It is the cry of many students and new graduates: I need and want to work, but I can’t because I have no experience! I have no experience because I can’t find a job! While this situation is not uncommon, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating if you’re in the middle of it. Instead of taking the situation lying down, though, you can take action to boost your credentials and get the experience needed even before you finish your studies.
7 Tips to Gain Experience as a Student:
1. Complete an Internship
Companies, government offices, and non-profit organisations typically offer internships that will provide job training, professional networking opportunities, and exposure to a particular job and industry in exchange for cheap or free work on the part of the intern. Many internships are advertised on organisation websites, sites that are dedicated just to internships, and you may even be able to post your own ad to find an internship. If there is a particular department or organisation you want to learn more about, consider writing a proposal for the creation of an internship just for you. Outline ways you can help the organisation and why you're interested in working there.
2. Look for Co-op Experiences
Co-op, short for Cooperative Education, is a bit different than internships. You typically work with a company or organisation for pay for a period of time and then alternate your time between work and classes. You may go to class for a semester and then work for a semester, for example. These types of programs are often partnerships between colleges and organisations that want to hire students who are interested in a particular industry.
3. Volunteer for Experience
Non-profit organisations, schools, government offices, and much more types of organisations want volunteers. Volunteers do everything from unskilled work to highly technical work. You might do everything from helping a teacher at a school by reading with students to assisting a non-profit with legal issues as a member of a volunteer legal committee if you have the right educational credentials. Regardless of what kind of volunteer work you do, you will learn important job skills that you can put on your resume. Volunteering demonstrates that you are a person with drive who takes the initiative to gain the employment skills you need and that you're someone passionate about a particular line of work.
4. Find Temporary Work
If you can't find a permanent job, consider looking for temporary work. Many job applications have an option for you work on a temporary, part-time or full-time basis. For instance, you can contact an agency that hires individuals on a temporary basis in the industry in which you want to work. Check job boards for temporary work, too. Working short periods of time with different employers means that you can pay your bills while building your experience and gaining exposure to that particular company. Additionally, you can develop job-specific skills and contacts in a number of organisations that can lead to a more permanent position.
5. Become Active on Social Media
Facebook featured a survey showing that 2.5 million Kenyans spend more than six and half hours per day on its site. Why not join groups dedicated to professional growth on Facebook and develop a network of contacts who can help you with getting an internship, temporary job, or perhaps a volunteer position? Also, spend time on LinkedIn to develop your professional network. Join groups dedicated to your intended line of work to further develop your network. Read all you can about your industry, and engage in meaningful interaction with members of your professional groups.
6. Consider Freelancing
Join a freelancing site to share your talents digitally. People do everything from tutoring people in rare and popular languages to doing voice-overs online. You can develop your skills by starting your own business. You’ll likely make mistakes along the way, but you will learn from them, just as you would in a traditional job. If you decide you want to turn your side-gig into a full-time job, you can avoid the typical 9-5. On the other hand, you can also take the experience you gained and show an employer that you are an enterprising individual who is determined to gain the experience needed to do a job well.
7. Take Advantage of Extracurricular Activities
Think of all your after-school activities. Were you a member of a sports team or a school committee? What kinds of skills did you develop? Were you a leader in a student organisation? Did you supervise a team of students doing some kind of work? You developed job skills in your extracurricular activities, and you gained some experience. Put that time after school to work by putting it on your resume.
Finally, contact your professors and youth club leaders, leaders in your place of worship, friends of your parents, former teachers, and other people who are familiar with your ability to work hard and with your desire to learn. These people can attest to your willingness to master new challenges and to do well in a job.