If you have been looking for a job for a while, then you know the drill: You find a job offer you have the skills to meet, excitedly read through the requirements, only to find “three to five years of experience in the industry required.” As someone who is fresh out of school, experience is something you may not have a wealth of, and without that first career job gaining the necessary experience to maneuver through your career can be difficult. Most young job seekers face this dilemma, and in an economy where jobs have been difficult to find, it is something that must be addressed. Below are a few pointers on gaining experience even without having a job, so you can land the best possible position.
Volunteer Your Time
Working your way into your dream career will require work, diligence and patience. But until you land the job of your dreams, consider volunteering opportunities that could help build a good foundation for the rest of your resume. One way to start your career on the right path is to choose a company that’s just begun to grow, like a startup. Volunteering for a company with big ideas and little capital involves a certain amount of risk, but getting in on the ground floor could give you more freedom to suggest new concepts and projects.
If you opt to volunteer, it’s important to set clear boundaries. You may be new, but that doesn’t mean you should let someone take advantage of you. Set a schedule and a time frame for your volunteer efforts, and work as hard as you can during that time; but stop when your job complete—unless, of course, they offer you a paid position, which is possible.
Advance Your Degree
If doors still aren’t opening for you, consider going back to school. For instance, those who are looking for more advanced positions in the school system might consider an online master degree in education. Earning a degree online doesn’t tie you to a specific geographical area, and can give you greater flexibility with your schedule. Some companies who say they are looking for experience might overlook this requirement if you have an advanced degree. Also, the projects you do in graduate school can be counted as experience in some fields.
Network, Network, Network!
Some of the best job opportunities come through a strong professional network. Join online groups, forums and conversations relating to your field. Explore professional organizations in your geographic area that are industry specific, and consider joining. Attend trade shows and conventions to make face-to-face contact with companies in the industry you’d like to join. You want your name and face to be in the minds of those who are offering the jobs, and the more networking inroads you have, the better your chances of having success in finding a job.
Adjust Your Resume
SimplyHired.com recommends adjusting your resume to focus on the skills you have, while drawing attention away from your lack of job experience. Instead of a “Work History” section, you can put in a “Professional and Academic Experience” section. Choose a functional rather than chronological format as you wait for job experience to add.
Remember: While there are a few people who were lucky enough to land their dream jobs, almost every successful professional you meet had to start from scratch. There are ways to get experience and land a job, even without prior work experience. Use the talents and strengths you have, be willing to donate time, work that network and further your education to put yourself in the right position to land that first job in your industry.