Every job advertisement wants you to have prior experience to apply. It makes sense, but how are you supposed to get your foot in the door in the first place?
Women especially can feel increased pressure to impress employers in male-dominated fields. So how can you make your application stand out?
Fortunately, paid employment isn’t the only way to pad your resume. Getting out and mixing and mingling is a better approach to finding work you love, as nearly 85% of job seekers find their next post through networking, not online advertisements. Here are six unique ways to gain professional experience.
1. Attend Retreats
Attending retreats isn’t just an activity you can participate in once you land the job and your employer sends you. You can find groups intended for top talent in nearly any profession, and affiliating yourself with others in the industry is the best way to find out about job opportunities and promote your unique brand.
Such gatherings often remain small to facilitate problem-solving and provide actionable advice to attendees. Sessions typically focus on the latest innovations, industry trends, and growth areas and ample time for discussion, so everyone gets their questions answered and finds value in the experience.
2. Network Online
Networking online takes a bit of savvy but isn’t hard once you get the knack. It might be a more comfortable approach than pounding the pavement for the introverted set.
Your best bet is to look for professional conferences online. Participate actively in the chat when attending sessions and see if you can connect with others in your industry. Such gatherings often include opportunities to share contact information with others in the group for networking purposes.
Follow up by emailing those you connected with after asking yourself how the relationship could further their goals while enhancing your career. For example, a simple, “Hey, X, it was delightful meeting you at the summit the other day. I was excited to learn about how your marketing division is growing. I know you exhibited an interest in my social media acumen, and I’d love to meet to discuss how I might be able to help” could open the door to an exciting opportunity.
3. Go Door to Door
Relatively few people pound pavement these days. However, it’s the best way for potential employers to put a face with your name instead of merely seeing it on a resume.
Dress professionally when you plan to visit, include a cover letter with your resume, and treat everyone with respect. Keep your visit short but prepare yourself to interview on the spot – it’s rare, but it happens.
An internship is your opportunity to get real-world work experience and get your foot in the door of some of the top international companies. While finding such opportunities while you’re still enrolled in school might be easier, you can do so post-graduation. Attend career fairs and search internship job boards to find positions.
Internships may be paid or voluntary. Should you ever take an unpaid internship? If you have bills to pay, you might not be able to accept this option. However, consider doing so if you have some flexibility; you’ll meet higher-ups in the organization who may fast-track your career if you do well.
Maybe you are seeking a career in the nonprofit sector. An excellent way to get your foot in the door is through volunteering. Such experience helps even if you apply for work in an unrelated field, as it demonstrates your commitment to community service.
Seek volunteer work that fuels your passions – you might as well have fun if you’re working for free! If you love the great outdoors, why not sign up to be a ranger or trail steward at your local nature preserve? Animal lovers can spend pleasant hours socializing kitties and walking dogs at nearby animal shelters. Volunteering is also a great way to meet people, and you never know who might have an opportunity for you.
You can’t perform brain surgery on-the-fly if you want to pursue a neuroscience career. However, nothing stops you from striking out independently in dozens of career fields. Technology makes it more possible than ever to pursue your passions, although it may take considerable time to build your client base enough to practice your freelancing side hustle full-time.
For example, no one can stop you from creating an app or designing websites if you code. Is canning preserves your jam? Why not investigate what it takes to set up a stand at your local farmer’s market to peddle your wares? If you’re a recent education graduate, why not hang flyers advertising your tutoring services to neighborhood children and post about them on local social media, like Nextdoor, to solicit clients?
Unique Ways to Gain Professional Experience
How are you supposed to get a job when every listing requires experience? Sometimes, you must get creative to get your foot in the door.
Try one of the six methods above to gain professional experience even if you’re fresh out of school or haven’t hit the job market in a while. You can enhance your skills and maybe earn extra cash while learning.