It’s a job seeker’s catch-22. You want the job, but don’t have the experience they require, so you can’t ever get the experience you need to get that job. It’s probably the single greatest frustration of the job seeker who would like to break into a new field.
You know you have what it takes; you know that your skill set and personality make you a potentially great fit; yet you never get the chance to prove yourself because your CV disqualifies you every time.
What not to do
I’ll start with what you should never do in this situation: don’t lie. And that includes not making up or blowing up relevant experience in your CV; it also means not saying you have more experience than you actually do in your cover letter or email, even if your CV does tell the truth about your professional background. Lying (or poetic license, or stretching, or exaggeration) will definitely hurt you in the long run, and will probably trip you up in the short run too.
Why? Because the single most important trait EVERY employer is looking for, though they may not put it into the job description, is trustworthiness. And you present yourself as untrustworthy when you misrepresent yourself to your employer, whether they find out immediately, and therefore don’t even interview you, or find out after they have hired you.
What can you do?
Revise your CV
The first thing you can do to get yourself hired without the specific experience that the employer is seeking is to revise your CV to emphasize the relevant experience that you do have. You probably have some relevant experience, or you wouldn’t know that you like the field and are good at it. Perhaps you have done similar tasks but in a different setting; perhaps you have filled a similar role, but in a volunteer capacity; perhaps your previous job put you in close contact with the ins and outs of the role you would like to take on. Whatever it is, make it stand out in your CV – but not at the expense of honesty about your employment history.
The second thing you can do is to go out and get some relevant experience, by volunteering in your field of interest. This type of activity can help you in a number of ways. First, it will give you a taste of what the work is really like, so you can be sure you do want to make the move into this field; second, it will give you real experience to put on your CV; and third, it will gain you professional connections in the field, and hopefully professionals who are willing to vouch for your skills among their colleagues.
The third thing you can do is to get yourself recommended from within. If you have a contact within the hiring organization, or you are professionally friendly with a colleague of the CEO or hiring manager, let them know how much you would appreciate the opportunity to interview for this role, and ask if they would be willing to recommend that you be interviewed. If it works, it will then be up to you to convince them that you have what it takes to hit the ground running.
It’s becoming more and more common for professionals to move from one field to another, once or even twice or three times during their career; and it’s often a blessing for the hiring company or organization to gain an employee who has a broader professional perspective. You just need to find the right path to gain entry and make your case.