Lack of experience in the workplace or in interviews might seem like a problem but inexperience can actually be an advantage. Lack of experience can often be turned from a weakness to a strength. And the good news is that inexperience is something we all start off with.
Lack of Experience in the Workplace
If you don’t have the relevant experience required for a certain job then step one is to accept it. You can’t ‘fake it’ so, first, accept that you lack experience. But realize that you can actually use a lack of work experience to your advantage.
You Are a Blank Slate
Your boss or employer may actually prefer having someone that they can mold and shape to their needs. Experienced workers usually also come with bad habits and sometimes bring even worse with them from previous jobs. In many cases, telling a new employer that you are ready to learn and do things their way will come as a relief to them. Some actually like that you are a ‘blank slate’.
In my late twenties, while at an early NYC fintech startup, I once told my boss that I was planning to start night classes (to try and finish my undergrad degree). He replied, “why? I will teach you everything you need to know.” Entrusting your future to a single employer in this way isn’t usually the right move, but this story illustrates the point.
By the way, some employers may view your inexperience as a chance to get cheaper labor. This is not usually an advantage for you, but it’s a reality you may face.
Hunger is a Motivator
When you go into a new job (or anything) you will usually be enthusiastic, and motivated to work hard and learn. This will be especially true in a competitive environment, or a sales role (for instance) where your success is directly tied to your performance.
In such cases, you will be hungry to gain experience and knowledge. But it will also force you to think on your feet, and leverage whatever shred of insight you might come up with. And this will usually distinguish you from others. People that start businesses without experience know this better than anyone. The hardest part is to maintain the excitement and hunger even after achieving success.
Free to NOT Know
When you are the new person on the team, you have some obvious disadvantages. Your lack of skills in the workplace will obviously require time and effort to overcome. But you usually get some extra slack at the start as well. When you go into a situation and acknowledge your inexperience, you will not be expected to know (processes, standards, rules).
While you should not go easy on yourself, others’ may expect little of you. You can make a positive, early impression during this time. You can also ask for help and learn from others whenever you can.
Fresh Eyes on Old Problems
Another very real advantage that your lack of experience provides is an open mind. Because you never learned the rules and standards and history of a thing or a business, you also are not limited in how you approach a challenge or issue. For veterans or subject matter experts, the limits they learned or saw in others unconsciously become their own limitations.
Many companies already get the benefits of hiring inexperienced employees. You can see old problems with new eyes. Even if you cannot think of a new solution, by calling out the issues you are showing your powers of observation, and demonstrating a desire to improve things.
How to Overcome Lack of Experience in Interviews
There are many ways to make inexperience a strength in a workplace environment. But you have to get the job first.
The first step is to not avoid or dispute your inexperience but to acknowledge it. You should even embrace it. This does not mean saying something like, “what I lack in experience I make up for in….” This statement presents your interviewer with a simple A/B choice, where they do a mental assessment of the two things you presented. Don’t do it.
Instead, try drawing on another role or job you had and link that experience to the position you are seeking. If you are trying for a management role then talk about how you managed a previous project, or encouraged and coordinated the team.
Turning Weakness Into Strength
Whatever your approach, be open about what you don’t know and, at the same time, be sure to mention your enthusiasm and ability to learn quickly. All the better if you can give examples from the past of your strength as a quick learner.
Then, share some of the reasons (discussed here) why your inexperience could actually be a benefit to your new employer. Mention how you embrace challenges, and ask what problems they currently struggle with in their business. You might not come up with an immediate solution but you will show that you are not afraid to try.
Lack of experience in the workplace does not have to be a limitation. You have valuable skills and insight to offer, even when your background doesn’t (yet) perfectly match a given job. And while you learn and grow into a new role you can turn your weakness into strength by bringing fresh perspective and solutions.