Starting out as a first-time job seeker can be daunting. You need a job, but in order to get a job, you need experience. In order to get experience, you have to have had a job. New college graduates, especially those who didn’t work while they were in school, sometimes wind up feeling stuck with an impossible conundrum. How do you get experience when you need experience to get experience?
There are some ways to start building a work history, even if you have limited or even no work experience thus far. Take heart. If it were truly impossible to get a job when you haven’t had one before, no one would ever break into the workforce.
The first thing to do is consider what related experience you have that demonstrates your skills, abilities, and work ethic. While not exactly a substitute for having had a job, things like coursework, school projects, and extracurricular endeavors can show an employer that you might have what it takes to succeed if given a chance. Choose the most relevant experiences to include. If the job you’re applying for is in an office setting, your computer classes may help show you’ve got the skills for the job. For customer service positions, extracurricular activities with a focus on helping others might be enough to get your resume noticed.
Next, think about signing up to volunteer. It can be frustrating to need to work for free when you really want to work for money, but volunteering can be an investment that pays off when it comes to writing a resume. If you can find a cause you care about, you can then seek out organizations that will let you volunteer. While you’re contributing to a worthy cause, you’ll also be gaining skills and experiences. Longer-term volunteering looks better on a resume than short stints do, as it gives a potential employer a better picture of who you are as an employee. It will also likely lead to a better reference.
Finally, make sure you’re targeting the right kinds of jobs. Some employment opportunities require a solid work history, but other jobs and fields are more welcoming to the inexperienced job seeker. There’s a reason a lot of people work retail or food service for their first job. Internships place more weight on academic accomplishments, and cooperative learning programs can give you a way to work for companies that might not otherwise consider you. While jobs like these might not be your ultimate career goal, they can be important stepping-stones as you gain experience, develop skills, and build a work history.
Starting out as a new job seeker can be daunting, but please don’t be discouraged. If you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities that come your way, it gets easier to write a resume and apply for jobs. Eventually, you’ll look at the experience required in a job description and think, “I’ve got all of that.”
Don’t give up!