How Can I Get a Job with No Experience or References?
A job seeker recently wrote to ask about getting a job without any professional references, job experience or even a resume. He was also feeling depressed about his job search efforts as a whole, since despite filling out many applications the results are not even one job offer.
Discouraged by this, his job hunt has now turned into the barest minimum of attempts to even apply for jobs. He seems to have lost almost all hope. While he writes asking for some help about his follow-up techniques, there's so much more to his question!
Note: Our Resume Builder offers resume templates that are tailormade for job seekers with no experience. Once you select a template, you'll get help finding relevant experiences to fill in all sections of your resume.
How can I get a job with no experience or references?
Here's some of what he wrote:
How am I supposed to get a job if I have no resume, no prior experience, and no professional references? The only references I have are my sister-in-law and my mom's boyfriend. I'm a nerdy, loser who's barely left the house since High School.
I used to fill out multiple applications every day, but after so long of not even getting called back, I kinda gave up and now I just fill out application, to the same place, every ten days (since that's often as they'll let me) and call them every 5 days. Should I call more often? Please respond soon.
How I responded
I'm never sure when I get a comment like this if the person is really as low as he seems, or it's just a moment where it all feels like too much. So I try to cover all bases in my answer, as best I can. Here's some of my response with a few extra thoughts added for the sake of anyone else in a similar position:
First … please stop calling them so often! Bugging people is not a successful job search technique.
But MORE IMPORTANT for you to know is that even the most successful people have had points in their lives where everything feels like crap and hopeless. And despite their skills, they feel like losers too. But at some point, they decide that it's time to give it their all and find a way back into the world of work.
Just the fact that you wrote me and have the persistence you do with that one company, shows me you seem to have what it takes, even if you don't know all you have inside yet. I bet there is LOTS more once you get going. Now you just have to (1) believe it yourself; and (2) find some techniques that will get you a chance to show others how much you have to offer.
Do you need a reference to get a job?
The short answer is yes, you need a reference to get a job. A reference should be someone from your professional or educational past or present (an employer, a professor, etc.) who can speak positively about your talents, skills, and personality. A good reference can play a very big role in helping you get the job that you're going after.
Many of us at some point have used "iffy" references. As long as they vouch for you and YOU believe in you, it can work.
Also … if you start volunteering right away or take some part-time work (from someone you know or a local business) and give it your all to help THEM, that can become a stronger reference – and help you (and future employers) see more of whom you are and what you have to give.
Who should your job references be?
Try to avoid giving out family members as references. If you've never held a job or a volunteer position, choose a former teacher or mentor for a reference. For any entry-level position, references will only need to be able to speak to your character, not your past performance, so a teacher would be perfect.
About those job search techniques
Just so you know, applications from job listings (as one of the many applicants) are usually the hardest way to get a job, especially if your resume isn't strong. Your best allies are people who know you or finding new people willing to help. We call that "networking."
But there is so much more that can help that I can't explain just in a comment. I would strongly suggest finding yourself an ally (job coach) at a nearby Job Center. You can click on this link and use your zip code to find one near you HERE.
Life gives us moments each and every day when we can choose a new path for ourselves. I have no doubt you have it in you, Joshua. Just commit to yourself and keep taking positive CREATIVE action until you get there.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
And, if you haven't done this yet, maybe even go in person to the place you keep sending applications to and ask if there is someone there you can speak to about your application for a job. Smile and say you just want some advice on how to do it right.
They may say "no" but you never know. You can try this with other companies in the neighborhood too, holding a well-written resume in your hands.
Remember that job search is filled with lots of "nos" and even the most qualified people get turned down a lot. But they eventually succeed because they keep trying. Luckily it only takes one "yes" to get that job.
Good luck, JL!
~ Ronnie Ann
A few more thoughts
The thing about looking for a job is that you don't know if you're doing it right until you actually get that job offer. Not everyone does it the same way. And not everyone's advice is going to for sure work for you.
But there are some basics it helps to remember:
- Don't just rely on job listings that everyone else can also see.
- Finding a human connection to a job or company is a BIG advantage.
- Job search, even for the most qualified, can take a long time.
- When it does take a long time, it's normal to get discouraged.
- Your attitude / feelings about who you really are do show and do matter. So look for things that feed your spirit in the meantime.
- Don't be afraid to look for jobs you might not consider at first. If you give it your all, you'll be surprised what else you might find.
- A job isn't forever. If it's not the right one, but it gets you references and a new start, then it's a great job for you at this time.
- Do your best to keep the positive momentum going.
- Don't give up on the job or yourself!