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No Experience? No Problem! 5 Unlikely Places to Get Work Experience

A girl is taking notes at a study desk.

One of the most frustrating things a young job seeker can hear is that they need more experience, but without a job, how do you get more experience? It can feel like a hopeless Catch-22.

But work experience doesn’t have come from a traditional 9-to-5 job. Here are five unlikely ways to get work experience!

1. Become a Volunteer

One of the best ways to gain experience can be by volunteering. That’s because you’re not only developing great career skills, but you’re also working towards an organization’s goal and helping others.

While there are many opportunities to help non-profits, before you reach out to an organization, consider ones with opportunities that can help you to demonstrate skills you want to use in a work environment. Want to gain experience in social media marketing, event planning, or management? Ask organizations if they needs help with managing their social feeds, planning a fundraiser, or managing volunteers.

Smaller organizations may be more likely to provide opportunities as they typically don’t have big teams and need the extra hands. However, medium or larger organizations could provide more opportunities to be mentored by staff.

Are you looking to demonstrate a level of responsibility and initiative? Consider creating your own event! You can organize a diaper drive, or start a peer-mentorship program at a local high school. Employers may appreciate that you saw a problem and took the initiative to fix it without being asked.

2. Join a Club

Consider what kinds of clubs might look best to potential employers. Clubs generally break down into a few different categories: professional (or major-related clubs if you’re still in school), charitable clubs, and hobby/enthusiast clubs.

If you are targeting a particular industry — for example, if you want to be an accountant — joining an accounting club, a finance club, or being treasurer of a charitable club could provide you the experience that makes you stand out as a candidate. And while belonging to a club can look good on your resume, being part of the club’s leadership or head of a committee can show potential employers you know how to get things done.

3. Participate in a Competition

Ever see posters around campus announcing hackathons, business-case competitions, writing competitions, or artistic showings? Don’t just walk past them, get involved!

Even if you don’t win, a competition can look great on your resume. In addition to highlighting your proficiency in the overall theme of the competition, you can call out skills like problem solving, attention to detail, and being able to work under pressure — all traits employers look for in candidates.

4. Start Your Own Business

Why wait for others to give you opportunities when you can make them for yourself? Entrepreneurship can show leadership, independence, and the ability to be self-motivated — skills hiring managers love.

A side business can also help you make money while in school or after you start your first job. Depending on your skills, you could start a business focused on pet-sitting, tutoring, DJ-ing , or graphic design, for example.

Better yet, consider how to tap into the field you’re hoping to work in. Want to be a nurse? What about starting a business that helps elderly people by running errands or helping them with technology? Want to become a teacher? Your own tutoring business or homework help service could help you stand out from the competition when applying for jobs.

5. Do an Internship or Co-op

Whether you’re still in school or just graduated, you can get experience via an internship or co-op. These can provide valuable work experience, and mentorship from people already working in the field. Additionally you can start building your professional network in your chosen field.

Can’t find a paid internship and can’t afford to work without pay? Approach companies to see if they would take you on as an intern a day or two a week. You’ll still have time to make money as a barista or server, and get relevant experience for your career.