Career: How to Get (Relevant) Job Experience While You’re Still in College

I see people tweet all the time: “how am I supposed to gain experience if I need experience to get hired in the first place?” Or some sassy variation on that question.

Well, that’s a sour attitude toward the notion that you need experience to get a well-paying job.

So here’s a new take on the matter concerning job experience. Here’s how you can get experience in the field you want to work in before you ever graduate college.

You know those skills that employers look for in your resume? Like, “leadership potential,” “excellent communication skills,” “excellent work ethic.”

Those skills don’t come from being in school all of your life, and a degree won’t prove that you have those skills.

But job experience will. So, here are opportunities to look for, while still in college. You can give yourself a leg up when looking for internships by starting to gain relevant experience before it’s time for an internship or full-time position.

Think about what you want to do. Then, picture the skills you need to have to succeed in that field. As an example, I want to work in the Public Relations & Marketing field. I know that in order to excel in that field, I need to be a strong writer.

So I’ve chosen to use my natural skills in writing, but to improve on them with a newspaper editor job, then a social media job, both at my university. Having those jobs on my resume, along with the actual experience, helped me land my current internship.

As another example, if you want to become an audio producer, look for jobs at a local radio station or your university’s radio station. Look for opportunities that will help you develop the necessary skills for your career field, like audio editing for a music video, helping a local musician in the studio, or working the soundboard at a local church.

If you want to be a website developer, work with a local nonprofit to set up a website that they need. Work with a local small business to improve their website. Then, put that experience on your resume as volunteer experience.

The volunteer work will better prepare you for getting a part-time job in that field, which will prepare you to find a full-time job after graduation. When there seem to be no opportunities, you need to create your own opportunities (ex: freelance graphic design business, as a graphic design student. Like Peyton.)

As a pre-med student, work as a medical scribe. Volunteer in a hospital. Get a CNA certification (which certainly takes less time than grad school will). It shows initiative and interest in the field, allows you to make connections, and better prepares you for either med school or a lab job.

If you can get an internship, do so. Search for new opportunities, and ask around in your network of friends, professors, and parents’ friends. There may be an opportunity you haven’t considered or that is not posted online.

The point is, no matter your major, there are part time jobs at your university, volunteer work in your community, and available internships. You need to be determined and intentional, and be open to opportunities that will support your job goal.

Eventually your stepping stone jobs can lead to your dream job, and hopefully by then, you’ll be prepared and qualified to land that opportunity.


Best wishes in your job or internship search!



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