There are quite a few reasons why an individual may find themselves without a work history. They could be just starting their working career, or they may have taken time off to start a family. Whatever the reason, if you have gaps in your work experience, you might be wondering if you can still land that dream job.
Although employers often like to see a strong background in a relevant field, with the right tactics, it is still possible to land a great job without a ton of work history.
Stick around as we discuss what work history is, what employers look for in terms of working experience, and the tactics you can use to land your dream job, even if you do not have a lot of work history.
What Is Work History?
Your work history is a record of all the jobs that you have held during your working career. It is not always called work history, and you may find it listed as something different on a resume or application. Some of the other terms used to describe work history include:
- Work Digest
- Work Review
- Work Experience
- Employment History
- Work Record
- Functional Work History
The work history section is where you include any jobs that you hold or have previously held, the dates that you held that job, the company you worked for, your title within the company, and your role in that position. This is not where you would list skills, but it can sometimes be a good idea to include relevant skills in the brief job description.
Is Work History Important?
Yes. Although there are ways to get around not having any work experience, this section of the resume is often the first thing that an employer will look at, because if you lack the experience needed for the job, then there is no reason to continue looking at your resume. For this reason, it is important to include everything you can in your work history.
Luckily, this section does not have to include just jobs. You can list full-time, part-time, and volunteer work. That is why a lot of high-school students will find volunteer opportunities they can use to pad their resumes.
Should I Lie About My Work History on a Resume?
No. Although it may be tempting to lie about your experience, that is never a good idea. Employers are much more likely to forgive a lack of work history than to forgive being lied to about your experience. Additionally, most employers will contact your past supervisors, so if you try to lie, there is a particularly good chance you will get caught.
There may be times when you can hide gaps in your work history by playing with dates. This should only be done when you have a month or two where you have not worked, however, and should not be fabricated to hide large gaps of unemployment.
How Far Back Should My Work History Go?
Technically speaking, if you do not have a lot of work experience, you should go as far back as you can. That being said, most employers are not interested in that summer job you had thirty years ago. They want to know what jobs you have held that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. While some professionals will tell you not to go back further than 15 years, it really comes down to your situation and what jobs will look the best on your application.
|5 – 10 Years||You may want to limit your work history if you did not hold a serious job or have an unpleasant work history in your past. Additionally, if you changed careers, you may want to limit your history to jobs that pertain to that career only.|
|10 – 15 Years||Including 10 to 15 years of work history is usually best (if you have it) and this can include full-time, part-time, self-employment, internships, and volunteer work.|
|15+ Years||Most employers do not look at anything past 15 years because they are only interested in your current experience. For example, you may have worked in the field 20 years ago, but because things have changed so much, you would be inexperienced in the field now. Still, if you have a large gap in your employment history, you can include older jobs.|
How Can I Find My Work History?
So, what if you do not remember the exact dates that you were employed with a job, or even what jobs you have held in your past? Luckily, there are ways that you can find your employment history, and although some of them do cost a bit of money, most of them are free.
- Hire someone — There are companies whom you can hire to track down your full work history. However, you will have to pay for the report. Some people do not mind paying to avoid doing the leg work themselves, but it is possible to do the same thing yourself for free.
- Tax Documents — If you are the type of person who has all your past tax documents stashed away in the attic, you should be able to find your work history quite easily. Additionally, depending on how you filed, you may be able to access these documents online or ask for copies.
- Social Security — If applicable, you might be able to get your full employment history from the Social Security Administration by filling out a Request for Social Security Earnings Information form.
- Earlier Employers or Co-workers — One of the most obvious ways to find your work history is to go right to the source. Most employers are legally required to keep records of their employees for a certain number of years, and if they still have your records, your earlier employers should be able to tell you exactly when you worked for them. Additionally, you might be able to pick the brains of past co-workers who could remember around which years it was that you worked together.
- Credit Reports — This is not a guaranteed way, but if you have a long-standing loan or credit card, you might be able to get information about your earlier work history from these agencies. For example, when you have a mortgage, the bank will often ask you to report any change in income, so your work history should be well documented.
- Benefit Agencies — If you collect benefits from an agency, they will typically ask you to report changes in work status as well. Thus, they will also have a detailed record of your work history. However, they may not have the time to go back through their records to find this for you.
Going forward, you should try to keep detailed records of your work history. Keeping a portfolio is a clever way to do this, and it will save you a lot of time and headache during your next job search.
Can I Get a Job Without Work History?
As we mentioned earlier, there could be several reasons why you might have found yourself with limited job history, but don’t panic just yet! There are several ways that you can overcome gaps in your work history and still land your dream job.
1. Focus on Skills
For some employers, what you bring to the table is far more important than your job experience. If you have skills that are relevant to the field, highlight them as often as you can. These do not have to be skills that come from another job, either. For example, a stay-at-home mother might highlight her time-management skills or her organizational skills. Pull skills from hobbies, volunteer work, and your everyday life. Make sure to focus on both transferable skills, which are skills that can be specific to the job you are trying to get and soft skills, which are generic skills. You can find a list of skills below for inspiration.
- Organizational Skills
- Communication Skills
- Customer Service Skills
- Leadership Skills
- Time-management Skills
- Motivational Skills
- Problem-Solving Skills
- Managerial Skills
- Office/Task Related Skills
- Mastery Skills (Things you have strong knowledge about)
- Interpersonal Skills
- Attention to Detail
- Project Related Skills
Another effective way to overcome a lack of employment history is to have a strong network of people you can call on. Being able to produce glowing recommendations from people who are leaders in the field can often be a terrific way to prove that you have what it takes. Just make sure that if someone does stick their neck out for you that you do not let them down, because that will destroy your network in the future.
3. Find Relevant Experience Opportunities
If you have your sights set on a certain job, but you know there is no way they are going to overlook your lack of experience, try to find ways to get that experience before you apply. For example, you could find volunteer opportunities, internships, or even advocacy work. Plus, your willingness to take a lower-paid job to gain experience will display a dedication to the field that most employers will recognize.
4. Be Honest
Be honest with an employer about your limited experience and explain the reason for the gaps in your work history. If you took time off to raise your children, explain this, and then explain how this helped you to hone skills that might help you in the field today. Some people choose to address their lack of experience in their cover letter, which employers respect because it saves everyone’s time.
5. But Not Too Honest
Honesty is the best policy, but there are times when you can withhold a little. For example, if you have a short gap in your work history, you might choose to put the years down instead of months when describing work experience. This can help to hide short gaps in your employment. For example, if you got done at one job in January 2019, but started another in December 2019, you might choose to put the dates of the first job as 2018 – 2019 and the second job as 2019 – 2022, which hides the gap.
6. Take Online Classes
You can find anything online, including thousands of free or low-cost classes and courses. If you know you lack experience in a certain area, you may be able to find free training to help you bolster your skills. Many of these training courses offer certifications upon completion, which will look great on your resume. Additionally, employers will recognize your motivation to excel in the field.
7. Continued Education
Education can often be used as work experience and can be a fantastic way to pad those gaps when you are not employed. However, education alone is often not a substitute for experience. Still, there are many skills that can be developed as a college student that you can use on your resume. Additionally, many jobs now require a degree to advance in the field.
8. Fill Out Applications
You should not hold back simply because you do not think you will get the job. Many employers are begging for qualified individuals, and they may see your potential even though you don’t.
9. Follow Up
It cannot be stressed enough that you should always follow up on any application you have sent in. Wait a day or two and then call the company to inquire about your application status. Some employers will not even consider a person unless they take this step, so make sure to be that squeaky wheel.
Additionally, if you are not hired for the position, ask for feedback about their decision. What would you need to do to be considered in the future? What caused them to turn you down? Knowing what caused you not to get a job in one place may help you overcome the same problem with another company.
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