tips and tricks for getting a job without experience

No work experience? No worries. We all have to start somewhere.

Looking for a job can be challenging, but also very exciting, as you never know where the opportunity might take you. But when most jobs advertised ask for previous work experience, the search for work can feel like a full-time job in itself! So, what can you do to get a job with little-to-no work experience or in a new area of interest? We’ve put together a list of tips to help you out.

1. Identify your strongest personal qualities

Many employers will hire a person who fits their company culture and who demonstrates values important to their business - even if they don't possess all the skills necessary for the job at the time of applying. Personal qualities or traits are the things that make up who you are. There are many qualities that are highly regarded by employers including:  

  • Friendliness 
  • Professionalism 
  • Helpfulness 
  • Responsiveness  
  • Dedication  
  • Curiosity  
  • Commitment to learning and growth.  


It’s also important to express to potential employers your enthusiasm and motivation for the opportunity. Employers are more likely to consider candidates who have a positive attitude and express a sincere interest in the role, as these qualities are highly valued in the workplace. If you're unsure about how to demonstrate your enthusiasm and motivation, you could state that you are excited to be applying for the job in your cover letter or make note of your ambition in your resume. 

Sometimes, thinking of the things you’re good at or what your personal qualities are can be tricky. You could consider what other people (such as a family member, sports coach, teacher, friend's parent, or a respected Elder) have said about you in the past, or you could ask yourself: ‘How would my friend/s describe me? What would they say is my strongest personal quality?’ 

2. Identify what makes you a fit for the job

Do some research into the company and the job to help you identify what skills the employer is looking for and then think about the skills that you have. You can generally find this information in the job description or in the ‘about us’ section on the company website. If these align, it could mean that you’re a good fit for the role. One way you can identify if your skills align with what an employer is looking for is to make a list of all the skills listed in the position description and see if you can identify examples of how you have successfully used some or all these skills in your extracurricular activities. 

Examples of skills that can be transferrable into lots of different jobs include: 

  • Computer skills 
  • Teamwork  
  • Communication 
  • Research skills 
  • Problem-solving  


Try to think outside of the box - everything that you’ve done previously will have helped you gain a skill of some kind. Consider things like volunteering for school events, contributions within your sports team or helping the neighbours or family friends with chores or small jobs. It doesn’t matter if you did some of these things once or multiple times – every bit of experience counts!  

Check out this article from Indeed for more information on the differences between qualities and skills and how to highlight them to potential employers. 

3. Consider suitable jobs for your level of experience

When looking for positions that match your level of experience, entry-level jobs typically require minimal education, training and experience. When you apply for these roles, you won't be expected to have a resume filled with experience. Start by targeting jobs that you feel you could succeed in - those that you can easily transfer the personal qualities and skills you already have. 

You can still consider jobs where you don't meet ALL of the criteria. Read on for some tips and advice on how to assess your suitability when you don’t meet all the criteria for a job you’re interested in.

4. Apply for the job, even if you don’t meet all the criteria

Most job descriptions will have sections that highlight ‘must have’ and ‘preferred’ skills, qualities or experience. The ‘must haves’ are generally not negotiable. Some examples of non-negotiables might include having a driver’s licence, having a specific number of years’ experience in an industry, being available for specific shifts, or having a relevant qualification. 

Examples of ‘preferred’ skills, qualities or experience might include strong written and verbal communication skills, experience in a specific industry, or confidence using computers, software applications and other technology.  

Employers are generally quite clear in outlining what is mandatory and what is preferred when it comes to their ideal candidate. Statements like ‘you must have’, ‘you will need’, ‘required’ or ‘essential’ in the job description indicate what parts are mandatory. If you can meet all (or the majority) of the non-negotiables, there is no harm in applying! If you are unsure, there is usually a contact person listed on the job advertisement. Give them a call or send them an email and ask questions to see if there is any flexibility with their job requirements. Contacting this person may also set you up for success by establishing a connection with the potential employer before the interview process.  

Things like police checks, First Aid certificates, Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificates and Working with Children Checks are generally quick and easy to get, and you can express your willingness to obtain these within your cover letter or job application if you don’t already have them. 

It’s important to be realistic so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. If a job description is explicitly asking for a certain number of years’ experience or a qualification that you do not have, it might be best to move on to something else.   

5. Start volunteering or work experience

If you’re struggling to find a job due to experience requirements, you could consider volunteering or work experience to build transferable skills and to help you get a better understanding of the industries you’re interested in.  

You’ll not only gain valuable experience and contribute to an organisation that needs you, you’ll also be able to build a professional network or get a foot in the door in your preferred industry. Volunteering and work experience are great ways to ‘test out’ what it’s like to work in a specific industry, and if you’ve never had a job before, it can also help you get a feel for what a job or workplace is actually like. You’ll gain experience in things like getting up at certain times, following instructions, interacting with co-workers and customers, and much more. 

Make sure that you’re volunteering for an organisation that has a verified volunteer program. SEEK Volunteer, Volunteering Australia and Go Volunteer are great sites to help you find volunteer opportunities in your local area. 

We do want to acknowledge that not everyone will have the financial flexibility to volunteer or take on unpaid work. You can ask for clear expectations that both you and the organisation agree to in writing – things like how long you plan to stay and hours of work. It's also important to find an organisation that values your contributions and doesn't misuse your efforts. For more information on acceptable conditions of unpaid and volunteer work see Fair Work.  

6. Network

Networking refers to making connections and building relationships to help you in your career. Building your personal network can be a great pathway to a job in any stage of life. Try to connect with everyone you know—and in turn with everyone they know—through networking on LinkedIn, community and professional events, career expos and school-based career events. Sometimes the people in your life can connect you with people in their lives who may help you get a foot in the door. People in your network can also speak about who you are as an individual in a more professional capacity which can be a great addition to your resume! Read more about how to get started with networking

7. Keep learning

There may be times where you’ll need further education to qualify for what you really want to do. You can find ways to keep your skills current and expand your base of knowledge through free or low-cost short courses, or online courses. A great place to start is to check out your local TAFE website as they often have fee-free short course options. 

It’s important to balance this with your other commitments though. If you’re in school, you may not have the capacity to complete a full certificate qualification – but you may be able to complete a short course or one-off qualification (such as a barista course, RSA, or First Aid).  

By taking the time to learn and develop your skills, it shows potential employers that you are motivated and willing to learn new things, which is a bonus in the job application process! 



8. Be resilient, be persistent, be patient

It may take a little while for you to get a job. Do something small every day with the mindset that it is not a waste of time, but a chance to learn and explore. Experiencing setbacks along the way can also be a learning experience, especially if you follow up with employers and ask for feedback. Check out how to handle job rejections for some ideas on things you can try and how to ask for feedback. 

It can also help to allow yourself a break from the job search process and set aside time for hobbies and interests. Taking time for self-care is super important in making sure you don’t burn yourself out. To learn more about how to stay motivated during your job search and ways to manage job search stress, check out our tips for managing stress and anxiety during your job hunt. And of course, reach out to get help. headspace Work and Study can support you in your job search. 

What are good first jobs to consider?

There are a range of jobs that young people often apply for when they are looking to enter the workforce for the first time. Some examples include: 

  • Retail: Retail jobs are generally focused on customer service and position titles can include retail assistant, sales assistant, check out assistants and merchandiser. Some examples of organisations that offer retail positions include Woolworths, Kmart, Big W, Target and Coles – just to name a few. Check out Retail Skills: Definition and Examples for more information on the retail industry and examples of skills that you can gain in these roles. 

  • Hospitality/fast food: Some hospitality roles are similar to retail because they are customer facing, but there are also other jobs such as kitchen hand or housekeeping that are less customer focused. Other position titles can include bar & beverage staff, wait staff, and tour guides. Examples of common hospitality organisations could include local cafes and restaurants, take-away stores, and fast-food organisations like McDonalds, KFC and Hungry Jacks. Check out Hospitality Skills: Definition and Examples for more information. 

  • Childcare/babysitting: Many young people use babysitting as an opportunity to earn some money before getting a formal job. People often start out by minding the children of family, friends, and other people that they know well. Being a babysitter is a flexible job option that you can structure around your study and social life, and it can also prepare you for jobs with children, such as being a nanny, childcare worker or teacher.  

  • Other short-term opportunities: When you’re first starting out and wanting to earn a bit of money and gain some experience, there are a few short-term jobs that you could consider such as: 
    • dog-walking
    • lawn maintenance or garden maintenance 
    • tutoring 
    • supporting roles at local events or festivals
    • coaching, umpiring, or refereeing for local sports teams 

Things to know about pay and first jobs

The million-dollar question: how much will you get paid? It’s important to know that in Australia, many entry-level jobs will generally be paid under an award, which is a legal requirement that outlines the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment. The type of award that is relevant to you will depend on the industry and the type of role you’re looking at. Minimum wages are often based on your age and can increase as you get older. Every award has information about who it covers, so if you’d like to get an idea of what you might get paid and what award is relevant to a job you’re interested in, check out this pay and conditions tool from Fair work. 

Another question that a lot of young people ask is, “is it legal to be paid in cash?”. The short answer is yes, it is legal. It’s common to be paid cash if you’re doing odd jobs for others like babysitting, dog walking or yard work. There are also some businesses that pay their employees in cash, and while it is legal, there are a few things you should be aware of when receiving cash for work you do

What are apprenticeships and traineeships?

Apprenticeships and traineeships are an opportunity to earn while you learn. You will generally work on site at a business, and study towards a qualification with a registered training organisation at the same time. There are so many reasons why an apprenticeship or traineeship could be right for you. Let’s start by exploring the difference between them. 

Apprenticeship Careers Australia states ‘The main difference between a traineeship and an apprenticeship is that a traineeship is offered in a broader range of occupations and is shorter - typically over one or two years. An apprenticeship covers skilled trades and takes a lot longer – usually three to four years, either full or part-time.’ 

Common industries for apprenticeships include structured on-the-job training focused on trades in hairdressing, automotive, electrical, mechanical, bricklaying, plumbing, and carpentry. Traineeships target other industries such as healthcare, beauty services, support work, infrastructure, engineering, business, IT, digital marketing, hospitality and events.  

A notable difference is the duration. Apprenticeships are generally completed over 3-4 years (full or part-time) whereas traineeships are 12months to 2 years (full or part-time).  

If you’re still in high school, you could speak to your student services department about options for a school-based traineeship or apprenticeship. School-based apprenticeships and traineeships allow high school students (usually in Years 10, 11 or 12) to earn a wage, train towards a nationally recognised qualification and study towards their Certificate of Education at the same time. It usually takes twice as long to complete an apprenticeship or traineeship at school than it does to do one full-time, because school-based apprentices and trainees work fewer hours. 

For more information on apprenticeships and traineeships you could check out the Fair Work Ombudsman and Australian Apprenticeships


Searching for a job, especially your first job, can be a daunting process. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Everyone who has searched for work, such as your friends and family members, would have also started out with little or no experience. Patience, determination and dedication can be great values to have when you’re a job seeker.  

And remember, there’s help out there!




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If you're aged 15 – 25, headspace Work & Study is tailored to your needs and can support you in developing the skills and confidence to reach your work or study goals. If you’re over 18, you could also connect with a headspace career mentor

For more information, find your nearest headspace centre or for online and telephone support, visit eheadspace.


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Last reviewed June 2024.


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