Did you just switch careers? A fresh grad? Unless you’re incredibly lucky and/or oozing with sheer brilliance, anyone new to a career path will find that jumpstarting your career can be challenging. In today’s economy, the job market is getting increasingly competitive.
The conundrum: How the heck does one get job experience, if almost every job (which will provide one job experience) expect x number of years experience?
Sadly, I haven’t found a shortcut or a workaround to years of solid experience; but the short answer: Get creative.
Listed below are a few ideas:
Apply for a less desirable job. Highly coveted jobs require years of experience. Consider a lower, entry-level position instead. This accomplishes two things: 1. you pay your dues and get some much needed job experience; 2. You get your foot in the door. Use this time to learn as much as you can about your field of interest. Learn from your more experienced colleagues and take every opportunity to hone your skills.
Apply for an internship. Many internships are not paid, while others pay very little. This might make it sound unappealing, but look at it this way: if you don’t take the internship and are essentially unemployed, guess what? You don’t make any money either. You get to sit on your butt, and earn zero experience. BONUS: Use this time to make real connections with colleagues. If you impress them enough, you just might get an in!
Volunteer your skills. Look around your area. Most non-profit organizations do not have nearly enough funding to hire paid, full-time staff. While again, this doesn’t help you pay the bills, bigger non-profit organizations usually provide training and workshops for their volunteers, furthering your skills. Volunteer positions usually accommodate flexible hours, with low time commitment–depending on the position you volunteer for.
Join an organization (or club or society). Professional organizations provide members with an avenue to network with other professionals from their field. Most also provide training for their members at a discounted rate, or sometimes even for free.
Find a platform to show and hone your expertise. If you’re a developer, contribute to an open source program. Want to be a writer? Start a blog. Most employers aren’t looking for experience per se, what they are looking for is a quantifiable way to prove your skills and expertise.