Overcoming a lack of experience

You’re new to this – and it’s ok. Here are some ways to get that all-important experience for a role.

What you will learn

  • Identify where your lack of experience lies
  • How to sell your experience and how that helps plug the experience gaps
  • Focus on your current skills and experience and how this can help with your lack of experience
  • Practical ways to get more experience
Two people working together

When you’re applying for your first job, or moving to a new career, you may be feeling like you don’t have all the necessary experience for a particular role – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

How you respond to gaps in your knowledge or experience is just as important as filling them in. Simply having an awareness of what you need to work on will show employers that you’re proactive and adaptable.

So, let’s start by viewing holes in your experience as opportunities to learn and become better skilled.

We understand it’s not always practical to return to studying full-time, which is why we’ve outlined some other ways you can upskill yourself below.

Understanding your transferable skills

If you lack work experience there are many things you can do to build up your CV. Start by listing your previous achievements, no matter how big or small they are. Did you complete a course at college or university? Are there activities you’re a part of? Have you successfully given a presentation? It is important to remember that all these achievements required skills to complete and whether this was teamwork, sticking to deadlines or being a leader, you will have learned ways of working that will be transferable in the workplace.  

A positive attitude and personality can be a skill in itself. Use this to sell yourself, even if you lack the experience required. By being your best self and describing what experience and skills you do have you will be able to make a lasting impression on your CV and at an interview.  

Always ensure that your CV sells your experience and skills that you do have instead of the skills you do not currently have. Employers aren’t always looking for the finished article –  they are looking for someone who will integrate well within their company so ticking all the boxes isn’t always necessary. Though, if an employer is looking for something you don’t have, is there something you can do right now to address the gaps? 

How to build on your experience 

Don’t let your lack of experience stand in the way of going for your dream job. Take some time to identify where your knowledge or skill gaps may be then look into practical ways to get more experience on your CV. This doesn’t always have to be paid or full time positions and education, there are opportunities out there that you may not have considered in the past. It is perfectly normal to take a step down the career ladder to get to your dream position in the long term. Take a look at ways you can build on your experience below. 

  • Volunteering 

    Some people don’t always consider volunteering an option when looking for skills to build up their CV. However, it can be the perfect position to learn transferable skills in action. Many volunteering positions will provide you with relevant training that you can take additional learning from and utilise on your CV. Volunteering is not the quickest or easiest way to build up your CV but it can be an opportunity to learn from others, have a role within the community, meet new people and potentially find hidden skills and passions, all of which will add to your experience.  

  • Free online resources 

    Taking advantage of free online resources can be a low risk way to expand your knowledge. Watching educational YouTube videos on a certain topic, reading blogs or taking part in a free online course can be your first step into learning something new. There are many free resources online that can help you find a new way of learning, many even come with accreditation that you can add to your CV. My World of Work is a resource where you can find free online courses suited to your interests. Check out our learn and train page for more information on how you can develop your skills online. 

  • Work experience 

    Internships or work experience can often be the way to learn while doing the job. These are a fantastic opportunity for those who are looking to get your foot in the door at a company or within a specific sector as you can do the job of your peers and train alongside working. Although these positions may not be paid or even well paid, they are great for building up your CV while meeting people within your chosen industry. Having connections within your network will be useful in the long term, as you will be able to call upon them in the future.  

  • Mentorship 

    Calling upon your network can open up endless possibilities. Utilising your social network, your contacts or even previous colleagues for advice can help you to learn from the experience of others. Most people are open to discussing their roles or how they got there, it is just building up the confidence to reach out and ask. If there is someone you aspire to work alongside, don’t be afraid to establish a working relationship with them, ask them if they could give you a call, allow you to shadow them at their work or provide mentorship. Learning from others can help shape the way you look at your CV and career journey which will help you have a better outlook on your future. 

  • Part-time study 

    Life can be busy sometimes, you may have childcare to consider or your current job to work around, so volunteering or learning full time might not be an option for you. There are many opportunities to learn part-time, whatever you’re interested in studying. Many colleges and universities offer night classes where you can gain the relevant skills required to reach your goals.

A lack of work experience shouldn’t be treated as a barrier to your career development. It should give you the motivation to explore other options and what skills you need to develop and what experience will help you land you your dream job. All experience is valid and building upon this can help you in the long run.  

Some other articles you may find helpful

Taking charge of your goals and achievements

Own your achievements and discover how to present them well to employers.

Having the confidence to plan your career

Here are some tips to help grow your confidence when you’re planning your career.

On the job experience and how it can help you

From a shadowing to volunteering, find out how working in the job you want can be very useful.