Beginning your career and stepping out into the workforce is difficult for everyone. The number of qualified candidates is incredible and the competition is fierce. If you haven’t gotten the chance to acquire professional and relevant experience, it can be even more daunting.
However, not all hope is lost! There are still ways to gain that experience without having held previous roles in your desired market.
1. Volunteer work
Volunteering is a great way to gain experience while doing something good for others. It’s basically a win-win. Now when we say volunteer work, we aren’t referring to helping out at soup kitchens or handing out care packages (but these things are great and you should definitely do them too).
Non-profit organizations work similarly to any other organization. In order to work efficiently, they have to have certain people working in certain positions. For whatever you want to do, there’s a place for you in nonprofit work. To help you look, check out VolunteerMatch, which can help match you to an organization based on your preferences and what role you are looking for.
If you’re a college student or a recent graduate, internships are the ideal way to gain experience. Nowadays, many internship positions are also paid or are at least willing to reimburse you for travel expenses. Some internship opportunities are even starting to become virtual to allow participants to work remotely.
To increase your odds of acquiring an internship position, it is important to seek out all opportunities rather than only ones that are paid or ones that allow you to work in-office. By limiting your options, you are only limiting yourself and what you may be capable of doing. Be sure to keep an open mind when applying.
Additionally, some may tell you that the best time to start applying is going into your junior year of college, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only time. While you are less likely to actually get an internship before then as some companies do require you to be of junior-standing or above, you should begin applying once you start college. It is a great way to start getting your name out in the job market.
3. Extracurricular activities
If you’re still in school, join clubs! I cannot stress to you enough of how important it is to be involved as a student. It is the quickest and easiest way to start gaining experience and it can make your time at college a lot more fun.
If you’re a journalism student, join the school newspaper. If you’re an athlete, join a club sport. Even club sports have Executive Board roles for participants. Also, being a member of fraternity or sorority life can help you gain leadership skills and experience and makes networking with alum easier. It isn’t extremely important what you do exactly as long as you are doing something.
4. College courses
If you’re a student and have space in your schedule, try and find classes that provide hands on experience in your field. For example, I took a magazine production class that allowed me to work as the Copy Chief, which meant I was responsible for making the final edits in the articles we published.
While I was lucky enough that my university offered many courses such as that one, not every school does. If that’s the case for you, you can leverage your relevant coursework by including it on your LinkedIn page and having that URL with your contact information on your resume.
Shadowships are when you shadow someone in your field to learn more about their day-to-day responsibilities and what working for their company looks like. Typically, they aren’t as long as an internship and you aren’t actually completing tasks in that role. But they are easier to acquire than internships and are still a great way to learn more about the position.
If you are questioning what roles you may want to work in, they are a great way to figure that out before you start applying for jobs and internships. To get a shadowship, try reaching out to alumni of your university through LinkedIn or even through peers.
6. Personal Projects
If you’re struggling with any of the previously mentioned options, starting your own personal project is a great way to acquire experience in fields you are interested in while doing so on your own time. If done correctly, personal projects can grow into experiences that are just as beneficial and credible as the other options.
When deciding what personal project to begin, it is important to first decide what your end goal is with the project. For instance, if you’d like to become a content specialist or a content writer for larger companies, try to establish your own blogging site. You’ll keep your writing skills sharp while having the opportunity to teach yourself the ins and outs of the most popular platforms used by these positions.
Additionally, those aspiring to be software engineers and developers can begin to develop their own software application and test it. Or if you’re looking to get involved in marketing, try creating your own original marketing campaign for some of your favorite companies and linking it to your LinkedIn account.
By taking on personal projects, you will begin to practice the skills necessary for your desired field and will be able to provide employers with evidence of your qualifications and experience.
It isn’t easy to enter the job market, but it also isn’t impossible. If you want to begin a successful career, the first step is working hard and gaining experience using these 6 methods. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know what opportunities you could miss.