13 Ways for New College Graduates to Gain Job Experience

May 29, 2008

It can be difficult to get a job in this competitive market, especially when you don't have an extensive resume. The 13 strategies outlined here can help you land an interview and gain crucial job experience. Read on to learn more.

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Job Hunting & Networking Strategies:

1. Brand Yourself in 30 Seconds

Building your own brand is a critical step, though it's commonly forgotten. Branding yourself can help people understand your values and objectives quickly. Before talking to any professional or going to an interview, let's start with your 30-second elevator pitch by answering the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What are you looking for?

2. Use Your Available Resources

Take a few minutes to think about people that can help you, such as professors, former classmates, neighbors, or your relatives and friends. You never know who in your network may hold a promising opportunity. Don't be hesitant to send them a message or take them out for coffee and ask respectfully.

In addition, every school has a career center available to current students and recent grads. These centers provide a variety of services, such as resume critique, career advice, workshops, job leads, and sometimes even a job referral. If you have not visited the career center, make an appointment today!

3. Attend Job Fairs

After you learn the art of branding and promoting yourself with a 30-second pitch, it's time to let yourself shine with confidence in the crowd. Attending a job fair can help you get an interview or a job, while bypassing the common first step of submitting an online application. Don't just suit up and 'make the place rain' with your resume. Get there earlier to beat the crowd, or even help set up. Do research before you go and find two or three employers to have meaningful conversations with; this is the best way for them to remember you. Bring your portfolio with copies of your polished resume, dress to impress, and go score some interviews!

4. Use a Network and Join Professional Groups

Nowadays, networking is one of the best ways to attract employers. Headhunters for the largest and highest-paying companies in the world search LinkedIn and other social networking sites for potential job candidates. In fact, all of the Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. If you create professional profiles on this site and a few others, you might be able to draw the attention of recruiters in your field. Moreover, you can join professional groups through LinkedIn and other associations in your field. These groups usually have occasional local meetings and conferences. You can approach potential connections with small talk and your 30-second pitch at these meetings.

5. Request an Informational Interview

It can be nerve-wracking to approach a complete stranger and ask for advice or connections. However, this is a great way to expand your professional network by simply promoting yourself and becoming a hot commodity in the field of your interest. Start by looking up someone you'd like to talk to via LinkedIn, friends who work for a particular employer, or professionals at networking events.

Gaining Experience:

6. Contact a Temp Agency

College grads shouldn't overlook the opportunities that temp agencies can provide. Nearly 90% of the companies in North America have used staffing services at some point to find temporary and permanent employees. Temp agencies can also help you evaluate job offers. Getting your foot in the door via a temp agency could lead to long-term employment. Worst-case scenario: you'll get job experience that can be included on a resume.

7. Bid on Jobs / Work Freelance Jobs

If experience is what you need, a job-bidding site is the place for you. Some of the employers who post opportunities on these sites care more about low bids than past job experience. If you can afford to work hard for a small amount of pay, you can usually build up your portfolio or resume in a short amount of time.

8. Volunteer

Volunteer opportunities are a sure thing for a couple of reasons. Number one: most people don't turn a volunteer away. Number two: there are always plenty of opportunities available. If you decide to pursue a volunteer opportunity, look for one in your field. You won't get paid for the work you do, but you will gain relevant job experience and access to networking.

9. Seek Out an Internship

If you didn't do an internship when you were in college, it may be worth considering now that you're ready, willing and able to work. Internships don't always pay the best, but they do provide the kind of hands-on job experience that employers like to see. They also give new grads the chance to see if their occupation is worth pursuing in the real world. Treat it as a real job and be the best performer that you can; you might be surprised by how much you get out of it.

10. Request an Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a good alternative to an internship or a volunteer job because you can make a significant amount of money. Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 college grads earning money and gaining job experience through apprenticeships right now in fields like manufacturing, aerospace, construction, homeland security, finance, information technology, transportation and hospitality.

Professional Development:

11. Seek Out Certification

According to the Certification and Accreditation Programs Directory, there are more than 1,600 different certifications currently available. Earning certifications that are relevant to your field might be your ticket to landing a job after graduation. Certification shows that you are serious about your field and competent enough to do the job at hand.

Follow Your Dream:

12. Become an Entrepreneur

Don't let the fact that you can't get a job hold you back - start your own business. There are lots of different businesses that can be launched without massive amounts of capital, regardless of the field you are in. Good examples include home-based businesses, consulting services and media publishing. Additionally, there are places for entrepreneurs to work independently or with like-minded peers, such as the Hub and NextSpace.

13. Don't Give Up on Your Passion!

Lastly, make your interest your own game. With the fast-growing usage of cloud-based social networks, it's the best platform for sharing your skills and passion with others for free! Take users of Instagram as an example. Many users who started with only a few followers now have fanbases that include hundreds and thousands of followers. These users succeed because they share their passion for art, photography, cosmetics, and all that stimulate them. After earning online recognition, they got a job in their field of interest.

Writing a blog is another way to show you have expertise and passion for your field. Blogs can also draw the attention of employers and lend additional experience for your resume. Look for blogging platforms that allow you to share your passion within the field.

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