Earning Experience to Land your Dream Job

The infinite cycle of needing a job to gain experience but needing work experience to get that job leaves some job seekers dizzy – and perhaps a little panicked too.  This stipulation can seem an especially cruel obstacle if you’re a new graduate or starting a career in a new field. So, when every job posting today seems to require one to two years of experience, how can you meet it before getting the job?
What is work experience?
Work experience is any time spent actually doing a job. It can come from part-time jobs held before or during college or work placement internships or from working experience gained at a previous job or career. Work experience is most valuable for employment opportunities if it is in the same field as the job sought.
Bryant & Stratton College hosted a “Job Ready or Not?,” an Employability Summit featuring HR and hiring experts from several top companies. Below are some thoughts these experts had on gaining experience as a new graduate.
Create a pitch that explains your skills gap
All job seekers should start with an honest assessment of their individual skills and strengths. “Know yourself,” said Carleen Haas, Vice President of Talent Strategies at Humana, Inc. “If you’re not aware of your strengths and your character flaws, if you’re not aware of what you are passionate about and how you like to work, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. You really need to do some internal landscape work to really understand what you’re about.”
Not only is this helpful in creating your professional story and sharing with employers why you would be a good fit, but it can also unearth any gaps in skills and experience you may have in filling the open position. “Really understand where the gaps in your experience may be,” said Heather Tinguely, Program Manager of Global Talent Labs at Microsoft. Ms. Tinguely suggests coming up with a short pitch or sentence about how you would overcome lack of experience or a weak skill in the first six weeks of a job.
Going the unpaid route
One way to get experience for a job is to look for unpaid positions, like internships or volunteer opportunities. Once you’ve identified your experience or skills gaps look for positions that will help you fill them in. “I think that it’s important, first and foremost, when you’re doing anything unpaid or extracurricular, to really go about it in a very strategic way,” said Ms. Tinguely. She recommends job seekers to think about volunteering on two levels, “I’m going to give unpaid time to X organization, one, because I’m a good person and I love the organization, but secondly, because I feel like perhaps that organization has a good reputation, and they’re going to give me in return some skills in a real-world setting that I need, as well as some references.”
How to Find your Dream Job
Holding out for your dream job is understandable. If you’ve put in the hard work to earn a degree, you’re eager to put what you’ve learned to work. But, sometimes getting your foot in the door is just as important as finding the perfect position. By taking a position that isn’t your ideal job you are earning experience that may be transferable in the future. Soft skills are something all employers value and they can be earned in every type of position. Sometimes the path to your dream job is not a direct path.
Additionally, even if you don’t have your dream job that doesn’t mean you can’t take on additional activities that earn you beneficial experience in your desired career field. It may be hard work and require an investment of time but that preparation could pay off. “I think you have to take advantage of every single opportunity to volunteer and do things that I would call extracurricular, outside of your day-to-day work or your day-to-day life as a student, if that’s the situation,” said Jessica Lee, Director of Digital Talent for Marriott International. “It takes a sheer amount of hustle and hard work and a willingness on your own end to really dig deep and say, ‘I’m going to take it a step above, beyond what everyone else is doing.’”
Some ideas Ms. Lee suggested were start a blog, Tweet about professional topics, or reach out to friends and family members to see if they have opportunities available that could help you gain experience.
Whatever you do, don’t lose hope if you are not able to land your dream job right away. Today’s employment landscape can be challenging but with a little persistence and some grit you’ll fully launch your career in no time!
Bryant & Stratton College is dedicated to helping students improve their employability skills and become job ready. Through outcomes-based education and career training, Bryant & Stratton College helps students learn the technical skills as well as the soft skills they’ll need to be successful in a career. If you are interested in learning more about the online degree programs at Bryant & Stratton College, please call 1.888.447.3528 to speak with an admissions representative