Without a Past, You Have No Future

Let's call her "A." Armed with a B.A. in Communications from Hebrew University, he has been trying to get a job at an advertising agency for over six months. She did not scrimp on phone calls, sent out plenty of resumes, and in two instances, even reached the personal interview stage with agency managers. But each time, her candidacy was rejected. A., 25, was willing to work for minimum wage or even less, but most of the advertising agencies to which she applied did not even respond.

The few responses A. did receive revealed that the reason she was not offered a position was her lack of experience. Most employers in the advertising industry, as is the case in many other industries, prefer to hire workers with specific job experience.

"I feel rejected, almost like a leper simply because I have just completed by studies and I am now seeking, of course, to enter the job market," A. says.

Too great an investment

Job seekers who have just completed their studies and have no job experience find themselves stuck. Many cannot find work in the fields in which they qualified, even among growing companies, since most firms believe employing inexperienced workers, even university graduates, involves too great an investment. How, then, are these graduates supposed to gain experience if they cannot find employment?

"Inexperienced job seekers are usually in their early 20s or 30s," says Avi Coleman, manager of the Israeli branch of the global Adecco human resources company. "They have completed their studies, some are university graduates, and a considerable number have Master's degrees.

"In the past four years, the advertising industry has experienced many mergers of small companies into medium-sized ones, resulting in layoffs," Coleman says. This means that basically the only job candidates likely to find work are those with experience.

Coleman says that even in the high-tech sector, which is still recuperating from the post-bubble years, workers with proven experience are more likely to find jobs than newcomers.

"When high-tech was burgeoning, companies accepted almost everyone who faxed a resume, including candidates lacking experience," Coleman says. "Now companies shy away from investing in nurturing the next generation of young workers. [Companies] are seeking experienced workers who can make an immediate contribution."

Young people are important

Ilanit Dahan, head of human resources at IFN Systems, which has 67 employees, says the company has an equal opportunity policy for inexperienced workers, since all job candidates are tested for their proficiency in the company's field of expertise.

"An inexperienced candidate who passes the test will be hired and his chances for advancement in the company are equal to those of new workers with previous experience," Dahan says.

Still, she understands the overall reluctance of high-tech companies to hire inexperienced workers, explaining that their output is low during the first three-to-six months on the job, and they often need mentoring by another employee. To their credit, however, Dahan says that inexperienced employees have the advantage of being more open to new work patterns. Furthermore, an inexperienced worker is likely to stay longer at a company, although this depends on his faith and promotion opportunities.

Inbal Kfir-Talmon, head of human resources at SunGard Business Integration, which has 100 employees in Israel and 70 in the United States and Europe, also maintains a positive approach toward recent graduates, and believes it would be a mistake to build a company on experienced workers alone.

"When a company sets up a development team, it is important for there to be a healthy mix of older, experienced workers and young inexperienced ones," Kfir-Talmon says.

She believes this heterogeneous mix also prevents conflicts within a team. If all team members are experienced, they will compete for the most interesting and challenging tasks, which can cause friction and hamper the actual work. Furthermore, experienced workers can mentor the newcomers and improve their own chances for reaching managerial positions.

Landing a job

What can inexperienced candidates do to better their chances of finding work in their field? Coleman advises them to try their luck at sales and service centers operated by cellular operators, Internet service providers and insurance companies - operations that are willing to invest in training personnel.

"Within a year or two, new workers can develop a career as a team leader or shift supervisor and receive higher-than-average wages," Coleman says.

Kfir-Talmon says that inexperienced job seekers should highlight their own advantages over experienced candidates - high motivation, a desire to learn, no burn out, and a willingness to do almost any task for the company.

Dahan believes that an inexperienced candidate's chances of finding work in high-tech depend on adapting expectations to reality. Young graduates must realize they are not going to get the job of their dreams right away.

"It is better to accept a temporary job on a short-term project, for example, than to sit at home waiting for a miracle," Dahan says. "The experience gained on that project will appear as a new line on your resume, and if you proved yourself on the project, the company might ask you to stay."