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If you have been searching for a new job you have probably run across phrases such as the following, which I’ve taken directly from published job openings:

Minimum of 10 years EXPERIENCE in property management, senior director level for a Property Management position.

Or, for an accounting position, “EXPERIENCE in Accounts Payable/Receivable, past EXPERIENCE with Paychex a huge plus.

Or, for an Oracle Applications Project Manager position, you find the following: “5+ years of EXPERIENCE in application integration or development and design, with 5+ years business analyst, project management EXPERIENCE.”

Experience, Experience, Experience. They all insist on having experience. What does this demand for experience mean to a recent college or high school graduate? What does it mean for a more mature worker? What are the differences, the nuances, in these scenarios?

First, it is obvious that employers want individuals with experience doing the same type of work for another employer. In other words, they want someone they do not have to train, someone who can make an immediate contribution.

Why, you ask, do they not hire the best candidate, then train that candidate to do the job? Because it takes time, and dollars, and trainers to design and conduct the training. There is an extra cost to the employer to hire inexperienced individuals, or at least the employer feels that there is the perception that it is more expensive and less productive to hire an inexperienced worker.

For a more experienced worker, further analysis reveals a somewhat sinister result: The career path you start on, may be the career path you are (almost) forced to stay on.

If one is a recent graduate, and you are one of the fortunate ones to find a position in today’s job environment, you may find that you are on the road to a “career path.” It is like you find yourself on a railroad track – career path – and to change that career path is not easy. Is this true? Yes, often it is.

Does this mean that a job search candidate cannot transition to another type of work in different industry? No, it simply means that it is more difficult to make a career change, especially when one accumulates a wealth of experience doing a certain type of work in a set industry.

Are there job search techniques that will enable the job search candidate to make a career change? Yes, there are. Are they easy? That depends one’s personal motivation.

Is it possible that taking a step backward, taking a position at a lower level than you prefer, to get your foot in the door of a new type of work and a different industry, is the way to go? Could be, but be aware that “taking a step backward” is not easy to do either. Employers are not eager to hire folks who are just looking to obtain some work experience so they can jump ship in just a short time. That scenario does not make good economic sense for an employer.

When times are tough, as they are today, companies that would formerly have provided training simply drop the availability of training. It is one of the first cost centers to be eliminated, or reduced, in troubled economic times. And with a plethora of skilled talent waiting to return to work, often an employer that demands “experienced” workers with “industry experience” finds those folks available in the job market.

When one conducts a job search in the new millennium, it is wise to focus one’s efforts in those areas and those industries where one has industry experience.

If you are currently attending college, you may wish to make sure that your college major will lead to a job. A college major that is vocationally-oriented is always helpful. If your college major is accounting, you will seek a position as an accountant when you graduate. It is unfortunate that too often college majors are of little help after one graduates when a job becomes the primary focus.

If you are attending a vocational school that is training you for a specific type of work, good for you. If you are presently in school, often part-time jobs provide a wealth of experience and knowledge for a particular industry, and also provide experience in the business world. Some schools also provide an Internship program.

If you are a more experienced worker, you may wish to assess your transferable skills and abilities and target decision-makers in those industries that would be able to utilize those abilities. Schedule meetings with individuals in those industries that are logical for the type of work that you are seeking, or better yet, target individuals in the business world who are already performing the kind of work in which you have an interest.

Is it possible to escape the “Experience Only” demand? Of course. It is done every day. Be motivated, utilize positive thinking, be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, and make it happen.

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