How many times have I heard a recent college graduate tell me, “I just graduated and I’m looking for a job.  But I’m having trouble finding anything because I don’t have any experience and all the jobs require experience.  How can I get the experience if they won’t hire me?”

It’s a real conundrum.  How do you get experience if the employer won’t hire you without it?

Check out this list of options that will help you overcome the experience gap.

Volunteer

Volunteering is an excellent way to demonstrate experience to employers.  If you are trying to get an entry level job in a particular field, such as volunteer imagehealthcare, marketing, accounting, etc., then you want to focus your volunteer efforts in that specific field.  You also want your volunteer work to demonstrate that you have experience in the skills and competencies that the employer is looking for in their entry level job.

Here’s how to make the most out of your volunteer efforts.  Begin by researching 2-3 entry level jobs in your chosen field.  Write down the job skills, competencies, education, and requirements for each job, then compile one master list of those requirements.  Those are the competencies that you want to focus on in your volunteer position.

Contact Non-Profits in Your Area

Can you list the non-profits in your area?  Make a list of the ones that interest you.  Put them in priority order, then start contacting them, one by one, and ask to speak with someone in the department you are interested in.  For example, if you are a marketing major and you want to get an entry level job in marketing, ask to speak with the head of their marketing team.  Tell that person that you are a marketing major and that you are interested in volunteering in their marketing department.  Ask if they would be open to having a volunteer help them.  Ask to meet with them.  Be prepared to bring your resume.   Offer to help with all of the job requirements from your master list.

Volunteering doesn’t have to be an intense time commitment.  You can volunteer a couple of hours each week or a few hours each month.  As soon as you start volunteering you can add that to your resume, including bullets that highlight each of the skills you will be doing and you can add it to your LinkedIn profile.

Build Your Network and Boost Your Confidence

Volunteering is a good opportunity to build your network, expand your employment opportunities and give you a pool of people who know your work ethic and ability to work with a team.

A side benefit to volunteering – you are giving back to a worthy cause, which in turn makes you feel good about yourself and boosts your confidence.  When you interview with prospective employers for your entry level position, that confidence can go a long way toward helping you land the job.

Interning

Another option to build your experience is to intern.  Instead of looking for internships on job boards, research small businesses and new businesses in your area.  Many time, these businesses can’t afford to hire people, but they could use help growing their business.  Start contacting these businesses, just as you would for volunteer positions, and offer to help them with your area of expertise.  Again, use your master list of job requirements to frame the projects you offer to work on.

College Experience

You may actually have experience that is hidden, either in your college activities or your college classroom work.  This experience, if displayed correctly on your resume and your LinkedIn profile, could help get you an interview for an entry level job.

Just as you did for your volunteer work, start by researching 2 – 3 entry level job openings in your chosen field.  Create that master list of job skills, competencies, education, and requirements.

Now start thinking through all of your college activities, both inside and outside of the classroom.  Make a list of all of the things you have done, including projects, reports, presentations, leadership, analysis, events, organizing – anything that you have done that can be translated into related work experience.  Compare all of those to your master job list that you created.  You can list these competencies and skills on your resume with bullet points, just like you would be any job.  A side benefit to comparing these lists is that you will start to see that you probably have more experience than you thought you had.  It’s another nice confidence booster.  And we already know how confidence can help in your interview!

Career Plan

If you haven’t done volunteer work or an internship and you don’t have college experience that demonstrates your competencies for that entry level No experience? You can still get a jobjob, and you need to start paying the bills, then you still have an option.  Take a lower level job that may not be on your career path so you can generate some income.  Then set up a one year plan to volunteer or do projects for small businesses and focus on the skills, competencies, and requirements for the entry level jobs you want.

Next Steps

Now it’s your turn.  Let us know which strategies you are using and what’s working for you.

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