It’s the age-old problem; you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Of all the dilemmas you’ll face when you’re job hunting, this is the most infuriating. How do you get experience without a job in order to break free from that irritating spiral?
We’ve all been there, scanning the person specification, feeling hopeful and, then… “at least one year’s experience required”. Wait! Don’t cast the application aside just yet. You might have more to offer than you think. The trick is to look beyond traditional, job-related experience and think a wee bit creatively. Here are a few places to look:
Work experience and internships
This is a brilliant way to gain experience in your chosen industry. They’re basically a temporary job, often at a reduced wage (or no wage at all). You can learn about the job, make the right contacts and rack up hours of much needed experience to make your CV sparkle. If you really shine, they might even offer you a permanent job.
List the companies you want to work for and offer your services. Whether it’s one week, a couple of months, every Monday or a year long gig, you’ll get a chance to gain valuable experience. Study the company structure on their website and target the person you most want to work for. Write or email, then a couple of weeks later, call to remind them you’ve contacted them. It’s possible you’ll be palmed off to HR, but at least you’ve planted your flag in the sand.
Largely, I consider work experience to be unpaid and short-term, internships to be longer-term and paid, but really, the terms are interchangeable. Some companies offer travel expenses in return for your hard work, but if that’s not going to pay rent, say so. If you’ve been offered work experience or an unpaid internship, let the company know that you’ll need to earn a wage, too. They should let you arrange your working hours to suit your circumstances (within reason).
This is especially valuable in health, social care, teaching and charities. Do you have a burning desire to be a nurse? Help out at a Care Home. Want to teach? Give your time to a local after school club. Have your eye on a role in a specific charity organisation? Volunteer at a grass-roots level. The very fact that you’re giving up your free time demonstrates your commitment to your chosen vocation.
Transferable skills are those talents and abilities that you’ve picked up in your everyday life that are useful in the workplace. In many cases, you can demonstrate your experience through sport, arts and club membership. If you need to demonstrate experience of leadership and you coach a sports team, chair your local NCT committee or run a choir, put it on your application form. Evidence of teamwork, interpersonal skills, self-motivation and drive can all be found in your involvement in a netball team, amateur dramatics group or classic car club.
Now it’s your turn. Have a look at how you can demonstrate your vast experience in your next job application. If you really don’t have any, go out and get some.
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