “I’m excited to parlay my experience in PR to a more analytical marketing position.”
- “I’m ready to take the next step in my career—management.”
- “I’m eager to translate my success in this administrative position to a more client-focused role.”
Sure, the question of how you’ll translate your skills to the ones required for the position may still come up in later conversations—and you should be ready to respond. Until then, don’t do the work of throwing out your own application for the hiring manager!
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author