It’s the age-old problem: how do you gain relevant experience of a job you’ve not done yet? Fresh from higher education or a learning course, your next step is securing that first role – no mean feat without the right practical experience.
If you’re struggling to get your foot in the door within your chosen field, our guide to eight ways to gain job experience could help. From volunteering to internships, we’ve covered the different tactics you can use to boost your CV and catch the attention of prospective employers.
Just two decades ago, internships were scarcely heard of. Now, they’re a prerequisite for gaining experience in a range of industries – from marketing and broadcasting, to fashion and finance.
Internships are among the best ways to gain hands-on experience in a particular industry. You’ll be working alongside people who have been in a similar position to you, providing an incredible opportunity to learn new skills and gain the right experience to take your career forward.
Of course, one of the drawbacks to internships is that most are unpaid. But if you’re serious about breaking into a particular field, a couple of months working for free will pay off in the long term.
Volunteering for charities and non-profit organisations is an effective way to add valuable experience to your CV. While you won’t necessarily be working in the industry of your choosing, it does bring the opportunity to build soft skills, which are highly valued by employers.
If you’ve little-to-no experience in a working environment, it may be difficult to gain a foot in the door when it comes to applying for jobs. That’s why volunteering can be such a boon on your CV, giving you the soft skills employers are looking for from entry-level staff – think teamwork, communication, and leadership abilities.
What’s more, the very nature of volunteering shows a willingness to work, and a proactive approach that is sure to appeal to many employers. Whether it’s working in a charity shop or lending a hand at a food bank; volunteering demonstrates a range of skills, attributes, and character traits that will boost your employability.
3. Work-based Learning
Modern learning courses, particularly those in vocational subject areas, often include on-the-job learning. These placements, which are arranged by the educational institution, provide the perfect opportunity for gaining practical skills in a working environment – an experience which you can add to your CV.
Work-based learning is shown to be a highly effective means of building skills in a particular field. By learning on the job, you’ll take your knowledge beyond textbooks and theory, and get a grasp of what your career might look like in the future.
What’s more, for every hour you spend learning at work, you’ll be building connections and interacting with peers. And who knows, if you impress the boss, they may keep a position open for you later down the road.
No longer restricted to trade professions, apprenticeships have come a long way in recent years, with more people than ever choosing this route over higher education. Like internships, apprenticeships offer highly-targeted, work-based learning and experience, giving you all the skills and knowhow to break into a particular industry.
Apprenticeships are available in a huge range of industries, so no matter what your aspirations for the future, you may be able to find the programme you’re looking for. The best place to start your search is the Gov.uk apprenticeship portal.
The great thing about apprenticeships is that most are paid, so you can expect fair recompense while gaining the experience you need to secure a full-time position in the future.
5. Events and Conferences
If you’re finding it difficult to secure a foothold in a specific industry, you need to think outside the box and plan your next move carefully. With no tangible experience to your name, getting your foot through the door can seem impossible, but there are things you can try.
One way to gain experience and knowledge of a particular industry is to attend events, conferences, and workshops led by leaders in a particular field. This will help you build a deeper understanding of the industry, and what employers expect from prospective new starters.
There are lots of places where you can find out about upcoming conferences and events online, including the LinkedIn Events portal. Attending such events will not only boost your knowledge, but will demonstrate a passion and proactivity that could be enough to land you an interview.
6. Work Experience Sessions
Often, work experience is viewed as something reserved for schoolchildren, but this is no longer the case. Now, many employers are offering work experience to people of all ages and experience levels; think of it like a short-term internship.
There are many benefits to gaining work experience within a particular business. First, it will give you hands-on experience in your chosen career, which will look great on your CV. Then, of course, there’s the fact that you can vet different industries and careers, so you can ascertain that you’re on the right path for you.
Work experience isn’t easy to secure, and it can help to know someone within a specific industry who can put your name forward. That said, many employers will be happy to offer work experience if you demonstrate a genuine passion for their industry.
7. Boost Your Skillset
Getting an interview can feel like an uphill struggle when you’ve no experience on your CV. That’s why it’s so important to put your skills to work, and make sure prospective employers know who you are and what you can offer.
Sure, you may not have practical experience, but some employers will be willing to take a punt on you if you can demonstrate the right soft skills, character and attitude. Think about how you can amplify your skills and traits to work to your advantage as part of your application.
For example, perhaps you had to complete a presentation as part of a recent qualification; this demonstrates effective public speaking and communication. Or, maybe you solved a problem as part of a team; frame this as proof of your exceptional collaboration, teamwork, and leadership qualities.
8. Build Your Network
It may be a cliché, but the age-old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true. A leg-up is often just what you need to break into a particular industry, so building your network and interacting with peers could hold the key to your future career.
Of course, the go-to platform for networking is LinkedIn, so make sure you build a detailed profile and update it regularly. Almost all businesses and their staff use the professional social network, so it’s a great place to build connections and put the feelers out for potential opportunities.
Ready to take the next step on your career journey? At Oxbridge, our distance learning courses can help you build a job-winning CV. For more information and our full course range, visit the homepage or give one of our experienced course advisors a call on 0121 630 3000.