As a young person, being told that you need experience in order to gain experience in the first place feels so unfair, like a vicious cycle you can’t get out of. It might seem hopeless, but there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you get experience, or show employers what you can do, without needing to have had a paid or full time job in a relevant area.
The idea map... a simple way to get started
As a way to get started and clear your head, we suggest taking some time to sit down and make a bullet-pointed list or even a mind-map with some initial ideas, even if you don’t know exactly what field you want to work in yet.
Here is an example of some bullet points you could make:
1) Things I’m interested in
Cooking and food
Television and Netflix
2) Things I’m good at
3) Things I’d like to be better at
Now start to think about ways in which you could build or showcase these skills to an employer. It doesn’t have to be through a ‘job’, there are lots of ways you can prove that you have experience of a set of skills and behaviours.
Here are some examples based on the ideas we listed above:
- Create an instagram account reviewing local food with colourful and well-photographed images and catchy bios.
- Be proactive with the instagram account, following other similar accounts and contacting potential companies that I’m interested in working for to get me more into the spotlight.
- Join a student or volunteer local radio or newspaper to get more journalism experience.
Thinking outside the box when it comes to showcasing your skills when you can’t always get on your dream internship or even two weeks of work experience at a company is a great way of making you stand out from other candidates when you apply for jobs.
Of course, the type of experience you might wish to gain completely depends on the area or sector that interests you, but here are some ideas of options to gain experience from and that might help you stand out:
Volunteering for an organisation, even if it’s only vaguely related to your dream career, can be beneficial in order to show your willingness to give time and energy in an unpaid environment, while also gaining transferable skills.
For example, the legal profession can be an extremely hard area to gain experience in as it is highly competitive. However, voluntary work with a legal organisation such as a charity that provides legal protection, local courts or even your local council, may be great places to gain some valuable experience.
Being more vocational than university study, apprenticeships can be a great way to gain some hands-on experience in a specific field.
Depending on the experience and qualifications you already have, there are a variety of levels of apprenticeship, ranging from intermediate to degree level.
The sectors that offer apprenticeships are constantly expanding. Some of the sectors that offer apprenticeships include:
- Creative, media, arts, and digital technologies
- Life and industrial sciences
- Business management, administration, law, and financial services
Online courses can be an easy way of gaining skills in the comfort of your living room. There are online courses for almost everything nowadays, and many of them are free. For example, if you want to get into coding, try a site like Codeacademy.com where you can learn to code for free and then create your own sites or coding projects to show to employers.
More creative routes
Using social media in a creative and productive way can really help with key skills employers are looking for:
Setting up a YouTube or Instagram account can be a clever way to showcase and develop your creative skills, or your knowledge of a particular field. It can act as a kind of portfolio to show employers what you can do.
Creating a blog to display your ability to write and create original content.
Showing your initiative and confidence by directly contacting individuals or companies. This might include directly contacting the social media pages of your dream companies to work for, expressing your keenness to enter this sector and what it means to you.
Joining Linkedin groups for specific career areas and posting that you want help getting started in that particular industry, and can anyone help. Surprisingly, this can actually be a lot easier than it seems, although don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a response.
Making the most of university
Radio or student newspaper/magazine can be great ways to showcase your creative and communicative flair, while gaining more hands-on experience.
Subject specific areas (law, business or politics for example) nearly always have societies that may run events and provide you with opportunities to network and gain sector-specific experience.
It’s a confusing time and it can feel almost impossible to get the ball rolling, but our main advice is to be as creative as possible, showing your initiative and eagerness to work in your chosen field in whatever way you can. At the end of the day, employers want to employ those who stand out, are eager to learn, and who are going to add positivity and enthusiasm to the workplace.