No Experience Unnecessary
By Bob Goldman

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Personal question -- what is your dream job?

My dream job is to be a cowboy. I want to ride the range on a golden palomino with my spurs jingling as I rope cows and shoot varmints.

Unfortunately, I simply have zero experience at cowboying. I can't ride a horse. I can't find spurs my size at Brooks Brothers, and I am much more likely to rope varmints and shoot cows.

Given this sad situation, you can only imagine the loud "Hee-Haw!" that burst from my lips when I read "Four Ways To Get Hired When You Have No Relevant Experience For the Job You Want," a recent Caroline Ceniza-Levine article on Forbes.

Ceniza-Levine is a straight shooter.

"The blunt truth is that you always must have experience related to the job you want," she says, "because employers don't hire for potential."

For those of us who have neither experience nor potential, there are ways around this basic truth. Four ways, to be specific.

  • Volunteer experience.

    Considering your compensation level, I think you can make the case that your current job is pretty much a volunteer position, but what Ceniza-Levine has in mind is taking on a totally unpaid position, strictly for the experience.

    "Volunteering expands your skill base and your network," she writes," and you demonstrate your commitment to your new field."

    Unfortunately, most volunteer positions actually expect you to do some work. You will have to look long and hard to find charitable organizations desperate enough to take on someone whose best skills are gossiping about their co-workers and complaining about their boss.

    Still, the situation is not hopeless. Your skill at napping makes you uniquely qualified to test mattresses for endangered species. Knowing whether a Sumatran rhinoceros would be happier with firm foam or a cushy pillow top could help save this vanishing species. Best of all, your experience dealing with slow-moving, dangerous animals would help qualify you for a position in any company's HR department.
  • Project experience.

    According to Ceniza-Levine, you "may not even have to look outside your current job to get some hands-on experience." Simply volunteer for a position within your company that would highlight your unique, but hidden skills.

    For example, you could show leadership ability by volunteering to mentor to new hires. With your experience at avoiding work, you would be the perfect person to teach newbies how to cling to their jobs using the skills you have mastered, like becoming invisible when a manager is looking for you, and crafting CYA memos for bungling projects you have yet to begin.
  • Academic experience.

    Ceniza-Levine believes "you do not have to get a formal graduate degree to make a career change." This means you can stop working on your application to Stanford Business School and use that time on gaining "certifications or self-study."

    This is a terrific idea. Think of how your resume will pop when you can add, "NACMCF Certified." With the alphabet soup nomenclature common in the certification universe, it's very unlikely that a potential employer will know that highfalutin certification qualifies you to be a food inspector. And if a sneaky hiring manager does happen to know, you can certainly back up the certification with your long experience in monitoring your co-workers' lunches in the employee fridge.

    Really, some of the food these people bring to work is totally unsafe, and they should thank you for stealing it.
  • Deep, curated experience.

    "We all know at least one person who maintains deep expertise in a field completely unrelated to their job," says our author, and it's true. Like the person who can't throw a baseball, but knows the stats for every ballplayer since Shoeless Joe Jackson. His detail orientation and the sheer depth of this otherwise useless knowledge could help him win a job, assuming he's applying for the position of third-base umpire.

    The lesson here -- don't be afraid to let hiring managers see your special skill -- an encyclopedic knowledge of all 13 seasons of "The Bachelorette."

    "Who's your favorite bachelorette?" is the perfect answer when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. "I thought DeAnna Pappas was No. 1, but you've got to love Kaitlyn Bristowe. She's got spunk!"

    Yes, some interviewers will look askance at your response, but when they realize how deeply you care about something so profoundly trivial, they'll know there's a place for you in the company.

    A place we cowboys call "senior management."

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com