It’s a common conundrum. You’ve worked hard, learned a lot, and are ready to take on your next professional challenge. But…no one will hire or promote you because you don’t have the right work experience. But you can’t get the right experience because no one will give you a shot. The cycle never ends.
Regardless of whether you’re switching fields, just starting your career, or gunning for your next promotion, if you find yourself stuck in the “work experience” gridlock, you must create your own experiences to make up for it.
What Are the Right Experiences?
Before you gain new skills, you need to identify the skills you need to work on—the skills that’ll make you the perfect match for the job you want.
Job descriptions are a great way to identify knowledge gaps. Take 5-10 job descriptions for the job you want and identify the similarities between them. Some requested skills will vary by company, but if you understand the general skills needed for the job that you want, you can work on building those skills. Do this months before you’re ready to actually start looking for a job so that you can best direct your learning.
LinkedIn is another resource for identifying people that already have the roles that interest you. Look at their job description on their profile to see how they describe their daily work. Ask them to get a cup of coffee and tell you about their job or company. Try to focus the conversation on what skills they use at work and how they got their job.
5 Ideas and Strategies for Gaining Experience
Just because you haven’t been hired at a traditional job right away doesn’t mean that you can’t get experience. You can gain real world experience by volunteering, freelancing, blogging, taking on new projects with your current employer, and utilizing online education platforms.
Working for free isn’t a great long-term solution, but it’s a surefire way to gain experience. Look for professional organizations in your community, or find entrepreneurs and small businesses who can use the help. Not only will you gain experience, but those that you volunteer for may have networks they can refer you to as you hunt for a job.
Freelancing is a great way to earn extra money and build your portfolio while looking for a full-time gig. Websites like Fiverr, Upwork, and LinkedIn ProFinder provide simple platforms for finding paid projects and part-time work. Don’t forget, sometimes freelancing jobs can even turn into full-time offers!
Blogs are a low-effort way to build your personal brand and prove that you are well-versed and up-to-date in the industry. You can even use the blog as a way to network with industry professionals by interviewing them to learn more about their daily work.
Taking on New Projects With Your Current Employer
One of the best ways to switch into the job you want is by moving within the company you’re already at. You can join committees, shadow other employees, and even start projects that utilize your newly learned skills.
Online Education With Project-Based Learning
If you’re lacking certain skills, there’s no need to spend buckets of money returning to a traditional school. Online education platforms offer affordable and flexible programs so that you can get hands-on experience completing real work without drastically changing your whole life.
Finding programs with an emphasis in project-based learning means that you get real-world experience—from working with a team to following a project from start to finish—that you might not get otherwise. Once you’ve completed a project, you can showcase it in your portfolio so hiring managers can see your skills and what you are capable of doing.
Ready to Join the Workforce?
Remember, hiring managers are working their hardest to find the right person for the job. Your goal is to convince them, through your combination of skills and experience, that you’re the perfect match for the job.
Learning new technical skills is a great place to start when looking to level up your career. Check different Udacity Nanodegree Programs to start adding to your skill list today.
Interested in more career advice and job searching tips? The Udacity Careers team has created a webinar series to help you out.