10 Ways to Get Valuable Work Experience

John Krautzel
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A seemingly unavoidable hurdle of adulthood is overcoming your inexperienced status to make employers take you seriously. Even with a degree, you need work experience to build skills and stand out in a crowd of newbies. Professional jobs for recent high school or college grads may seem limited, but career-building opportunities are widely available if you look beyond traditional workplaces.

1. Internship

Internships provide firsthand exposure to real work environments, letting you observe how employees interact, manage their time and merge hard and soft skills. If you can't afford an unpaid position, look for an internship that only requires a few hours of work each week, so you can balance it with a part-time job.

2. Travel or Independent Study

Employers are impressed by young people who take initiative and seek opportunities. If you're planning to travel, tailor your work experience to your personal interests by developing an independent study project, teaching English as a second language or working with international service organizations.

3. Unskilled Labor

Don't let the word "unskilled" fool you. While you don't need formal education for local stores or restaurants, you build valuable skills on the job, such as customer service, marketing and inventory management. Unskilled labor jobs also offer fast promotion, so entry-level work experience could lead to management or corporate roles.

4. Volunteering

Nonprofit organizations usually need help and typically are happy to let volunteers graduate to higher levels of responsibility. Make sure the coordinators know your interests, so they think of you when opportunities arise. Choose an organization that fits your desired skills or industry, so you can gain work experience while making a positive impact on the community.

5. Freelancing

Instead of waiting for a job opportunity, turn your existing skills into a small business. Whether you're good at writing, landscaping or web designing, draft a portfolio, and network to generate a list of potential clients.

6. Work Study

If you're still in college, use your school's career services to find a work study position. Campus jobs are available in almost every department, which gives you the flexibility to find work experience related to your major or target career. They also expose you to more faculty, expanding your network for your post-graduation job search.

7. Summer Job

Don't treat summer jobs as meaningless stops on the way to a career. Short-term positions, such as camp counselors and retail clerks, hone important soft skills, such as communication, creativity and leadership.

8. Undergrad Research

Read departmental postings at your school to find research positions with faculty. You get a firsthand look at a professional scholar's work while learning relevant skills and building industry connections.

9. Religious Organizations

Religious organizations and community groups often run on volunteer efforts but lack the resources to advertise for more help. These organizations are also filled with local business owners who may remember your dedication when they're looking for new hires.

10. Apprenticeship

If you're studying a trade, consult the career department, or contact local businesses to arrange an apprenticeship. Unlike most internships, apprenticing gives you the chance to earn entry-level income as your education and skills advance.

Work experience is everywhere, but only if you're able to see the value in different environments. Put your best foot forward in every situation to make yourself attractive to potential employers.

Photo courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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