If you believe that you don't have enough experience in all related fields for a position, there are a number of things you can do to offset this problem and enjoy great results in your job search.


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It is not uncommon to have experience in only one company, one industry, or one function. This is only a liability, of course, when you are seeking a position which requires broader experience or when you want to switch to a new industry. There are a number of things you can do to offset this liability.

Mindset

Keep in mind first of all that, if the only people hired were those who already had experience in every aspect of a job, no one would ever make any advancement. Many candidates for a job will lack one or more requirements, so don't be hesitant to seek out jobs where you do not have all the requirements.

It is also helpful to recognize that an employer may not be expecting you to have broad-based experience. Often it is sufficient to show that you have experience in selected functions, and an eagerness to take on new challenges. Remember too that a hiring decision can be based on intangibles not directly related to achievements or experience. Employers are realistic, and when considering someone with narrow experience, will tend to look more for potential and a desire to grow personally and take on new challenges, than they will for an impressive record of broad-based experience.

Beyond experience alone, enthusiasm by itself can be a major factor. Appearance, self-confidence, writing skills, knowledge, drive, ability to articulate, and attitude all play a role, and can enhance your overall impression. That classic intangible, positive personal chemistry, still accounts for a major portion of all hiring decisions.

And however narrow your experience, remember that even the most narrow of positions can always be broken down into several functions. Most positions require analysis of information, problem solving, writing clearly and concisely, communicating effectively with others, and working effectively as part of a team.

Resume

Use a format that emphasizes experience and achievements in as many functions as possible. As mentioned above, in even the most specialized positions, there are several functions, e.g., analysis, communication, team interaction, creative problem solving, project management, etc., and there might also be achievements that relate to other fields, e.g., productivity increases, finding new and better methods, implementing change smoothly, leading by example, building new capabilities, working with others to produce outstanding results, etc.

Use a summary up front that emphasizes your versatility and adaptability, as well as the fact that you are quick to learn new functions and master difficult technical material, where that applies.

To show a wide range of functions or business areas, include not just those in which you have experience, but also those of which you have some knowledge or exposure. Also, if you were part of a team that achieved something significant, then no matter how narrow your role on that team, you can legitimately claim to be part of it, and you can cite the achievements of the team on the resume.

You can also use part-time and non-work experience where appropriate to demonstrate broader experience. Volunteer and, if you are young, school-related activities may be valid indicators of talents that can be put to good use by many employers. Travel may have given you valuable exposure, fresh insights, and appreciation for the different means by which others accomplish results. Virtually any activity enhances your appeal because it shows a larger scope of thinking and experience. This is true whether the activity is car racing, coaching Little League, skiing, or working with Habitat for Humanity.

You can also create a section highlighting personal strengths, attitudes and values that are important to employers. Statements such as: "My attitude toward hard work is influenced by family tradition," "part-time work during high school, paid 50% of college expenses through outside employment," and "studied and attended classes 12 hours a day," can make a lasting impression. So can examples of volunteer work. Such examples suggest to employers that you have the ingredients of becoming a high achiever, even if your past experience is narrow.

Interviews / e-mail / Letters

Think in terms of "Why should people want to hire me?" and "What have I accomplished that would show my potential for delivering results to this new employer?" When you do, you will appreciate that the best interview strategy is to ask questions about the functional skills and personal traits that would be most important in the job, and then relate stories in a situation-action-result format which show that you have used those skills and traits effectively to achieve results.

In any correspondence or interviews, it helps to know as much as possible about the company and the industry beforehand, and to express a lot of enthusiasm for the job. In general terms, the more ways that you can show you are a good fit for the position, the better your chances. Enthusiasm is always a major consideration in a hiring decision.

In interviews and correspondence, to a greater extent than you do on the resume, you also have greater latitude to draw on experience in all areas of your life... education, military, volunteer and civic activities... which demonstrate skills, knowhow, knowledge and personal qualities that can easily be applied to the position in question.

Using situation-action-result format stories in the interview, you can give examples of instances when, although you might not have played a major role, you participated in, gained exposure to, and learned about all key aspects of the job.

No doubt there are some areas where you excel, however narrow, and using either questions or observations about the skills required, you can direct the discussion to those few areas where your credentials are excellent.

Remember, you can give examples of instances where you met challenges and achieved results, even if the results are not large in scale or were achieved outside the work environment. If they show that you knew how to size up a situation and take appropriate steps, whether it is in organizing something, teaching others, or taking quick action to avert a dangerous situation, an employer will have little difficulty envisioning how you might apply the same talents to their challenges and opportunities.

When asking questions, ask those which show you are primarily interested in the different ways in which you might make contributions, rather than those which indicate you are primarily concerned about what the company can do for you.

Actions

If there is a course you can take, or information you can study, that would help prepare you or make you more knowledgeable about the type of position you are targeting, get started on that as soon as possible. If you can talk with people in that field, arrange to meet with them and get their input. If there is a trade or professional publication geared to that field, read back issues in the library. All of that input will increase your knowledge and help offset your narrow experience.

Conduct research on any industry and companies you are targeting, using the Internet and/or resources in the Business Reference section of a good library. You would also be well-advised to write a small paper about the major trends in that industry. By sending that paper along with a cover letter, you can divert the employer's attention from your narrow experience. This leaves you free to focus on the company's and the industry's future. Preparing such a paper also shows a lot of enthusiasm, which always affects hiring decisions.

Examine all of your experience closely, work-related or not, and prepare action-oriented stories that show sound judgment and an ability to take action initiatives that got positive results in a variety of circumstances. Be prepared to give as much evidence as possible in these stories, even when the results are not large in scale. This will reassure the prospective employer about your ability to move beyond your narrow background and meet new challenges successfully.

Develop and coach enthusiastic references, from inside your employer organization if possible, but if not, from people who have known you in scholastic, volunteer, civic or social settings, or who knew you in business, but were outside your organization, e.g., customers, suppliers, sales reps, consultants, etc. These will be people who are happy to attest to your abilities and positive personal character traits, and the fact that you learn new things quickly and are always looking for new challenges. Review your resume with them, and make sure they keep a copy available for reference when and if they are called.

This step will enable you to make the statement near the end of an interview that, "You've heard about me from me, but you really need to hear it from people I've worked with. Their input will reinforce the points I've made, and I hope you contact them." Such a statement will help erase any doubts due to your narrow experience.


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