How to Break Into an Industry With No Experience

Man on top of mountain with arms out, embracing the view and freedom

If I told you I did something many consider impossible, would you believe me?

No, I didn’t teleport—and I didn’t turn lead into gold.

Yet, I did break into an industry where I had no prior experience, no prior connections, and very limited skills.

You may be looking for a change in your career. You feel like doing something that fits better with your goals and vision for your life. But that feels impossible.

“I have no experience.”

“Nobody knows me.”

“I’m not good enough.”

Sound familiar?

When I decided to try to become a data analyst, I didn’t have a deep Rolodex of contacts or an award-winning portfolio of projects.

Actually, I had no portfolio.

I’ll take you through my story and process so you can see how I turned my dream of being a data analyst into a reality.

My Story

There I was, sitting in my former bedroom, wondering what I was going to do next with my life. It was December 2016. I was living abroad in Santiago, Chile and teaching English full-time. I knew that job wasn’t something I wanted to turn into my career.

Once again, I was stepping back to square one.

First, I looked inside myself and asked myself some questions:

What am I good at?

What can I offer the world?

How do my skills translate to real jobs in today’s economy?

I knew I liked data. I liked being able to take what seems like a mess of random information and turn it into a coherent narrative—one that people can use for knowledge and decision-making.

I had dabbled in learning computer programming, spending my vacation working through textbooks on the Python programming language. I knew that I could work intensely, focusing on one task for a long period of time without distractions.

All of this led me to decide to try my hand at becoming a data analyst. It helped that this was a field with lots of opportunity. I returned to Santiago and immediately enrolled in an online course on data analysis.

Connecting to my broader network

While completing that course, I started breaking out of my shell and meeting new people.

Santiago has a strong expat network, so there were plenty of opportunities to get out. I went to language events to work on my Spanish, networking events, and yes, good old-fashioned parties.

I met a lot of new people, including people who worked in the technology industry.

Skip to June 2017: I completed my online class, and now I had to clear the next hurdle: actually finding a job.

In addition to scouring job boards, I reached out to people I had met over the past several months who worked in tech. I shared my résumé and my desire to break into the data analysis.

Shortly after, I got the message I was looking for.

One of the people I met had a small company and was looking for a data analyst who could grow with them. After a conversation together, I hopped on board and haven’t looked back!

Networking takeaways

Now that you know my story, here are some principles that you can take and apply to your own life to tap into the power of your network:

Connect, connect, connect

I know what you’re thinking, “Okay Andrew, that’s a nice story, but you got lucky. How will that work for me? I mean, who meets their next boss at a party?”

Hey, I did—you could, too.

Networks work in mysterious ways. I’m sure that there’s some scientific theory or math equation somewhere that models the flow of information.

But the thing to keep in mind is that people know and talk to each other. Word gets around. If you’re networking with people in the area you want, eventually, opportunities come your way.

The only way to take advantage of this power, though, is to get out there and meet people. And don’t hide behind your email, either. Face-to-face interactions are always best.

Be genuine

Too many people think that networking is about regurgitating the same stale, cookie-cutter pitch to whoever happens to be standing close to you.

Wrong.

The best thing you can do to create those genuine relationships that bring value to you and others is to be yourself.

One of the good things about meeting people outside formal settings was that I had to be a real person. I couldn’t just talk about work. I let my real self shine through, and it paid dividends.

Know yourself

All of the above requires that you know who you are.

You should have a good idea about your likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. You should have a specific goal in mind that others will be able to help you towards.

If you don’t have answers to these questions, go to a place where you won’t be bothered. Take out a piece of paper and write down your goals and personality traits.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What can I do better than anyone else I know?
  • What does my ideal job look like?
  • What do I not want in a job?
  • What’s something I spend/have spent time and money learning about even though nobody made me?
  • What did I want to do when I was younger before the “real world” changed my expectations of what to look for?

Then, look for areas where you will be able to use your strengths, and go from there.

The real value of face-to-face networking

You’ve probably heard that 85% of jobs are found through people, not job postings.

Your network is your most valuable asset. You need to use it to its potential. Leveraging your network is the quickest way for you to find your niche in the world. Somewhere you can make the greatest impact on other people’s lives, including your own.

If you’re ready to redefine what’s possible for yourself, it’s time to reach out and start networking. Connecting authentically with others is the quickest route to turning your dream job into your real job.

While writing outreach emails can be intimidating, MANGO has a FREE tool that makes writing networking emails easy. Give it a shot.

Ready to start now? Why put it off any longer? Start writing a conversation request email now to get your career moving.

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Andrew Bryant is a MANGO contributor, a data analyst, and writer based in Santiago, Chile. Through his work, he enjoys helping others lead more fulfilling lives.