Dear Joanna

I have started my job search for my very first paid job ever! With the help of my Reena job coach from the Summer Employment Transitions program (SET), I’m preparing a resume and cover letter as well as identify suitable jobs. Unfortunately I have little work experience as a new high school graduate.  However,  I do have many skills, abilities, interests and hobbies. How can I overcome this challenge?

Signed: Lack of Experience

Dear LOE,

This is a common challenge that new job seekers have in their search for paid employment in the competitive labour market. After consulting with our job coaches as well as this informative blog, here are some excellent suggestions to help you deal with this in your job search:

  1. Understanding your transferable skills, If you lack work experience there are many things you can do to build up your resume. Start by listing your previous achievements, no matter how big or small they are. Did you complete a course at school? Were you involved in extra-curricular activities at school? Did you belong to a club? Have you successfully given a presentation? It is important to remember that all these achievements required skills to complete and whether this was teamwork, sticking to deadlines or being a leader, you will have learned ways of working that will be transferable in the workplace.  
  • A positive attitude. This is a skill in itself. Use this to sell yourself, even if you lack the experience required. By being your best self and describing what experience and skills you do have you will be able to make a lasting impression on your resume and at an interview.  
  • Build on your experience for your resume.
  1. Volunteering: There are opportunities out there that you may not have considered in the past. Volunteering is an excellent way to build your skills and experience for your resume. However, it can be the perfect position to learn transferable skills in action. Many volunteering positions will provide you with relevant training, a chance to learn from others, meet new people and potentially find a career goal, hidden skills and passions – all of which add up to experience.
  • Free online resources. You can your knowledge and skills  by watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and attending different free online training courses on relevant topics to your job/ career goal. This is your first step to learning something new. Add these trainings and skills to your resume. Many even come with accreditation that you can add to your resume. Linkedin, and  My World of Work are a couple of excellent resources.
  • Internships, Co-ops or Work Experience placements are ways to learn more skills and gain experience. Usually these are offered through school or find a non profit community or social service organization that has a recognized volunteer department. Although these positions may not be paid or even well paid, the same results occur as when you volunteer – building up your resume, meeting people and you never know – the placement could lead to paid employment!
  • Part-time Study. There are many opportunities to learn part-time to work around your job search schedule and other responsibilities and activities. Many colleges and universities offer night classes where you can gain the relevant skills required to reach your goals.

A lack of work experience doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting a job. Remember – all experience and skills are valid. You can explore other ways to develop new skills and build your experience to add content to your resume as well as help you with your job search and eventually to land your dream job!


To submit your challenges, concerns, questions and comments regarding this column and/or your job search IN CONFIDENCE, please email Joanna Samuels, Employment Resource Supervisor, Reena –