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15 Ways to Get Job Experience for Your Resume


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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

A common misconception about work experience is that for it to “count,” it has to be formal work experience.

But many first-time job seekers and those returning to work after a long break don’t have recent — if any — paid work experience. And since many job postings state that you must have experience, you might hesitate to submit your resume for jobs where you don’t have work experience (or at least don’t think you do).

But think again! Unpaid and informal experience can count as work experience. And you might just be surprised at what you can include.

Whether you’re considering what to include on your resume or brainstorming creative solutions to build work experience, we’ve outlined 15 different ways for you to get work experience.

Why Is Job Experience Important?

Man and woman shaking hands for a new job or employee hire
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Before we dive into how to gain work experience, let’s talk about why it’s important. Work experience demonstrates your skills and abilities in a professional setting and can show potential employers that you have what it takes to perform the job.

Additionally, having work experience can give you an edge over other candidates who may not have any relevant experience. It shows that you have practical knowledge and understanding of the field, even if it’s from an unpaid or informal position.

Incorporating the skills you’ve gained in your resume can help you stand out in automated resume scanners, which is vital if you want to get a recruiter’s eyes on your resume.

Use the following suggestions to help you build an impactful resume that catches the hiring manager’s attention, landing you more interviews and better job offers.

1. Seek Internships

Admiring businesswoman talking to businessman
Nattakorn_Maneerat / Shutterstock.com

When you’re wondering how to get experience for a job, look into internships. Part-time, full-time, unpaid, or paid internships are a tried-and-true way to get some work experience. You can complete an internship at a private company, government office, or even a nonprofit.

And don’t feel like internships are only for students or recent college graduates — more organizations are recognizing the need for individuals of all ages and experience levels to gain up-to-date skills.

2. Scope Out Apprenticeships

Multiple generations of workers
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Imagine working closely with a career mentor, absorbing years of knowledge and experience that textbooks and classrooms simply can’t offer. An apprenticeship provides a unique chance to gain practical skills that are highly valued in the workforce.

If you’re looking to dive back into the professional world after a career break, returnships offer similar benefits. Similar to apprenticeships, returnships are curated for job seekers needing to get back on their career track and gain familiarity with any changes in their field.

3. Start With Temporary Jobs

New employee first day on the job
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

You need experience to get experience, right? Boost your skills and knowledge in a relatively short amount of time through temporary work. Each temporary position introduces you to new tasks, different workplace cultures, and diverse teams.

You’ll have excellent networking opportunities, meeting professionals from various levels within each organization.

You might discover your true passion and a more defined career path along the way. Temporary jobs, by nature, allow you to test out different industries and roles without the long-term commitment. If you’re uncertain about your career direction, gaining clarity and direction through temporary work experience can be highly beneficial.

4. Dive In With Entry-Level Jobs

Successful job interview with boss and employee handshaking
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Have you overlooked entry-level positions, focusing on your target job title that has a higher salary and more responsibility? It’s time to take a second look. Entry-level jobs are an excellent opportunity to build connections in your new field and gain substantial hands-on experience.

Not to mention, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that you can find high-paying entry-level jobs in many industries.

Entry-level jobs offer crucial skill development through on-the-job training. Engaging in real-world tasks and responsibilities, entry-level jobs provide you with tangible job experience, and they’re a stepping stone for future career progression.

Many organizations recognize the potential in enthusiastic beginners and often provide clearly defined pathways for advancement within the company.

So, take a look at your target job and work backward to find the entry-level role you need for now. Set your ideal job title as the role you want to progress into down the road.

5. Discover Freelancing

Happy woman working remotely
Lyubov Levitskaya / Shutterstock.com

Freelancing allows you to build work experience without leaving your current job. Dip your toes into new waters, test different roles within your target field, and acquire a variety of skills while maintaining financial stability.

It’s like having the best of both worlds, where you grow professionally without putting all your eggs in one basket.

Beyond the allure of flexibility, freelancing empowers you to build a diverse portfolio that speaks volumes of your capabilities and adaptability. In a traditional job, your experiences might be confined to the scope of your role within one company.

However, as a freelancer, you can tackle projects from various clients, showcasing both your core skills and proficiency in adapting to different challenges and environments.

6. Assess Side Gigs

Young man wearing a headset working at a laptop
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock.com

Whether it’s a passion project or a part-time job related to your desired career, side gigs offer flexibility and the opportunity to learn new skills. Moreover, side hustles can also help you build a diverse network and make valuable connections within your industry.

You never know who you might meet through a side gig, and those connections can open doors to future job opportunities or collaborations.

However, it’s essential to balance your side gigs with your main job and make sure they align with your values and career goals. Don’t take on too much, as burnout can be detrimental to both your current job and your side hustle.

7. Research Co-ops

Pressmaster / Shutterstock.com

Similar to an internship, a co-op is a work experience that is usually arranged through schools. However, there are two main differences between an internship and a co-op. First, an internship is usually one term — think one summer, one semester, or one year.

A co-op, on the other hand, is for multiple periods. Often, your co-op will cover all of the summers during your college years or even alternate a few work terms with academic terms.

Also, internships can be unpaid and part-time, whereas co-ops are generally full-time, paid learning experiences funded by the employer.

You’ll gain experience through structured learning while you build deeper, long-term relationships with your mentors and coworkers, making it a great way to jump-start your career.

8. Embrace Volunteering

A woman working in an animal shelter taking care of animals
Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko / Shutterstock.com

Volunteering isn’t only a way to give back to your community. It’s also a fantastic way to get work experience for your resume.

Once you shift your mindset to think of your volunteer work as a job, you’ll see all the valuable skills (transferable, hard, soft) you’ve gained, along with having more work experience to add to your resume.

Not only are you contributing to a good cause, but volunteering allows you to enrich your resume and engage with your community. You never know what opportunities may arise from the connections and skills you gain through volunteering.

Every work experience, paid or unpaid, provides learning opportunities that help you become a more well-rounded candidate for future job opportunities.

9. Consider Part-Time Jobs

A woman works on a computer at an office desk
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

When you’re looking for a new role, it’s common to focus on full-time positions. After all, that’s where the highest salaries and best benefits have traditionally been found.

However, part-time jobs have shifted and offer better pay and benefits than you might think. If you need flexibility to balance work, studies, or other commitments, part-time work can help you grow and thrive in your career.

Moreover, part-time jobs can serve as stepping stones to full-time opportunities in your field of interest. They allow you to network, demonstrate your commitment and capabilities, and occasionally transition into more permanent roles.

10. Explore Job Shadowing

Smiling senior employee
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

You may have heard of job shadowing as a common practice in the medical field, but did you know it can apply to other industries as well? Job shadowing involves spending time with an experienced professional in your desired field or role.

You observe and learn about their daily tasks, responsibilities, and challenges.

Job shadowing can provide invaluable insight and help you make informed decisions about your career path. Unsure how to find a job shadowing opportunity?

Reach out to professionals in your network or through informational interviews to see if job shadowing is an option. You may also find opportunities through mentorship programs or by directly contacting companies or organizations you would love to work for.

11. Get Involved With Community Activities

Fundraiser
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock.com

When you’re focused on landing a remote or flexible job, you might overlook opportunities right down the street. Many of your local organizations might offer hybrid or fully remote positions. Not to mention, local professionals can work for companies worldwide and help you tap into the hidden job market.

To connect with area professionals and local organizations, consider volunteer work, charity events, and other community involvement opportunities. These community connections can help you build work experience and potentially lead to a job opportunity.

12. Join a Professional Organization

Networking
baranq / Shutterstock.com

Professional organizations are a great way to stay current in your field, network with peers and industry leaders, and access job opportunities. Many organizations offer virtual events and resources for remote professionals as well.

In addition to larger national organizations, you may also find smaller, niche groups that focus on specific industries or job types. These can be a valuable resource for connecting with like-minded professionals and expanding your knowledge and skills.

Try searching for your target job title or career and incorporating search keywords like “organization” or “association” as well.

13. Launch a Personal Project

thoughtful man looking computer
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Don’t wait for the perfect job to come along. Take matters into your own hands and launch a personal project that aligns with your target role. You’ll help fill gaps in your resume and showcase your initiative and drive to potential employers.

Personal projects can be anything from starting a blog or YouTube channel to creating an app or launching a side hustle. Get creative and have fun with it!

14. Work With a Mentor

Consultant woman
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

We’ve mentioned mentors a few times, but the career benefits of working with a mentor can’t be overstated. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to make a career change, having someone with experience and knowledge to bounce ideas off of and ask for advice can make a significant impact on your career story.

Mentors can also introduce you to new opportunities, offer insider tips and tricks, and help you avoid common pitfalls. They can challenge you to think outside the box and push you toward growth and success.

If you don’t currently have a mentor, consider reaching out to someone in your network or joining a professional organization that offers mentoring programs.

15. Sign Up for Classes

Happy woman studying online with laptop and headphones taking online class
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

Continuing education is an excellent way to stay current in your field and obtain new skills. Whether it’s online courses, workshops, or certifications, these opportunities can help you stand out in the job market and show your dedication to self-improvement.

Taking classes can also provide networking opportunities and connect you with other professionals who might have job openings that don’t make it to the major job boards. So, don’t hesitate to invest in yourself and your career growth through education.

5 Tips to Find Professional Development

Smiling woman at work using a tablet and leaving a meeting
Zamrznuti tonovi / Shutterstock.com

Outside of tangible work experience, consider how to get job experience through professional development. Adding to your skill set through development opportunities opens up new career opportunities as you become more marketable.

1. Explore Your Current Skill Set

Happy woman at work
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Take a look at your current skills and reflect on areas you would like to improve or expand upon. Look through job descriptions for your target role and consider what gaps you have. This can include technical skills, soft skills, or a combination of both.

Once you have identified areas for growth, look for online courses, workshops, or conferences that can help you develop the skills you need.

2. Review Your Career Aspirations

Delpixel / Shutterstock.com

Rather than signing up for a class because it looks fun, get strategic in your planning. Consider where you want to be in your career and what skills or knowledge will help get you there.

Think specific training, certifications, or experience. With a clear understanding of your career goals, you can seek out development opportunities that align with them.

3. Set Goals

Goals Dart Board
WHYFRAME / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of goals, your career growth and job search will significantly improve when you have clearly defined your targets. Set achievable goals that are specific, measurable, and timely. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your professional development.

4. Utilize Your Network

Network
chanpipat / Shutterstock.com

Your network isn’t just for new job openings. Networking can be an excellent resource for development opportunities. Reach out to colleagues, mentors, or industry professionals and ask for their recommendations on courses or workshops that have helped them in their careers.

They may also have connections to relevant events or organizations that offer professional development. If any of your networks are in hiring positions, ask them what skills you could focus on to help you stand out.

5. Keep an Open Mind

Man working from remote office on laptop
GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

It’s essential to stay open-minded when it comes to your development. Don’t limit yourself to one specific skill or area of interest. You never know what new opportunities may arise from trying something new. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and try different things. It could lead you down a path you never expected.

How to Write a Resume With No Experience

Resume
Aaron Amat / Shutterstock.com

Yes, it’s easier to write a resume when you have years of experience in your field, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write an impactful resume if you have no formal work experience.

For instance, if you’re a recent graduate, start by focusing on your academic achievements, including any coursework or projects that demonstrate relevant skills for the job you’re applying for.

Highlight any volunteer work, internships, or extracurricular activities that have helped you develop transferable skills, such as leadership, communication, or problem-solving.

You can also include personal projects or hobbies that showcase your passion and dedication to your field of interest. Utilize resume keywords and focus on the skills you bring to the job, rather than the skills you don’t yet have.

Also, with the rise of technology, you can use AI to help you write a better resume. While you should never lie on a resume, you can leverage AI to help you rephrase and brainstorm new ways to communicate your experience.

Above all, present yourself with confidence. Your resume is a chance to connect the dots and let the hiring manager know you’re the best candidate for the job.

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