How To Get Experience When No One Will Hire You

You need experience to get a job, and you need a job to get experience.

By now, we're all very familiar with this statement and the trash ass effects it has on employment opportunities for the young, broke and unemployed. It's not fair, but it's also not a secret.  At some point we have to boss up, accept things for what they are, and find ways to outsmart the system.  Here are a few ways to prepare for job hunting season and get experience even when you can't find a job.

  1. Get Informed. Over spring break, spend some time studying job listings for positions you'd want to have post-grad.  Don't pay too much attention to the number of years of experience needed; pay more attention to what they are looking for in an employee.  What qualifications are they looking for?  Is there a certification they want you to have?  These are the things you need to know.  Be sure to look at listings for the same job title across different companies to see where/if there are similarities.  Once you've identified what employers are looking for, it's much easier to be intentional and figure out what you need to do and know to be desirable to that company.

  2. Get Smart.  Once you have a handle on what employers in your industry are looking for, create a plan to develop those skills and make yourself marketable.  They're looking for a candidate that knows the basics of HTML?  No worries, there's a [free] class  for that.  And for just about anything else you want to know.  Coursera, Codecademy, Udemy, and Lynda are just a few of the many online resources that can help you add some new tools to your belt.  It has never been easier to learn a new skill, the only thing stopping you, is you.

  3. Get Creative.  Stop thinking a summer internship or a full-time job is the only way to get experience.  Find a small business owner in your area and ask them to revamp their social media presence or visual branding.  Or, put your web design skills to the test by creating a portfolio site for a friend.   Some of my most valuable and marketable experiences came from taking on random solo projects like this.  Why?  Because there was no one to ask if I needed help, I just had to figure it out and learn to trust my gut.  Doing things you don't necessarily have to do as a way to gain experience shows employers that you know how to take initiative and find unconventional ways to get things done.  Corporate America needs more of that, trust me.

  4. Get Involved.  So you can't find a guinea pig or think of a way to creatively gain experience?  Still not an excuse.  Get involved in organizations at school or in the community.  And don't just be a member  - hold an office relevant to your preferred industry.  Being involved in organizations is a great way to get experience working with and leading others, which is transferrable to any industry.  You can make just as much of an impact in an organization as you can at an actual job or internship, don't discount that experience because you're not punching a clock.