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.


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  • Berenice Y D.
    Berenice Y D.

    Thomas C - YOU ARE SO RIGHT, I'ts not what you know or how musch time and effort you are willing to put in BUT, Who You Know!

  • Luci L.
    Luci L.

    Beyond is out of touch with reality.

  • David Gronbach
    David Gronbach

    Unfortunately, most of the internship openings I see still require advanced degrees and a minimum of 2 years experience.

  • Thomas C.
    Thomas C.

    This article isn't realistic. You'll have a difficult time getting an internship and if you do there's high probability it won't lead to a job. After 30 years of job-hunting it seems clear to me: the main factors in landing a good job are social connections, good looks and popularity.

  • MARI M.
    MARI M.

    All good tips but in reality it comes down to who you know and fraternize with in the organization to get promoted. I graduated last June with my MBA (3.50), racked up student loans, barely making $40K and been turned down 7 times within a year where I work, in addition to getting more rejections externally for positions which I am well qualified and experienced.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks everyone for the awesome comments. I agree that not everyone is in a position to take an internship or to volunteer. These are just tips to help you out if you are in a position to use them. I understand that you need to put food on the table and pay bills which is why, of course, this is not for everyone. As for the actual internships, they are not all designed for college students although it seems to be easier to get them if you are in college or graduating. And please note that the world has changed and college students come in all shapes, sizes and ages. We talk to folks in their 60's who are back in college and are seeking internships. And most companies would not expect you to do an internship for free. The job world has changed extensively over the last several years. For every job and yes, every internship, there are hundreds if not thousands of resumes submitted. Today we use whatever resources are on-hand to find those jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities to try to get your foot in the door. We are not saying that an internship or volunteer work will land the job for you, either but it does let you see inside the company and know if it is a company you really want to work for. As always we wish all of you the best in your endeavors.

  • Bilal A.
    Bilal A.

    The best way to get yourself hired is to build network and find out the projects

  • Michael Alberico
    Michael Alberico

    I concur with the sentiments below which at first might seem negative and cynical. The fact is that they're accurate. The key to getting noticed is to GET noticed. Applicant resume stacks often number in the hundreds. One must separate oneself from the rest of that crowd by directly appealing to those with power. Ambitiously show some bold initiative, demonstrating that you are "hungrier than the rest". It might scare off an employer or 2 if they themselves lack courage and confidence, but some hiring managers can actually relate to one's plight from back in their own past too, and they recall how they too did whatever it took to "get noticed" and hired. One mustn't fear the use of unorthodox tactics and strategies, within reason. After all, we're in an era wherein those whom don't dare to be different will be viewed by burned-out H/R staffers as mere numbers and files to be auto'-rejected by a computer somewhere. The remedy: appeal directly to those (humans) in power. If it scares them, you're better off not working there in the first place; leaders don't fear. Seek out those whom share your vision and your courage. It's worth the effort.

  • John Gozdenovich
    John Gozdenovich

    Blow past the recruiters straight to the Regional Managers if need be.

  • John Gozdenovich
    John Gozdenovich

    This is semi-sound if one is either married,has a solid partner,kids,and or supportive community while residing rooted.Secure in at least two of the afformentioned.Not to mention good credit standing.Or any assets to lean on.If not well it's hard to imagine in any universe interning for free.Would probably work for a good percentage of people in any given region taking into account so many variables.The flipside is there are many sectors of employers with fully paid,on the job training.And they are just waiting to be taken up in plain sight.No trade secrets required.Just a willingness.

  • Nancy-Jennifer K.
    Nancy-Jennifer K.

    This article is out of touch with reality.

  • Scott H.
    Scott H.

    This article is a joke. I have volunteered and it got me nowhere. Yeah, I made some friends, but nothing in the way of actually securing a job. Interships? you have to be kidding me. I have bills to pay, a mortgage, and need a way to put food on my table. Recently, I have take a few contract jobs in the hopes they lead to full time position. None have and then a recruiter has the "balls" to tell me it looks like I am unhirable since I keep leaving my jobs and work short 6-8 month stints. No, the contract ended. Recruiter's don't get me started.. some 23 year old, 6 months out of college is suppose to qualify me for a position they know nothing about.

  • LARRY M.
    LARRY M.

    Even internships are hard to land. I graduated last summer with a Masters in Environmental Management and not getting replies to my resume. Frustrating...

  • RYAN H.
    RYAN H.

    Imagine one performs all that has been mentioned AND MORE since the Fall of 2009. A mechanical engineering degree, 2 engineering internships, 6 years enrolled while working multiple jobs simultaneously, and all I got in return was STUDENT LOAN DEBT. Not even an "... and all I got in return..." collegiate tee! Sure, the dumbing-down of resume is a start, but usually for part-time work for something that never required an education in the first place and is certainly not a panacea. In the end, I choose to not worship money. Fasting (borderline voluntary starvation) IS an option. Best of luck to all of you enduring the class struggle.

  • Lynneice Walker
    Lynneice Walker

    I have been in search about internships post graduation for some time. This article give very good points that I will like to apply in my career search.

  • Maria d.
    Maria d.

    I have had experiences of being turned down too. So, to gain experience, i have accepted the job at an entry level and thinking that overtime, i will acquire skills and training and move to another job if i get an offer that pays more. Now, i am in a better position and earning twice with what i was getting before.

  • Brenda M.
    Brenda M.

    I've been volunteering for almost a year, and I still can't seem to get a job!


    David G. dumb down your resume. I know that sounds counter-productive but it might work.

  • Dick  Gassen
    Dick Gassen

    Okay, now try getting one of those internships. It's as difficult as trying to get that full-time job. Moreover, many companies are very demanding of their interns. And there are companies that hire a continuous succession of interns instead of hiring one full-time worker. Yes, things are that unscrupulous and ruthless out there.

  • Dale W.
    Dale W.

    I looked into a volunteering opportunity and it is geared towards college students and new graduates...disappointing

  • David G.
    David G.

    I have written policies and procedures. I have worked in my particular field for 35 years. I have co-authored research papers subject to peer review. I want to go into a new direction. I am told I am overqualified. They asked me if I would be willing to accept an internship. I need to eat. This goes both ways. Need experience or overqualified.


    Ok that sounds good to me.

  • Kimberly M.
    Kimberly M.

    i am a very depenable hard worker. who is willing to work overtime. i am always prompts to work

  • Denise  C.
    Denise C.

    Thank you but I have done all of that. I would like a job that pay more

  • Mohaini @ John Isaac I.
    Mohaini @ John Isaac I.

    Good topic but unfortunately the tips are neither realistic nor practical...

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