Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Getting A Foot In The Door
"I just completed a vocational training course, at the top of my class. I learned all I could and have been diligently doing everything the placement counselor suggested. But everybody wants on-the-job experience! What should I do?"
Here's my response:
You are absolutely right, J.B. Getting your foot in the door right out of school is difficult. No matter how good the training, employers worry that you won't be able to handle yourself without additional training and time-consuming supervision. Try acknowledging their concerns up front: "I know that you are hoping to hire someone who can hit the ground running from day one but may I explain how my lack of actual on-the-job experience can work FOR you?
This straightforward and unusual approach is likely to get their attention. Follow up with a list of positives the employer probably has not consciously considered, such as:
1. I learn very rapidly and because I'm new, I'm willing to put in extra time to make sure I understand everything I am taught.
2. I have no bad habits. I'll learn to do the job your way and never complain that "In my last job, we always did it this way . . ." (Believe me, employers hear that all the time and don't like it.)
3. I know what I don't know. That means I'll never cause problems for you by thinking I know it all and jumping in when I should let someone-in-charge know what is happening.
4. Having experience is one thing; having good work habits is another. As I learn the job, I will become more valuable to you than other applicants because of my work ethic: I am always on time, have an exemplary attendance record, always put my work as top priority during working hours and leave my personal life or problems at home.
5. Since I am new in the field, I am very willing to start out at entry-level pay, knowing that within a very short time I'll prove myself to be a strong asset to your company.
While some employers will always keep on their blinders and narrowly focus on actual work experience, many more are open-minded and just need a nudge to enforce their dream of finding a super worker who does things the way they want.
Try it and let me know how you do.