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Career Advice for Job Seekers

How to get your first job if employers all require experience

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
July 5, 2023


In today’s competitive job market, education alone is often not enough to secure employment in your chosen field. Prospective employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who can hit the ground running. For this reason, having at least one career-related job or an internship during your college years can greatly enhance your employability and provide a solid foundation for your professional future.

A career-related job or internship provides an opportunity for students to apply the theories learned in their classes to real-world scenarios, understand the dynamics of the professional world, and build a robust network that could pave the way for future opportunities. It is a fact that students who have taken part in internships or held part-time jobs related to their career path have a better understanding of their industry and are better prepared for the rigors of the working world.

5 reasons to successfully complete a career-related job or internship prior to graduation

  1. Practical Experience: The first and most obvious benefit of internships or jobs during college is the practical, hands-on experience that they offer. While textbooks provide the theoretical framework of a field, an internship or a job allows students to understand the nuances and challenges associated with it, which is invaluable.
  2. Improved Skills: A job or an internship allows students to improve and refine their skills. Whether it’s technical skills such as coding, or soft skills like communication and teamwork, these real-world experiences provide an excellent platform for students to grow and develop.
  3. Professional Networking: The connections made during an internship or a job can often prove to be useful in the future. Networking is a key part of career growth, and early exposure to this can prove to be a significant advantage.
  4. Understanding Organizational Culture: Being part of an organization, even as an intern or part-time employee, helps students understand the dynamics of organizational culture. This can be incredibly helpful when they start their full-time careers, as it prepares them for the workplace environment.
  5. Career Exploration: Lastly, these experiences allow students to explore their career paths. They can determine whether a particular industry or job role is right for them and make informed decisions about their future.

But what if you graduate without having had a career-related job or internship?

  1. Leverage Academic Projects and Extracurricular Activities: If you haven’t had an internship or job, you can highlight academic projects or extracurricular activities on your resume. Employers understand that not everyone will have professional experience and often look favorably upon graduates who have shown initiative, leadership, or problem-solving skills in these areas.
  2. Volunteer or Take on Freelance Work: Volunteering in your field of interest can be an excellent way to gain practical experience. Alternatively, consider taking on freelance projects or contract work. These experiences can help you build your portfolio and make you more appealing to future employers. Employers don’t really care whether you were paid to do work similar to what they’re hiring for. They mostly just want to be assured that you have the demonstrated ability to do the work. After all, they’re going to pay you to get their work done, not to attend classes or write exams.
  3. Network: Networking is even more crucial for those without job experience. Connect with professionals in your field, attend industry events, and leverage online platforms like LinkedIn. Often, opportunities come from the most unexpected places.
  4. Pursue Further Education or Certifications: If you are finding it difficult to break into your industry, consider further education or certification. This demonstrates to employers that you are committed to your field and willing to invest in your skills. But be cautious if you’re considering getting an additional degree: be sure that it makes you more and not less qualified. You don’t want to end up with a Master’s, for example, if the jobs you want are from employers who prefer to hire candidates with Bachelor’s degrees.
  5. Stay Positive and Persistent: Finally, it’s crucial to maintain a positive outlook and be persistent in your job search. Rejection is part of the process, but with determination and a strategic approach, you can find opportunities that align with your career goals.

While internships and jobs can provide significant advantages, they are not the be-all and end-all. There are many paths to success, and sometimes the road less traveled can lead to the most fulfilling career. The important thing is to stay flexible, keep learning, and remember that every experience – whether in a classroom, an office, or elsewhere – is valuable in shaping your professional journey.

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