How Can I Gain Experience When You Won’t Hire Me In The First Place?

Julie Shenkman
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It’s a vicious cycle and a common complaint we unfortunately hear from many frustrated candidates, “How do I get experience when employers are only hiring people that already have experience?” It certainly sounds like a Catch-22, so we thought it would be helpful to offer some tips on how to solve this conundrum.

  • Accept an Internship. If you’re starting out in a new field, consider being an intern. Internships aren’t just for college kids anymore—remember when Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did that movie where they were interns at Google? It’s cool I didn’t see it either. But, there’s a new trend emerging—internships for mature workers (their words not mine). They’re typically targeted towards potential employees that have been out of the workplace for at least two years—perhaps you took time off to raise your kids, went back to school, or you were unfortunately laid off. These opportunities are great resume builders, and who knows—you might get hired full time at the end of the program.
  • Volunteer your time. Knowledge you gain from volunteering is valuable experience you should be bragging about. If you volunteer and the experience is relevant to the type of position you’re aiming towards, it should definitely be on your resume.
  • Take a course. If you gained skills from a course you took—that counts for something. Consider including a “Relevant Skills” or “Relevant Courses” section on your resume. This way recruiters won’t have to scavenge through your resume looking for validation of why you’d be a good fit. They can see immediately that you have the skills to get the job done.
  • Educate yourself. There is now so much information available for free online. We’re not saying this should replace any formal training (I mean, I’m not going to go to a dentist that was educated on YouTube), however there are resources like Khan Academy, Udacity, and Coursera (just to name a few) that could supplement your experiences and knowledge. Often these kinds of courses offer certificates that are nice things to highlight on your resume as well.

We hope you find these tips helpful. And yes, it is not always easy to volunteer your time or accept an internship that might not be as lucrative as a full time job, but think of these tactics as investments. An internship could lead to a full time job that leads to a wonderfully fulfilling career.


Image Source: Google


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  • Anthony Deese
    Anthony Deese

    Yea Just give me a desk in the basement, a swingline stapler, and a safe place to hide my car. If u work for free you got plenty of work security, just no job security. John Boehner must of thought of that shortly before he shot down unemployment causing millions to lose their homes and vehicles. Most people dont hire with bad credit.

  • Rhonda S.
    Rhonda S.

    I have read some of the comments and I have to agree with them. I did not have time to volunteer and could not find a intership in Oracle or SQL. I did what exactly what I was told. I changed careers and now in the process of studying for my certifications in PMI, SQL, and Securtiy +. So, I am taken a chance on these certifications and my Master degree in MIS.

  • Maryjane  Stansbury
    Maryjane Stansbury

    Everyone .... I believe u r all right!!

  • Christopher B.
    Christopher B.

    doesn't really help. I'm in that exact situation and I can tell you, companies aren't interested in older interns.


    Volunteer my time...HA! I need to put food on the table..... I need employment...NOT volunteering my time for someone else.


    Those tactics are a joke , they DO NOT work

  • Rita C.
    Rita C.

    And why do we need more H1 or M visa? According to Obema and CEOs of corporate, there is not enough qualified people available. I know at least 10 people who have advance degrees in tech but cannot find jobs.

  • Verna T.
    Verna T.

    been there, done that, got the T-shirt, still nothing...

  • Amy Stoudt
    Amy Stoudt

    The comments on this article are, for the most part, sad but true. None of these tactics work if you are past a certain age. Ageism (although illegal) is alive and well in the employment industry!

  • Judith White
    Judith White

    I have done volunteer work at center for women. I enjoyed it and this article. I am an older(almost 55) worker, trying to get back in the work world.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Great comments and conversation. You are all right - these steps do not work for everyone. But the truth of the matter is that "how do I get experience if I can't get work: how can I get work without experience" is not new. I fought the same fight as all of you along with the same questions and same frustrations. Unfortunately you cannot walk into a company, present your resume and get an interview. All of that has changed - at least for the majority of companies. Everything is done online now. I, too, wish that we can change and go back to the way things used to be. Go back to a time when there was courtesy on both sides - job seeker and employer. Back to a time when we could drop off a resume and stay for a face-to-face interview. But the ugly truth is that those days are long gone. Not everyone is in a position to do volunteer work or to take an unpaid internship - or even a paid internship that only pays a stipend. You all know your situations and what you need to do. Today it's all about doing things online - networking and social media.

  • Krystle W.
    Krystle W.

    Unfortunately, these tips DO NOT WORK. I had an internship, volunteered, and I have a masters degree! Still no luck. Companies want "real experience" because they don't want to train you and to them you're a risk and/or liability. The only way you can get a respectable job and to get your foot in the door is by having "connections" and knowing people. That's the ugly truth.

  • L. Bjorn
    L. Bjorn

    I am 150,000 in the freaking hole, for a Masters that won't get me anything. I have OVER 34 years of customer service and all get is sorry you are not what we are looking for......either that or they see my age in an interview and make up their minds that they don't want actual experience in their young offices. Yeah intern, volunteer, study more and dig even deeper in dept..oh wait can't even do that cause they put a ceiling on financial aid and I can't pay what I have on 11 bucks an hour in forgiveness is only if you have it half paid off.....laws would be nice if computers were not programs to discriminate with hidden word finds. Done....back to 9.00 hr and two jobs just to keep house and feed a teen. To old for the crap.

  • Curtis Kibbey
    Curtis Kibbey

    Welcome to rich Republican America where all the manufacturing jobs became available to the Chinese, Mexicans, and ...

  • Kenneth Pallante
    Kenneth Pallante

    What a crock of s**t article. I need to eat an pay bills. Volunteering? Educating (I have 5 degrees and 8 advanced certificates: take a course I have taken 50+ courses. If you are over 40 or do not have a relative inside the company , you are screwed. Except for physicians, the only jobs I see are people like you writing non sensical articles. Here in Kansas City, Sprint just laid off 1,700 engineers in January.

  • John H.
    John H.

    Taking a course and self-education doesn't work and recruiter only prefer work experience. Internship only works when you're still in school or just starting out, not if you're already in your 30's or 40's.

  • Anthony Hauser
    Anthony Hauser

    Load of bull. I graduated with a minor and took many courses both within scientific and non-scientific disciplines. Not good enough. Still need "work experience".

    I also have 6 years of volunteering experience at a hospital, with the various departments in the hospital. Radiology, Hematology, Intensive Care, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy. Not good enough. Still need not only "work experience" but also do exactly what earns me a non-savable $4.00 lunch stipend each day.

    And while I could probably have had an "internship" while in college, I would have had to either give up eating (I already gave up sleeping!) or my thesis (which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have an academic thesis before graduate school).

  • Sulphina Bennett
    Sulphina Bennett

    This is very true about the job market today, I even went to a couple law firms to volunteer and nothing!!! Exactly what do the companies want???? They need experience but then they are not willing to give you this experience so whom is kidding whom!!!

  • John  G.
    John G.

    A career change at age 58 is rough.Thanks.


    This is what i do not really understand in California,mostly 90% employer preferred somebody who have 1 or more experienced,if not they preferred Hispanic Speaking like Mexicans,i do not believe in equal opportunity in here,before i migrate into this country i learn the language which is English not Hispanic, you can go anywhere in the world you can communicate in English...


    Just when you think you're the only one faced with finding employment, especially going back to school, have gained prior work experience, constantly tweeking your resumes because that's what the critics say to do for a chance to be hired. It's sad you encourage your children to go to college, get a better education, then what, they are also faced with the reality of feeling let down by companies who are telling you that you need a 2 yr or 4 yr degree. Whatever happened to the days of walking into a place and meeting the hiring manage face to face, asking for a chance to be hired, I believe this online job seeking SUCKS, meeting someone face to face speaks volume. Majority of the employers out there are not doing doing their part, but they want you to bend over backwards to please their wants but where does that leave you? These days it takes two incomes to live, sometimes barely..just enough to pay the bills but no extras, sometimes robbing Peter to pay Paul...we are living in a time of greed, it's every dog for himself, so what you don't have enough to feed your family, or you're faced being homeless. I'm so sorry for those who have been in that position, I try to remain hopeful and grateful for what I do have, although you feel like giving up sometimes. I know there's a better time coming for all of us who are struggling, STAY POSITIVE!!!!


    Recruiters want REAL WORKING EXPERIENCE. Period.

  • Rosalind S.
    Rosalind S.

    Maybe there should be legislation that forces companies to hire workers with no experience. Maybe the companies would then hire a certain amount of workers with out experience or they would be subject to penities and fined. Because there are young attractive people with degrees who are employable who are now homeless and deficating in the streets here in New York. Could you write about that?

  • Sheri M.
    Sheri M.

    Its been this way for three Years and so i went to school to make career change still didn't help.

  • T C.
    T C.

    2 of those options take a lot of money,,which is kinda hard to come up with if you don't have a job, and the "free courses " i have been laughed at over, as for volunteering that also takes money & time, because oddly enough getting to where ever your volunteering takes money. and interestingly enough internships that i have found generally want someone right out of school. and none of the ones i have found are even in a state near me . So no these tips are redundant & very un -helpful.

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