So you found your dream job, or at least a job closer to it, and you’d give your right leg to get it. Problem is, they want you to have experience before they will even talk to you and the only other job you’ve had is as a Wal-Mart greeter. Before you throw in the towel on the possibilities and put your name tag back on, apply a little creativity and you might be surprised how far it can get you. It may not catapult you to the top of the corporate ladder but you could certainly expect to move up a few rungs.

The fact is, employers prefer candidates who already know the job because they require less time in training and personal attention - and in business, time is money. If you want that job, you must convince them that their “huge investment of time” is just an illusion when your transferable skills and talents are considered.

Let’s say that you are a secretary who aspires to be a paralegal and a position just opened up in a law firm in your building. You don’t have any paralegal experience, much less any legal experience. Here’s what you do:           

  1. First learn all you can about the expectations for your target job - not the qualifications, but the actual job responsibilities. List these in a table on the left side. Paralegals conduct research, draft legal documents, assist the attorney in court, interface with clients, and conduct site visits and investigations.
  2. Next, research those responsibilities and break them down into exactly what kind of skills would be necessary to perform those tasks well. Identifying relationships and patterns, attention to detail, anticipating needs, thinking logically, problem-solving, having a calming disposition, and a close eye for detail are all skills that would be necessary to perform paralegal tasks. List these in the middle column of your table.
  3. Finally, draw upon your experience from your current and former jobs, hobbies, volunteer service, etc. to demonstrate how you’ve already employed those necessary skills in other contexts. Employers like to hear BRIEF stories of how you implemented your skills in a specific situation. It’s far more memorable than just listing what you’re good at. List these experiences in the right column.

Once this is complete, review your notes and update your resume and cover letter to read like you’ve always been qualified for the job and have just never happened upon the opportunity.

Your confidence will show in your interview even when they ask the dreaded question, “Do you have any experience as a paralegal?”. Simply say, “No, but I’ve studied closely what it takes to be a valuable paralegal and I believe I possess all the necessary skills and qualities to perform well, such as….” and then go into your dance. They will not only be impressed that you put so much thought into your presentation application, but you will also be very hard to forget when decision time rolls around. Now go get it!