Over the course of five years, I've had three very different jobs with none to little relevant experience prior to starting those jobs.

shocked will ferrell GIF by Anchorman Movie

For someone like myself who has an interest in many areas, I thought it would take years to switch from a job in one field to another.

Fortunately, I've discovered a few strategies that helped me compete against more experienced applicants in the job hunting process.

1. Learn relevant skills for the job

Many jobs require core skills that are typically gained through school. But, going back to school can be scary (and expensive).

Consider the following profile: Melody is a 25 year-old admin assistant at a legal firm. She wants to apply to web developer roles, but has no related experience. She could:

  • Pay for online certifications or courses through platforms like Coursera & Udemy or take free ones on Youtube

  • Take courses through continuing education programs at colleges & universities

A graphic depicting a woman applying for a job.

Remember, going back to school can still be a great way to get guaranteed relevant experience in a set amount of time. Think about your budget and how much time you can spend learning before making a decision.

2. Build a portfolio of relevant projects and experiences

Employers like to see whether you actually know how to do the job you're applying for. Building a portfolio of projects can show an employer how well you know skills important for the job, and help you stand out against other applicants.

From our previous example, Melody could build a portfolio by creating:

  • Projects — creating a website, building a web app, and recording taking online coding challenges.

  • Blog posts — writing and sharing blog posts on topics she's trying to master.

  • Volunteering — Not all experience has to come in the form of a job. She could look at volunteer job boards to find an opportunity that doesn't require past experience and would teach her relevant skills for the job she wants to apply to.

A man in a suit says,

Make sure your portfolio can be viewed by employers — for example, creating a website using a 3rd party service like WordPress or Squarespace could also be a good project!


Prince is a 32 year old Amazon warehouse worker. He's considering applying for a baker job at a cafe, but has never worked in the food industry. What could he do to add to his portfolio? Select all that apply:

3. Apply, apply, apply!

You should apply for jobs even as you're continuing to educate yourself and build your portfolio.

Continuing with our superstar job-seeker Melody, she could consider the following strategies when applying for a job:

  • Highlight the courses and portfolio she's been building

  • Formatting her resume to use key words from the job description will help her application get noticed — employers use search algorithms to look through the many applicants they get for jobs

  • Contacting recruiters directly (e.g. through Linkedin) to express her interest (here's a sample message template)

  • Applying to entry-level positions or associate programs that require less experience

Liam Neeson from Taken says,

It's common to apply to many jobs and not hear back from recruiters, so remember to be kind to yourself while applying. I submitted 50 applications while searching for my last job!

Take Action

A skeleton typing on a keyboard while applying for jobs. The skeleton collapses from exhaustion.

Getting a job you're interested in when your experience is limited can be tough, but not impossible! Try these strategies to increase the chance of your application getting noticed (and they can be done in any order):


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