How To Gain Experience When You Don’t Have Any

How to gain experience if you don't have any experience

I will always be a huge advocate for getting experience while you are in college. I would even go further to say that you should get experience while you’re still in high school. However, life doesn’t work that way all the time. People get busy or they get lost. You may have gone to college thinking you wanted to do one thing, only to find out that wasn’t the right field for you at all. Then you have to switch and end up playing catch up just to graduate on time. There are many ways why you wouldn’t have the work experience you feel like you need before you graduate. However, there are things you can do to gain experience when you don’t have any. This is especially relevant to people who are graduating super soon and totally freaking out.

Post-Grad Internships

I wish I had a whole list of companies that have post-grad internships, but these can be either really easy to come by or really hard. It really depends on your field. Some companies will consider hiring a summer intern if you’ve just graduated. However, there are other companies that have post-grad internships for an entire year. Some ones that I remember looking at were NBC’s infamous Page Program, well-known PR agency Edelman has a some around the country, and I believe Fleishman Hillard has a post-grad fellowship. I worked throughout college and had two internships, so I felt like interning again just wasn’t something that I wanted. So, I started a blog!

Blogging

I want to emphasize how many skills you get from blogging. You would think blogging only helps with writing, but you learn so much more! Graphic design, web design, photography, and so many other skills that really help you gain experience when you really don’t have any. I would consider reading this post if you’re looking for some more in-depth knowledge about it.

Build Your Own Portfolio

So, blogging isn’t really your thing and neither is a post-grad internship. Then perhaps you should try building your own portfolio. For example, I knew some people who were really into photography and had DSLR cameras. They really jumpstarted their photography side hustle by doing work for on-campus sororities or people who needed headshots.

If you want to do something in public relations, write some press releases or put together a communications plan. You don’t really need to work for anyone to do this. If you have anything from your class assignments that works too!

Volunteer/Freelance

I know money is a huge issue for everyone. I’ve definitely been there where I just needed a job. However, if you’re open to it, consider doing work for small businesses. Small businesses usually don’t have the capacity to operate social media, do marketing and public relations, or graphic and web design. Offering pro-bono services or perhaps discounted services is a great way to add to your experience. I would even consider this to be a form of freelance work and you could phrase yourself as a freelance consultant. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?

Side note: if you want more info on this particular topic, I’d be more than happy to go more in-depth. Just let me know in the comments!

Job Shadowing

Finally, I think a good way to gain experience when you really don’t have any is to job shadow. Again, you’re probably not going to get paid for this, but it could be really helpful, especially in the long-term. Use LinkedIn or your school’s alumni network and reach out to any alumni that are doing jobs you’re interested in. LinkedIn is great because you can really do a specific search for the companies that alumni work for or the kind of work they do. Reach out to them and tell them your situation. Most of the time, people are always willing to help! Additionally, this is a great way to network and get your foot in the door in certain fields. Again, let me know in the comments if you want me to go in-depth with this!

Your College Experience

If you learned anything or did any projects in class or if you were involved in clubs, you can definitely use this as experience. I used to be under the impression that internships were the only kinds of experience relevant to what I wanted to do as a career. However, this is far from the truth. If you’ve been in a leadership role in any clubs or projects, you can definitely translate those skills to experience.

In addition to college, you can take certificate courses in areas where you feel like you need a bit of a boost in skills or you could go to grad school if you feel like you need further training. These can be pricey options but think of it as investing in your future. Also, I know some people recommend Udemy and I would be very careful with those courses. I’ve heard that sometimes you can get ripped off. If you want to learn how to do something, I would say lynda.com is a great option. I believe most universities and local libraries have a subscription to it making it free, so I would take advantage before graduating!

Final Thoughts!

With these options, especially with ones where payment could be an option, don’t be afraid to turn down offers that you don’t feel comfortable with. Additionally, with free work, treat it as a stepping stone to get to where you want to be. When trying to gain experience when you don’t have any, you have to be your own cheerleader, and you do have to be proactive. However, I hope these tips will guide you in getting the job you want!

Question of the day: What tips do you have to gain experience when you don’t have any?

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10 Comments
  1. Great post! I‘m currently studying Fashion Journalism and am simultaneously interning at a fashion magazine – it‘s my first internship and I feel like I‘ve learnt so much in these last couple of weeks, so I think that interning is a really great way to get your foot in the door and gain experience!:)

    xx, Valeria

    http://www.perfectblvck.blogspot.com

  2. Totally agree with these tips. There are so many ways to simply sit down and *think* about what skills you could have learned, for example, volunteering at the food shelter: ability to work with a team, collaboration, ability to stand for x amount of hours that people can use on their resume to get their foot in the door.

    Coincidentally, I just posted two professional development posts at the same time I noticed one of yours on twitter. Very insightful on how to excel in an interview. 😉

    1. Yes yes yes! I absolutely love your example! I think some people think, “Oh well maybe that’s a stretch,” but in actuality, those are some skills you learn! So glad you enjoyed this post! I’ll make sure to stop by and read yours today!

  3. Loved this! Having just left University I’ve been doing 2 internships in 2 different fields I’m interested in (one paid and one unpaid) alongside working my part time retail job. It’s been busy alongside also running my blog, but the experience I’ve gained in the last few months has been invaluable. My tip would be to utilise your University careers service if you have one, I managed to secure a bursary-paid internship through them, meaning I was paid whilst gaining great on the job experience! Great post! x

    http://wanderingmeg.com

  4. One of my fav ways to build experience is volunteering or paid internship. You are never too old to be an intern but if you feel weird about it, go for the volunteer route. You will get so much on the job experience and front row knowledge. Be the 30,40, even 50 year old intern. Take that new knowledge and flip it into a new career.

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