The Age-Old Conundrum: How Can I Get Experience If No One Will Hire Me?

Katie writes:
I am graduating from college this year and every position I see says that some experience is necessary. How am I to get the experience if no one will hire me???

The Career Doctor responds:
This question is the classic situation some college students and new grads face.

Let me just state that just about every single employer today wants applicants with experience – including so-called entry-level positions for new college graduates. Employers seek college graduates who have work experience because these new hires need to be able to hit the ground running act responsibly and perform their jobs.

So what do you do if you don’t have much work experience? Let me preface my answer with an explanation about a common misconception. Experience is experience. Rather than labeling it “work experience” on your resume which then does narrow what you can put there simply call it “experience” and that opens the door to a broader range of activities.

There is still time to gain some valuable experience by obtaining an internship between semester breaks or during the spring semester (or third quarter). If you have no work experience whatsoever I suggest doing everything in your power to get an internship — or some sort of work experience.

So maybe you haven’t had any internships but perhaps you’ve held summer or part-time jobs during the past 3 years? Again experience is experience so if you dealt with customers at The Gap or Kroger or waited tables at Chili’s or worked as a summer camp counselor make sure you have that experience on your resume.

No internships nor work experience? Don’t fret – yet. How about work-study? Did you participate in the work-study program in college? Or what about volunteer experience? Have you spent a lot of time helping a non-profit organization? Both of these experiences count as work experiences and should be included on your resume.

Have you held key leadership positions in any college organization? Membership does not count for much here when we’re discussing experience but if you can show how you helped lead your student organization to increased membership and an award in a national competition that counts as valuable experience.

If you don’t have a lot of work experience do everything in your power to gain more between now and graduation. If you can’t you’ll still be able to find a job when you graduate — it will just most likely take longer and you may have to rely on your network of contacts much more than others who do have work experience.

One more piece of job-hunting advice. Stop just looking at job ads! The vast percentage of hiring comes from networking… someone telling someone else about a possible job or about a great college grad who would be a perfect fit for the organization. Use the rest of this year to work on your resume and build build build your network of contacts — and then make sure they all know you’re graduating and the type of job you’re seeking.

You can find more information articles and tools in this section of Quintessential Careers: College Student Recent Grad: Career and Job Resources.
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