Being an entry-level job seeker is often overwhelming. Even with the proper credentials, reviewing job postings can make you feel severely under qualified. While falling a little short of requirements should not deter you from applying for a desired position, you should always be looking for ways to fill the gaps in your résumé.
Today, we will be looking at what you can do to find out where you stand as an applicant and what you can do to become more appealing to hiring managers.
Wrangle up job postings
The first step is to understand what your industry expects of entry-level hires.
Start by scouring the internet for job postings. You do not need to have active postings, but make sure they have up-to-date job requirements. Target your ideal entry-level position.
You should be aiming for at least three job postings across several companies. This will give you a more diverse perspective on what employers are seeking.
Do an inventory of qualifications
When you have your job postings together, list the required
- years of experience
- credentials and licences
- project experience
- software experience
- soft skills
- job duties
The resulting list will be the foundation for your development plan.
Assess where you stand on the qualifications
Now that you have your ideal list of qualifications, it is time to determine how far along you are. Take note of what requirements you currently meet and which you do not.
Do not be discouraged if your experience falls short. This process is meant to give you a roadmap to improvement, not to dissuade you from making the journey.
Put together a plan
From here, you can create a plan to fill in the gaps in your qualifications.
Narrow your list of requirements by removing those you already meet. Rank the remaining qualifications from most important to least important. Reread the job postings to get an idea of what requirements are more emphasized than others; soft skills are useful, but software and project experience tends to take precedence.
Isolate the top one to five requirements (depending on their size). These should be the first areas for you to develop.
Once you have narrowed your areas of focus, establish a timeframe for gaining experience. Some qualifications (like acquiring credentials) will have a fixed time commitment. For others, you may have to do some estimates.
Depending on what qualifications you need, you may be able to use the following to gather the knowledge and experience:
- relevant volunteer positions
- e-learning courses
- contract positions
- mentorship programs
You will also want to factor in the costs of gaining the needed experience or credentialing. Some requirements like college diplomas involve significant time and money investments you will have to consider. Even options like volunteering come with the time and cost of living you will incur while working for free.
Get an application mentor
The best thing you can do for your development is to find a mentor in the field. Mentors can give you valuable perspective on industry practices. For example, some industries/companies frequently use résumé scanning software that searches for certain keywords. The right mentor can help you craft a scanner-friendly résumé.
If you do not already have a contact within your desired industry, you can contact your local employment service center. They may be able to facilitate a meeting with a willing mentor.
If you meet with a mentor, make sure to ask them about
- the industry-preferred résumé format(s)
- industry use of résumé scanning software
- the most frequently used software in your industry
Make sure you prepare for a mentor meeting like you would for a job interview. They are going out of their way to guide you, so return the courtesy by being prepared to make the most of their time.