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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  • Sandeep Saxena
    Sandeep Saxena

    Folks get yourself two books from the library and read them cover to cover, do the exercises diligently. "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill and "Awaken the Giant Within" by Anthony Robbins. Never give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • David Bresnahan
    David Bresnahan

    I have 30 years of sales background, still can't find a good job.

  • ANNE V.
    ANNE V.

    I don't know if you can help me. I was working 1 day a week for 9 hr. Now i am looking something that's close to that or 2 days with shorter hours near Frisco, TX. Anne V


    I would say networking is a big component. Go to as many industry hiring fairs, trainings, and websites. Take cards and have professional business cards made to give to hiring managers. Follow up with an email and keep in contact with a resume.

  • Neda M.
    Neda M.

    I wish these tips could be helpful!!! I am a new grad registered practical nurse (RPN). I have all those tips in my resume such as internship (clinical placement), volunteering, and appropriate education. However, most of the employers say that you need at least one year experience as a nurse not student nurse or volunteer! I paid a lot of money to take some professional courses in my field but still employers say you need hands on experience and just having a certificate is not enough. What is your tip for this situation?

  • Brent Mills
    Brent Mills

    i am just living out my savings and doing a few things before I die. I gave up on anyone ever giving me a chance.

  • TROY A.
    TROY A.

    How do you get your foot in the door if they slam the door on your foot in the first place? About the only way people will get ahead is for this practice to stop, but I feel it would have to be an employee market again. Sigh. Keep praying.

  • Patricia M.
    Patricia M.

    Diana-would you like to work in Alaska. I work in Bethel, AK at Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. We have a big Mental Health component and are always looking for good people. See the web site. I have a MSN in education and ran into this problem-no one would hire me to teach because I had no experience teaching. Here, I am teaching CNA classes

  • Yatae B.
    Yatae B.

    This has been my delimma! I had an interview a few months ago and on the day of the interview the office manager called and asked was the experienced I had paid. Because it was not Paid Experience my interview was canceled. I'm currently working part time for a family friend but still seeking seeking full time employment!

  • Diana Anderson
    Diana Anderson

    I am an LSCW in a non-profit making a little over 30K a year... barely scraping by, and always threatened that jobs will be cut because of budgets. I am experienced in Mental Health and tried private practice, which I absolutely hated... and I feel so stuck. I love what I do, but hate the fact that I will work the rest of my life to pay back student loans and never have anything to show for it. Any ideas? I'm open to almost anything, even getting out of the social work field!

  • Isabel M.
    Isabel M.

    Just keep trying until you find a job that you like; but most of all don't lose hope.

  • K. C.
    K. C.

    I'm tryin g to tranfer from the Mental Health field ainto the Allied Health field which is becoming very diffcult not having any previous health care under my belt. It's often hard to volunteer at this place because of insurance reasons. Hoping someone will give me a chance

  • Maria D.
    Maria D.

    I have a Master and concentration in compliance with a ton of transferable, professional skills. Even like that, it has been impossible to get into a banking or financial information. Internships and volunteer jobs are not allowed in those areas, so it has been very frustrating to have a master that have not work at all....Even if I decided to take $40K jobs in that field just to learn...:(

  • George Williams
    George Williams

    The IT Job Market is currently over-run with Foreign workers that are Indentured to their Employers (Visa Sponsors). American citizens will not get a break until that practice is stopped.

  • William H.
    William H.

    Starting out in IT, no experience, I went to every job fair and applied for every job that I even remotely qualified for. On the interview that finally panned out, I had practically begged: "I'm a hard worker, rarely call in sick, I'll be here every day, and work as hard as I can. I get along well with people and have good communication skills" is what I said to the person interviewing me. Groveling is not out of the question, whatever it takes. Playing on an interviewer's ego can work sometime, if you're subtle enough.

  • John S.
    John S.

    I'm in that situation right now. Applying for entry level job nowadays, employers expect you to already have work experience. Wasn't the point of entry level was to get your foot in the door?

  • Shelby D.
    Shelby D.

    Amazing how a $40k a year job requires a Master's degree.

  • Ronald Brown
    Ronald Brown

    Thank you for some additional information

  • George S.
    George S.

    Many employers are reluctant to hire someone without 120% of the experience and age, skills, etc. they desire.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Thomas - certainly this article would not fit everyone. All circumstances are individual. However, internships are available and they are not always just for those in college or new graduates. Many internships can lead to permanent positions. But Internships are not for everyone. Networking is probably on the top of my list. Researching companies and finding out which one(s) I want to work for and then researching them on the Internet to find out more. I try to touch base with current employees of the companies also. Sometimes it is the case of who you know, not what you know but that's not a certainty either. You just have to keep searching and applying. It does get very frustrating when you get turned down over and over again but remember, it only takes one company to say yes.

  • Wanda H.
    Wanda H.

    I am having the same problem. I almost had a job the other day, but since I do not know a certain medical software. So I did not get the job. I am a hands on learner so it would not take me long to learn anything. I do not understand how we could be turned down over something that probably be hard to catch hold on too.

  • Samantha C.
    Samantha C.

    Great tips I learned something new.

  • Cristina G.
    Cristina G.

    This article is not realistic ,EVEN with Externship Human Resource doesn't counted as experience ...

  • Laura G.
    Laura G.

    Great tips. I have actually started doing all of them with the exception of the internship, for reasons mentioned on other comments. Many places require you to be pursuing a 4 year degree or graduate studies to be accepted into the internship. I did find a volunteer opportunity within the realms of the career I want to get into. You guys can check . Good luck to everyone out there who is looking into a career change! :)

  • Berenice Y D.
    Berenice Y D.

    One more thing that I have noticed is that internships are mostly for students...if you are studying within a certain field that meets the criteria of the job (internship) This is unfair!

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