Career

No Work Experience in Your Desired Field? Here’s How to Build Your Resume Anyway

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Joanne Poh

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Despite the fact that most Singaporeans are reportedly miserable in their jobs, not many people have the guts to switch careers. That could be because one of the most off-putting factors about doing so is having to start from scratch as a fresh grad, fighting for the scraps thrown at those who are younger, stronger and more energetic than you.

If you have zero work experience, whether because you’ve been a stay at home mum for years, are making a mid-career switch or simply spent the last 5 years watching anime in your bedroom, here are some ways you can beef up your resume.

 

Take on some related side projects

If you’re making a mid-career switch, the biggest problem you face is that you can’t exactly take on relevant work or an internship while you’re still in your freakin’ job, unless you work the night shift and can survive on 1 hour of sleep a night.

But taking on a side project that’s related to the field you’re targeting can be very helpful. This is especially so if you’re looking to join an industry where your portfolio matters.

Want to become a programmer? If you successfully master a few programming languages like Ruby or Python and write a few kickass applications in your spare time, you’ll have no trouble getting hired even if the only degree you have is in kickboxing.

You might not be able to think of a side project related to your new industry, but there’s one for almost every area of work. Looking to get into marketing? Start a blog and drive traffic to it using social media and SEO, skills you’ll definitely need these days.

 

Take relevant courses

The Singaporean adult with bills to pay is usually not prepared to quit work for a year or two to get a masters degree. But there are quite a few part-time masters courses available not only at SIM, SIT and private schools like MDIS, but also NUS and NTU.

For instance, a lawyer friend of mine is undertaking a part-time Masters in International Relations at NTU while keeping her full-time job, in hopes of one day being able to work in an international NGO. Classes are typically held between 6:30 to 9:30pm, and she has to juggle deadlines at work with exams. Hint: to defray the costs of your postgrad qualification, check if it’s on the list of courses you can pay for using your $500 SkillsFuture credit.

If that sounds like too much of a commitment to you, all is not lost. You can still use your $500 SkillsFuture credit to pay for short skills-upgrading courses, so choose wisely.

Want to move from engineering to finance? There’s a plethora of banking and finance related courses you can pay for with SkillsFuture credit, such as SMU’s Essentials of Trade Finance module. If you’re too lazy to travel to school after work, you can even take an online course like Coursera’s Introduction to Corporate Finance.

 

Pick up transferrable skills at work or through volunteering

Unless your desired job is building space shuttles on Mars, you can probably pick up some valuable skills right now by volunteering with an organisation, or even from your current job. Before you quit your current job, make sure you pick up as many transferrable skills as possible at your workplace.

For instance, I used to work at a law firm where all the web design and online marketing was done in-house, by one IT guy. Often, these jobs were offloaded onto the junior lawyers. If any of them had been contemplating a career in web design or marketing, they could have gotten some free work experience on the job.

I have other friends who managed to move from technical roles in engineering and web design to project management, and many got a head start by requesting for project management tasks in the early years of their career, slowing building up their reserve of experience before jumping ship.

If there are zero opportunities at your company, don’t underestimate the value of volunteer work.

Organisations often have many of the same needs as companies. Even ministers in Singapore have social media managers! If you’re looking to join accounting and are working on your ACCA, join Pro Bono Accountancy Singapore, which offers accounting help to charity organisations.

Even if your current job seems to be getting in the way of your dream career, the worst thing you could do is give up and resign yourself to a lifetime of what-ifs.

What other ways can you gain unrelated work experience without quitting your current job? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.