How To Overcome Lack of Experience

You’re looking to change careers, but you lack the required experience.  It’s the same dilemma you faced coming out of college, but things are different now.  You’ve learned what you like and don’t like, but now that your expertise is in one area, how do you get a job when you lack the experience?

It’s a common question among many, and one I faced myself just 2 years ago.  I’d been in the same industry for 15 years, and was looking to make a change to an entirely different industry.

In my old industry, which happened to be hotels at the time, I checked all the experience boxes you could think of.  I knew the job like the back of my hand.  In fact, that’s part of the reason I was even interested in a career change.  I needed a new challenge.

I just had a conversation today with a young lady is facing a similar dilemma.  She wants to change industries, but the new job requires 3-5 years of experience.  So she just hasn’t applied, because she wasn’t experienced.

She was given advice by someone else to just “tell a little fib” and say she was experienced.  That’s not something I advise or would ever advise.  If you lie, that could come back to haunt you, and in most cases would be grounds for immediate termination.

So my advice was to acknowledge the lack of experience from the very beginning!

In sales, this is where would we say you would have to “overcome the objection”.  The employer is looking for someone with experience, and since you’re “selling” yourself to them, your job becomes overcoming that experience objection.

So how do you overcome that objection and still get considered for a job that you don’t have the required experience for?

My advice was to come right out and say it in the Cover Letter.

Address the fact that you don’t have the experience they are looking for, but then immediately give them reasons why that shouldn’t matter to them.

Perhaps in your current role, there are some key traits that transfer over.  List the results that would matter to the employer and get them comfortable that despite you not having the industry experience required, you have the technical experience that is necessary.

As an example, if you’re in insurance sales and want to cross over to pharmaceutical sales, but you’ve never sold pharma, you would say some variation of the following:

  • I don’t have direct experience in pharmaceuticals, but in insurance sales I was a top producer selling “X Million Dollars” in policies each year, putting me in the top “X” at my company.
    • This shows that while you may not know the drug you’d be selling, you know the technique of selling
  • If a new drug comes to the market, no sales person has experience selling that drug yet. But they’d learn the drug’s features and benefits, and that’s when they use their selling strategies to drive sales.
    • This takes the experience requirement and turns it up-side-down

If you’re able to acknowledge that you don’t have the exact experience they require, but you show results that prove that you have the right skills to exceed their expectations, you may find yourself getting over the hurdle of lack of experience.


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