Inexperience has been the universal Achilles’ heel for college students and recent grads attempting to enter into the job market. Even the most accomplished graduating senior who has taken full advantage of part-time jobs and summer internships throughout all four years is deterred by the entry-level job postings requiring two or more years of experience. It was certainly something that frustrated my friends and me during our first job search out of college.
Last year, I was watching Natalie Portman’s Commencement speech to the Harvard Class of 2015. In it, she said that “inexperience is an asset and will allow you to think in original, unconventional ways,” describing a famous violinist she knows who can’t compose because “he knows too many pieces, so when he starts to think of a note, an existing piece immediately comes to mind.”
It was a speech that struck me as a recent grad who is now helping job-seeking college students and recent grads realize what they bring to the table. Where previous dialogue around younger candidates painted them as a risk, Portman’s speech challenged the idea. What if inexperience isn’t a hindrance? What if, by not knowing the realm of what can and cannot be done (or what should and should not be done), young candidates are intrinsically valuable? They aren’t inhibited by prior assumptions, they aren’t tied down by the idea that a plan of action won’t work. They simply don’t know and so, they try: they pitch a creative idea, they approach a problem in a new way, they wield their potential to improve consumers’ lives or benefit a business.
Liane Hajduch, head of University Partnerships at WayUp and a former campus recruiter for RBC Capital Markets, Moelis & Company, and Venmo, found that often, the college candidates who didn’t match the exact qualifications of the job description were the ones she found to be most successful. “They had a genuine passion and were willing to go the extra mile to prove themselves,” she says.
Take Josh Miller, who left Princeton a year early and co-founded Branch Media, catching the attention of Facebook, which acquired Branch in 2014. Take the founders of Venmo, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, who launched the successful, go-to social payment app not long after they graduated. The list of young innovators is constantly growing each year; whether they continue to pursue the companies they started or move on to impact other businesses, their inexperience isn’t something that stands in their way.
That is why, when I speak to college students and recent grads concerned about their lack of work experience, I tell them to talk about what they have to offer: from their learnings in related coursework to the leadership skills they’ve gained in their extracurriculars — especially the projects and interests they pursue outside of school that speak to their self-starter mindset. The ultimate takeaway shouldn’t be a resume lacking in years of experience. Young job-seekers, your ambition, willingness to work hard, and creative problem-solving, regardless of past experience, will propel your career forward.
Employers, give your young candidates the opportunity to surprise you: give them the chance to be a part of your team, and hand them real responsibilities they can run with. See how your business changes because of them.
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This article was written by Kema Christian-Taylor from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.