Overcoming your work experience deficit is easier than you think


Young people have more resources than they think to overcome their lack of experience. Photograph: Richard Drury/Getty Images

Young people have more resources than they think to overcome their lack of experience. Photograph: Richard Drury/Getty Images

Many young people entering the workforce today face a credibility paradox: To be successful, they need to be seen as credible before they have had the opportunity to build expertise from the ground up.

For the young and inexperienced, it’s essential to overcome this challenge. But how?

In a new initiative at Brandeis University’s Perlmutter Institute for Global Business Leadership, we’re studying this exact problem. Early findings suggest it may be less of a paradox than we suspect.

Young people have more resources than they think to overcome their experience deficit. And they can take direct actions to compensate for and build the expertise they lack.

Here are five common activities for young professionals hoping to jump-start their career:

1. Leverage your research skills

If you’ve recently graduated from university, you have a set of freshly-honed research skills that you can put to immediate use in a professional context. Find out what specific types of knowledge people in your industry crave and build your area of expertise around it.

2. Identify your specific contribution

Ask yourself some basic questions to identify your strengths and where you might be able to contribute value. Use your answers to generate strengths and resources.

Also consider your personal background. For instance, you may not have worked in the industry before, but chances are you possess useful insights simply because of your geographic or demographic background. Using this as a starting point can be an effective way to build initial credibility and positive regard.

3. Volunteer willingly

Don’t underestimate the power of grit, determination and the willingness to take on unenviable assignments. Opportunities abound to prove yourself. Take advantage of them to make a quick impression as a reliable and hard worker.

4. Manage your workload and communicate proactively

You can immediately establish a reputation for reliability by managing your commitments and workload wisely. Know when you’re taking on too much, and say no judiciously.

Also, be proactive with your communication. If you anticipate any difficulty in meeting a deadline, discuss it with your superior as soon as possible, and ask for guidance when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and bring every single assignment to its conclusion.

5. Work to build a network of close relationships

Your goal over time will be to build a deep and varied network of trusted colleagues who will provide you with ongoing mentoring, advice and feedback as you progress at your job and in your career. Create a network of friends and colleagues. Invite co-workers to lunch.

Identify superiors you admire and get a feel for how to connect with them within the culture of the organisation. The key is to work hard at getting to know as many people as you can on a collegial or even more personal level.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017

Andy Molinsky is a professor of organisational behaviour at the Brandeis International Business School. Jake Newfield works in business development at Cloudera.

Previously published in The Irish Times.


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