Lack experience? Make it up

This month, we’ve been focusing on how to craft impact-oriented careers and highlighting women in the public and nonprofit sectors. But a lot of folks I work with who are trying to break into this space may be coming from a more corporate background.

Fortunately, Alexis Perrotta, Editor at Idealist Careers, had just the advice for bosses who are looking to make up for resume shortcomings the smart way:

“We get a lot of questions from individuals interested in transitioning to a career in which they don’t have a ton of experience. Of course, in the nonprofit sector, when you’re on the job hunt and feel like your experience leaves something to be desired, your initial impulse may be to fill in those resume gaps with volunteer service. While I think volunteering is always a fantastic thing to do – both for your community and for your resume – there is a tremendous opportunity to go deeper by creating your own work.

If you’re lacking the experience that you think you need and you’re not finding the professional development opportunities of your dreams at your current gig, consider inventing your own project and then finding a way to showcase the work on your resume.

For example, if you’re interested in becoming a grant writer but don’t have the experience, show potential employers that you can write a proposal from their perspective by actually doing it. Start by searching grants and foundations by category to find a grant that would actually be a fit for an organization you’d love to work for. Next, follow the instructions provided in the RFP (which are usually publicly available) and create a draft grant application.

Or perhaps, you’d like a role developing website copy and content. In that case, creating your own digital portfolio is a great way to go, as it will serve two purposes: it allows you to showcase your work and it gives you an opportunity to create your very own website copy (on your very own website!). Meta, right?

My point is that in most cases, you don’t need to wait for the work to come to you. Instead, you can create your own opportunities to gain the experience and skill you need – by just doing it.

My disclaimer here is that, although you may have put your all into this project, don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by throwing it into the ‘Job Experience’ section on your resume. Instead, create a new section on your resume called ‘Independent Projects,’ or something that makes sense for you and your work, and highlight it there.”

What’s your take on today’s boss tip from Alexis? Have you found clever ways to fill in the gaps in your resume when navigating a major career shift? I’d love to hear about them on social media at @emiliearies and @bosseduporg.

Find more related resources in today’s show notes and more from Alexis at And as always, weigh in on the conversation in the Bossed Up Courage Community on Facebook.

I can’t wait to hear what you think!

This article first appeared on Bossed UpEmilie Aries is the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up and the co-host of Stuff Mom Never Told You, the fiercely feminist podcast by HowStuffWorks.

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