For those either new to the job market, or making a return after a prolonged absence, the focus needs to be on showing you have the experience you need to get the job done. But getting that experience can be a challenge in its own right. Here are a few tips to help you gain the experience you need to get ahead in your job search.
Understanding the Value of Experience
The skills gap between a seasoned professional and a recent graduate can easily put off employers from hiring rookies, but keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere. The key is to gain the industry knowledge and the professional network that will help make you more attractive to employers. That doesn’t necessarily mean holding a regular job in the industry. It can include everything from volunteer work to contract work. Experience is an excellent, and perhaps the best, indicator of future performance so make sure you build the relationships and the understanding of the environment and the work that will mean less on the job training and time to settle in to a new professional environment.
Volunteering and Internships
Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door with a company. But not every business has opportunities for volunteers. Internships are another important way to gain the experience you need to be effective in a similar role. Look for opportunities where they exist. Don’t focus on only volunteering or interning at the places you want to work in the future. Every bit of experience you gain in the professional world will help you build your resume. And the diversity you bring to the hiring table with a varied background is of great value to future employers. So, focus in on the industry and the skills you will need in the future, then do what you can to practice those muscles and learn from others who are in the thick of things to better prepare yourself for future opportunities.
Networking and Informational Interviews
Another important way to get important experience and learn how to talk business with businesses is by expanding your professional network. Find a mentor within the industry that you are looking to grow into. Ask questions, shake hands. Share your interest and your desire to be an effective employee within the industry. You’d be surprised how open and invested people can be if you show them you appreciate their time and take the opportunities seriously. The hardest part about getting yourself into a good position within an industry is knowing what you don’t know. Once you understand that, you can focus your efforts on gaining the experience and the education you really need to hit the ground running.
Temporary work is an often overlooked opportunity for individuals looking to gain more experience. Contracting is a great way to learn a lot very fast as employers need professionals to step in quickly and make an impact on their business. Come into a contract armed with the skills and knowledge that can make a difference for that specific role or project, but plan to leave with a depth of industry knowledge and understanding that can truly make a difference in your long-term career.