Ever heard of the work-experience paradox? You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. Everyone is bound to experience this issue at least once in their careers, but most people experience it while they’re in school with limited opportunities to get hands-on experience. It can be nerve-racking while in college trying to juggle your courses, ace your tests and worry about finding your first job after you graduate.
Student debts keep piling up, your part-time hustle is barely paying for your rent, let alone the bills. You’re on the cusp of adulthood and everything seems to be going too fast. I know. I’ve been there. There’s never an easy way to transition from college to your first job. No matter what field you’re in, you will have a fair share of your struggles finding your first job. Especially if you don’t have enough internships or work experience in your resume. And more so women have it even harder than their male counterparts. Women are on average 30 percent less likely to be called for a job interview than men with the same characteristics. We’re up against gender bias, the gender wage gap, the leadership gap, and the added struggle of being taken seriously in male-dominated job sectors. All hope is not lost, dear ladies. We’re here to help you. Here are some tips that will help you get your first dream job!
TIP 1: BE YOUR OWN HERO. EMPLOY YOURSELF!
Although companies are looking for candidates with some hands-on experience, in essence, what they’re really looking for is the skills you have and if you were able to apply those skills to an actual project. Start your own pet project. It demonstrates your initiative, drive, and problem-solving skills. There are plenty of resources that you can use online to pick an idea that you’re really interested in and work on it by yourself. Build your own website, make a few graphic designs, enter a hackathon, help your mom do her taxes. Irrespective of the field you’re in. A pet project is step one to demonstrate your skill set.
TIP 2: COLLABORATE ON A GROUP PROJECT
An essential skill that is most sought after in companies is teamwork. Companies love team players! Teamwork skills are essential to your success at work, no matter your industry or job title. Working well with clients, colleagues, managers and other people in your workplace can help you complete tasks efficiently while creating an enjoyable environment both for yourself and others. You need to be able to handle differences in opinion and collaborate effectively. Start with your classmates, friends, or seniors and work on an idea where everyone gets to learn. And if you’re quarantined during covid, the internet is your savior. Look for like-minded people on meetups and other social platforms and groups. Seek out people on LinkedIn. Make a nifty post on how you’re looking for people to work with on a pet project. Mention some ideas people in your field might be interested in exploring. Use social media to your advantage. While working in groups you will essentially simulate a work environment where you’ll have to work with people who you don’t know and have different skill sets.
TIP 3: WORK FOR FREE
Startups and smaller companies are always scarce on resources and are more willing to take candidates on for internships to get some work done. Go to your university’s entrepreneurship cell or startup incubator if any and work for the founders who will help you get experience. There’s plenty of job search websites that will show you job openings for startups in your area. Working at startups is one of the best ways to get real hands-on experience. You could also volunteer at nonprofits of your liking to get a project or two on your resume.
TIP 4: WORK WITH YOUR PROFESSORS
If you’re too busy to network and find a job at startups, start within your network. Reach out to your professors to assist them in their projects. Professors are more likely to have their hands full at all times in spite of having teaching assistants helping them. They’re involved in publishing research papers, preparing lectures, and more often than not collaborating on projects with companies. They’d be delighted to offload some work on you in exchange for a glowing letter of recommendation and give you a dab on a hands-on project in the real world.
TIP 5: DON’T LET IMPOSTER SYNDROME GET TO YOU.
One of the most debilitating factors while searching for your first job is the nagging feeling of imposter syndrome. A feeling that is telling you that you are not worthy enough for a job of your dreams and that others know more than you and are smarter than you. Getting your first offer letter can be ecstatic. I cried when I got mine. My dreams came to fruition after years of education and endless slogging. It was a cathartic moment and I’m sure you will have yours too. Believe in yourself and find people who believe in you. You’ve made it this far. And there’s miles more to go. Keep your chin up and go get that job!