One of the most prevalent obstacles for job seekers looking for their first professional job is work experience. In one of the biggest workforce catch-22s, candidates need work experience in order to get a job, but they first need a job in order to get the work experience. It’s a bizarre and frustrating paradox to be sure, but not one that has banned you from entering the professional workforce from a position of strength. Even for applicants with industry specific-internships under their belts, lacking years of experience at a stable job can still prove to be a substantial barrier to timely employment.
Fortunately, work experience is never the only factor employers look for in a job candidate. Though experience is obviously of great help, what companies want are people with particular skill sets and mind sets that will allow them to excel in a given position. Developing your skills is the best way to minimize the penalty for the experience you lack in the workforce. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to go about your training and even gaining valuable work experience while you are at it.
One of the easiest ways to build your skills and beef up your resume is to volunteer your time with organizations and activities that are related to the jobs to which you want to apply. There is never any shortage of volunteer opportunity and the diversity of work means you are very likely to find something that suits your interests. Even if the work isn’t professional, you will still be able to lead, or participate in, a team that is working towards a common goal. And one of the best parts: you will almost never be turned away from a volunteer opportunity.
Perhaps the most significant recent boon to those job seekers looking to increase their experience level outside of the traditional workforce is the development of online skills courses. Most of these courses are free and are taught by renowned faculty at prestigious schools (check out Coursera for a start). These classes allow you to develop your technical skills without the financial burden of going back to school. While some programs offer some form of certification, completing these courses and including them on your resume can help assure future hiring managers that they are looking at a candidate who is self-motivated, driven to continually develop professional skills and knowledge, and capable of following through difficult tasks without being micromanaged by management.
Just because you lack work experience doesn’t mean you can’t distinguish yourself in other ways. There are plenty of resources out in the world to help you stand out from the competition. Of course, these options require some effort and desire on your part and do not guarantee results, but taking the initiative and increasing your knowledge and experiences outside of the workforce reflect positively on your work ethic and character. With just a little extra work, you can earn more interviews and job offers despite your inexperience and untried skills.