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5 Ways to Combat a “Lack of Experience”

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Read below for 5 areas to draw experience to fill out your resume, write detailed cover letters, and get you started on applying for the position you really want!

Oftentimes when we are just entering the workforce, it’s easy to feel intimidated to apply for a potential job because of the “experience requirements” a company lists in their job ad.

Don’t hit the freak-out button just yet! Here are some areas to consider drawing relevant experience to get you started on applying for the position you really want!


According to 2014 research from Cornell University, people who played competitive sports during their secondary school years showed higher levels of leadership and success throughout their careers. Employers also expected “student-athletes to display significantly more leadership, self-confidence, and self-respect than those who were active outside of sports”, according to the Cornell research.

Being an athlete for a number of years, you are likely to develop multiple skills on “the court” that you may not think relate to life and work “off the court”. For example, an article from Global Sports Job, states that athletes possess skills such as “discipline, teamwork, leadership, motivation, resilience”. Highlight specific experiences where you demonstrated these skills. For example, consider the top 2–3 skills you’ve developed or displayed in your athletic career that translate into a job or business that you are interested in. Additionally, consider what it says about you if you have played sports for a number of years while completing your academic requirements. How did you balance this kind of lifestyle and what skills did you gain from this experience?

Group of people dancing

What you’re trying to do is to is draw connections between what you have accomplished (and how) in your athletic career to life outside of sports. Let’s say you were a point-guard, think about what this say’s about your leadership skills and approach. How does that relate to your career?

Volunteer, Campus or Community Work

According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, “42% of hiring managers surveyed on LinkedIn said they view volunteer experience as equivalent to work experience.”

If you have participated in any campus or community organizations, this is also a great experience to speak about. For example, if you participate in a community organization and help fundraise for this group, explain how you did this. Door-to-door? Flyers? What did you achieve afterwards? How much did you raise? Were there any lasting impact(s) to the organization or on you? Treat volunteer work with the same critical lens as you would with a regular job, it is valuable experience an employer can find beneficial if you provide enough details.

Group of people cleaning up a forest

If you do not have any volunteer experience and/or it is outdated or insignificant, (that event your mom dragged you to isn’t the kind of experience that offers value to your job search and potential employer), consider taking this approach. Identify the companies you are interested in, learn where they volunteer and/or what groups/causes they support and consider volunteering with these organizations. Now, this only works if you have an authentic connection and actually want to support these types of organizations.

This provides two things:

  • An opportunity to establish a relationship with companies you are interested in working with.

  • Robust volunteering experience that you can break down to describe what you have done, why you did it and the results that you have done over time which demonstrates a pattern of behaviour to a possible employer.

Academic Experience and Projects

Most of the time, individuals give a lot of focus on co-ops, internships, or a work placement, which is great. You should! However if you haven’t participated in those things, don’t discount your in-class projects. For example, if you are in a Commerce program with a focus on Marketing and had previous projects that can apply to the business world, such as creating a marketing plan for a fake business, this can be treated as if it was a paid, meaningful work experience.

person presenting to a classroom.

Get specific with how you explain your academic projects:

  • Did you work with a team or individually? How was working by yourself or with others? What obstacles did the structure of the group face?

  • What the “client” was trying to achieve?

  • How did you go about asking your “client” their goals and objectives for the business?

  • Did you or your team create a project plan that was executable?

  • What exactly did you do in this project?

  • What part did you partake in? The delegator? The project planner? The presenter? The researcher?

Explain how you completed these tasks, include resources, tools, websites and the approaches used. If you are able to do this for the most relevant projects you are successfully demonstrating to an employer that what you have learnt has real world applications that will benefit their company.

Self-Directed Projects

Similar to academic projects, do not overlook self directed learning or the things that you do “just because”. Self-directed projects are the projects you give yourself that are outside of volunteering, academic and sports that further develop your skills and qualifications. For example, you are in IT and want to increase your development skills but do not have the opportunity to do so in your life. You then decide to create your own website with different tools on your own time.

Woman working at a desktop computer

Another example might be you want to develop your exposure to specific digital marketing tools that you know this industry uses, you could take it upon yourself to find and complete qualifications, such as those in Google Analytics and HubSpot.

Self-directed projects show possible employers that…

  1. You have taken the initiative to develop your skill set in a way that relates to their industry

  2. Gives you experiences that you can speak to again in a level of detail and depth different then “I read a blog once about developing a website”.

Summer Job or Part-Time Job

This may seem obvious, but make sure you include your previous summer or part-time job experiences, despite whether they are in the industry you are interested in or not. When explaining your job, we want to know more than just what tasks you were assigned. Chances are your part-time or summer jobs have not been directly related to your industry which means that the benefit lies in the transferable skills you have built in those jobs and how they translate to the opportunity you are pursuing. For a helpful list of transferable skills, click here.

We want to know less about what you have done and more about how did you do it, and what did you learn? This tells employers if you could be a good fit for their organization.

As a recap, critically examine the experiences you do have and do your best to relate them to your desired industry. Think about it this way: is there anything that you needed to carry out a specific task and developed skills from it? Use this as a way to connect it to a possible workplace. Use the SOAR formula below to successfully connect it to the workplace.

  • Situation: what is the context of the work/project?

  • Obstacle: any problems that arose?

  • Action: what did you do to solve the problem(s)?

  • Results: what skills did you develop when completing the task/responsibility?


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