Experience is something you need when applying for a job, but how does one gain experience when no one will hire them because they don't have experience? It is weird, right? I have found that you can spin any opportunity into something that can help you nail down a job. What we tend to forget is that experience is not all about holding jobs, it can be as simple as serving in a leadership position, volunteering, working on side projects, etc. While the word experience can be overwhelming and a bit cumbersome in terms of its expectations, I tried to break it down for the job seeker:
Experience is putting yourself out there -- ie. Networking. Networking is how you get your foot in the door, and it is never too early to start. Networking relationships can be extremely beneficial if you put the effort in. Do not be afraid to reach out to people who are working in the areas you are interested in. Everyone loves talking about themselves, and they will be happy to share with you. To go along with this, be sure to be genuine in any networking venture. Take the time to learn about the other person, and do your research. A simple LinkedIn search of the person can give you good, top line information that can help drive the conversation.
Experience is realizing that not every internship or job will be your dream job. Any internship or entry level position, regardless of how much you enjoy it or not, will provide you with experience you can use to put on a resume or talk about in an interview. Personally, I believe all experiences are good because they continue to offer clarity into what type of role you see yourself in long-term.
Experience is being aware of your surroundings. Are you taking advantage of your college's alumni base? Find out where the alumni from your college or university are located, and reach out to them. Everyone loves to help fellow alum.
Experience means never being "too good" for any job. If you get into a job or internship you don't necessarily like, take advantage of the connections you can make while working there. Life on the "inside" is much better than trying to get your foot in the door.
Experience is being mature enough not to burn any bridges. Regardless of if you enjoyed your internship or job experience, you could run into people you worked with at any given time, especially if you plan to stay in the same field. The world is a small place. Kill people with kindness, and remember... your professional "brand" stays with you -- regardless of if it is positive or negative.
Experience is about taking chances. Something I learned very early on is that your biggest advocate for yourself is you. You are responsible for your career growth, and ultimately you decide what path you want to take. Do not be afraid to take a risk when it comes to a job. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone can open up doors and teach you even more about yourself.