When you discover a career that you're passionate about a career and have your heart set on, the beginning of your journey might feel bright. With rose colored glasses, you might embark on your journey to entering the field and getting your foot in the door. Sometimes, however, it's not rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it can be disheartening when you look at job descriptions that ask for years of experience, expertise in certain tools and programs, or degrees you don't have.
Don't let it get to your head! Although there might be some jobs that are out of reach (like a senior level or CEO position with a major brand/company like Nike), there are more positions within reach than you might realize. "But how do I stand a chance with those positions?!" you might be asking. Trust me: there are several ways to make yourself and your application stand out. You just gotta do it (pun intended); you have to put in the work to learn and grow on your own time. It can be difficult to figure out how to stand out, especially when you're new to an industry. Here are three major ways:
1. Evaluate Your Past Experiences & Background
When comparing ourselves to others we see online, or breaking ourselves down when we don't feel fit based on a job description, we easily forget how many qualifications or how much experience we already have up our sleeves. How can you better understand your experiences and qualifications? Write down your experiences and evaluate your background. Separate you experiences into categories and lists to help you contextualize your background.
Make a list of every role you've had—this can include full-time jobs or leadership positions you held in clubs at school or in college. If you're in college, or a recent graduate, I recommend making category titled "School" or College with a list of the major academic projects you created, research opportunities you had, volunteer experience, and similar information. This sort of experience is just as important as the "real world experience" you gained at a traditional part-time or full-time job.
Once you have a solid list, under each role make a list of the tasks you performed and responsibilities you had in that position. In this category, I encourage you to make each bullet point quantifiable. You need to show how you performed those tasks and achieved those responsibilities. Start the bullet points with strong action verbs like orchestrated, achieved, organized, taught, etc. Next, quantify your work and achievements whenever possible.
Creating these categories and lists will help you recognize how much knowledge and experience you already have. Writing down as much as you can will help you build your confidence and recognize how many skills you have. Completing this exercise should help you reevaluate how you can better organize your resume and what you can share in your resume to stand out in applications.
2. Build Your Own Experience
Once you have a better understanding of the experience you already have, you can build on it by dedicating time to learn something new or building your skills. If you want to enter a new industry, it might seem really overwhelming; you might see lots of talented professionals on LinkedIn and might feel defeated. How can you even compare if you don't have that much experience? Remember: everyone starts from the beginning.
You might be uncertain and confused on how to start. Luckily, in the digital age we're living in, there are countless of amazing online resources. There are so many tools at your finger tips. Here are some recommendations:
Complete an online course or certification in your industry.
For example, if you're interested in marketing like me, then I encourage you to check HubSpot Academy and Google Digital Garage for free online courses/certifications. HubSpot Academy offers a variety of courses and certifications in marketing, sales, and web design. SkillShare is another amazing resource to help you build your knowledge and experience for a cost.
If you complete a course and/or certification, you can add it to your resume or LinkedIn profile. Adding these courses and certifications to your resume not only shows you have the knowledge or experience but it also proves that you take initiative to learn on your own. Personally, I know it can be easy to trick ourselves and think that we can learn on the job or in formal institutions like school; however, learning never stops. Time is yours, and it's important to use it build yourself.
Experiment with the tools, apps, and resources that are popular in the industry.
For instance, do you want to become a graphic designer? Adobe Photoshop & Adobe Illustrator are common apps in the graphic design field. Often times, you can sign up for a free trial for most apps or online tools, including with Adobe, which is a great way to get an quick inside look at those resources. However, be careful if you sign up to experiment with a free trial because they'll usually charge your credit card after so many days.
I know what you're thinking: "Between working at my full-time day job, spending time with loved ones, and doing recreational activities like going to the gym, how do I find time to build my experience in a new field?" Turn your big dreams and goals into small, achievable actions. If you break it down, then you're less likely to get burnt out or psych yourself out. Breaking my big goals down into small steps really helps me stay focused. Here are two examples:
If you want to take some online courses and gain certifications from reputable sites like HubSpot, then make it a goal to focus on one course each week or 2-3 courses each month.
To get more familiar with industry specific resources, tell yourself that the first week you'll only research different apps or tools; then the following week, pick one and focus on practicing to get familiar with it.
When we have big dreams, imposter syndrome can creep in and make it difficult to reach. One of the most important things you can do is take time to understand yourself. Learn your triggers and your biggest distractions. Play on your biggest strengths and develop your weaknesses. I firmly believe that creating small steps will help you achieve your big dreams.
3. Enhance Your Commercial Awareness
You might be thinking, "Now BayLeigh, what is commercial awareness and why is it important?" Commercial awareness is an understanding of how organizations and businesses work; it's about knowing what's going on in the world and analyzing how it might impact a particular industry and an organization or business within that field. Whether you're new to an industry, or a seasoned professional, having commercial awareness is crucial for a lot of reasons.
To develop your commercial awareness, you can:
Subscribe to digital newsletters in your industry.
Follow leaders, innovators, or creators from your target industry on social media.
Read the news to understand what's happening local regional, or national level—even the international level.
Commercial awareness helps you grow in your position and field because you understand what it takes to be successful in that industry. It helps you develop a strong understanding of your brand or company's target audience to turn them into clients, supporters, donors, etc.
4. Reach Out for Help
Sometimes we might be headstrong and believe we can make it on our own, but in all honesty accepting help from others will help you reach your full potential. Here are some examples of what you might need help with:
Ask a friend or colleague to review your resume and cover letter. Having a second or third pair of you eyes review your work is a game changer. They can offer constructive feedback to improve your application materials or other work.
If you attended college, reach out to your career development center. Often times, career development centers will offer free or low-cost services for alumni. They can review your resumes or cover letters, prepare mock interviews to help you practice, help discover your career interests, or even connect you with other alumni in your target industry or dream company.
If you only take one thing away from this blog post, please don't be afraid to ask for help. There are so many people out there—friends, relatives, peers, coworkers—who want to help you succeed, including me! I'm happy to help in the best way I can. Please reach out if you have any questions or share your feedback on this post!