Tips for Gaining Relevant Work Experience
Few things are more frustrating than trying to get a job and being told that you just don’t have enough experience. If you’re looking to get into a specific industry but you’re basically a newcomer, there’s an important word you need to keep in mind: Volunteer.
Working for free probably doesn’t sound like fun, but here’s the reality: Volunteering for a while can help ensure that you have experience in the field when you when you go to apply for a paying job. Get the ball rolling by following these steps:
- Research local businesses in the field you want to work.
- Find out the hiring manager’s name at the businesses that look good.
- Pay these businesses a visit. Bring a cover letter and résumé and ask to speak to the manager.
- Tell them that you’re looking to gain industry experience and are willing to volunteer.
Employers are always looking for ways to save money, but that doesn’t mean that someone will hire you on the spot to work for free. It’s quite likely that you’ll need to go through a formal interview process first. At the interview, remember to:
- Impress them by knowing about their business and the industry.
- Wear clean, appropriate attire.
- Behave politely and respectfully.
- Listen and learn from what they tell you. Take notes if they say you can.
If you can’t work for free because your schedule is full, don’t give up. There are other things you can do:
- Apply for paying jobs in your industry and write an honest cover letter explaining your situation but that you’re willing to work for a lower wage in exchange for the valuable experience.
- Start at the bottom by applying for jobs that might not be exactly what you want but are stepping stones toward your goal (example: If you want to be a cook, apply to be a dishwasher).
- Knock on doors and create a network of contacts within the industry—meet them and tell them who you are—they might help find someone willing to hire you.
- Request an interview with business owners in your field and tell them you want to learn all that you can so that you can gain an edge over others with no experience.
Having little or no experience shouldn’t stop you from pursuing the work you enjoy. There are avenues that can help make it happen. Volunteer, network, and be willing to work for less or start at the bottom. To work in the industry you feel a connection to, you may have be willing to sacrifice, so go the extra mile. Remember, the harder you work on getting the experience, the more likely it is that you eventually will.
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