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Top 6 Ways to gain experience before your first job

Tips for job experience

One of the toughest aspects of starting a career is when employers turn you down because you don’t have enough work experience (even an entry-level job can require up to five years of prior experience). So how do you gain that experience when you haven’t even had a job in your desired field? Here are some suggestions:

Student organizations

If you’re in college or graduate school, student-run organizations are a great way to gain experience and network with other students who have similar interests. Want to be a journalist? Join the school newspaper. Interested in graphic design? Look for a graphic design club.

If your school doesn’t have a club that suits your career interests, start one! Starting a student organization demonstrates initiative, leadership, and responsibility: qualities that are desirable in any career.

Internships

Internships are a great opportunity to get your foot in the door when you’re starting a career. You gain experience working at a company in your desired field, while networking with industry professionals. Your bosses might even promote you to an entry-level position after your internship ends.

That said, make sure your internship gives you tasks that are relevant to the career you’re pursuing, and that you’re not relegated to fetching coffee and other types of grunt work.

Freelance and part-time work

We often associate jobs with the hours of 9-5, but these days, there are many jobs that break the traditional “9-5” mold. When you’re starting your career, you should consider searching for freelance and part-time work, which might be easier to come by than a full-time job.

Freelance and part-time jobs might not pay as much or provide the benefits of a “9-5” job, but they can give you the experience that you need for a full-time position.

Retail and restaurant jobs

Remember that summer you spent as a server or sales associate? You might’ve only taken that job to put some extra cash in your pocket, but you also gained skills and experience that you can put on your résumé.

Retail and restaurant jobs require strong organizational skills, excellent people skills, and an ability to work under stress. So reflect on the skills you learned in those jobs and think how you could apply those skills to your desired career.

Volunteering

Who knew that helping out in your community could land you a job? Like retail and restaurant jobs, volunteer work lets you develop interpersonal and organizational skills. Volunteering also shows employers that you’re responsible, hard-working, and civic-minded.

Plus, volunteer work gives you the opportunity to network with your fellow volunteers, as well as the organization you’re volunteering for. That organization might have job opportunities available, and by volunteering for them, you’ve found a way to get your foot in the door.

Creating your own project

Sometimes, you need to create your own opportunities. Find a way to showcase your skills and attract the attention of potential employers. If you want to be a filmmaker, make a short film. If you want to be a journalist, start a blog where you can report on current events.

Whether or not your project is successful, employers will appreciate your hard work and initiative. And if your project turns into a cash cow, you might not even need a job!

Have any of these methods helped you find a job? Do you know any other ways to gain professional experience? Please share in the comments.

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About David Berezin

David Berezin is attending the New School for a master’s degree in Media Studies. He also runs a blog where people in their twenties share their experiences and opinions on beginning a career in today’s economy.

2 thoughts on “Top 6 Ways to gain experience before your first job

  1. Avatar Tiara says:

    Freelance work has been giving me a ton of experience. Networking is important.

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