Mrim is a Justmeans staff writer for the responsible careers news section. Mrim is also the co-creator of the 'More Than Money' (MTM) League. The MTM League is a 6-week self-paced online course designed for working management professionals interested in competing for opportunities in corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, or nonprofit management. The MTM League is a collaboration b...
Class of 2010 career advice: Gain experience without a job
In my previous posts providing advice to the class of 2010, I focused on career options, on job search strategies, on how to best partner with your career center (even after graduation), on marketable skills for liberal arts students, as well as on how to make career decisions that won't make you miserable.
Another topic that I keep hearing recent graduates (from college or graduate school) needing career advice with is how to deal with employers' objections regarding their 'lack of experience'. For many recent graduates, the catch 22 of experience is alive an well: they cannot get a job without experience, but they cannot gather experience without a job. Well this catch 22 is actually inaccurate, and recruiters are often asking this question to assess how driven and proactive you are in preparing yourself to succeed on the job you are applying for. Once you hone in on the type(s) of function and industry you want to target, there are many ways for you to gain experience without a job. Here are three pieces of career advice that can help you gain experience as well as make new contacts that will lead you to your first post-graduation job faster:
Career Advice #1: Look into growing businesses - Most big companies have been on survival mode for the last two years. Even if the employment situation in terms of unemployment is worrisome, remember that people get hired everyday. Furthermore, there are companies that get business done better that are actually growing. For instance, see the recent report by Ana Arias in our CSR section on social purpose companies that are growing as their consumers continue to support their services and products despite the recession. Also see my previous posts on non-medical job opportunities in healthcare, and on non-teaching job opportunities in education. Finally, to identify growing businesses, I would recommend the free online Inc 500|5000 list of fastest growing companies in the US. In addition, the list of Social Capitalists by Fast Company could also provide interesting avenues to identify businesses that successfully get business done better.
Career Advice #2: Volunteer - Volunteering (or, under the right conditions, accepting an unpaid internship) will enable you to gain valuable experience and contacts that can translate into a job. I provided ideas on how to volunteer online and how that qualifies you for specific jobs in a previous post. In addition, find already existing opportunities to gain experience in your area of interest. For example, if you are interested in the food industry, woofing might be a great way to gain valuable experience and make contacts. When choosing to volunteer, go at it with a clear road map in terms of the projects you would be involved in, the length of time of each project, as well as the measurable outcomes that will be generated through the projects you will be contributing to. You will need this information to add valuable lines to your resume to document this new experience in a way that recruiters will be able to appreciate.
Career Advice #3: Secure a temporary assignment - In this tough economy, getting your foot in the door might come through a temporary assignment or after being first hired as a consultant. Several of the MBA graduates I have coached over the last two years have started out at big and small companies with a 3 month temporary assignment. Based on their results, most were hired full-time by their current employer or another employer after completion of the project. Don't shy away from offering your services to a company you are interested in by providing them with a 3-5 slide presentation of what you see as their current needs and how you could help them with their challenges if hired as a consultant for a specific amount of time. Don't go the HR department with your presentation though, go directly through the department that you hope to work for. I have seen this approach work wonders in a number of industries, including the media/entertainment industry, the sports industry as well as the retail industry. In the current economy, employees from these companies are sure to appreciate your proactive approach and might give you a chance (or refer you to another opportunity) because of these extra steps.
The job market is the toughest one we have faced in years, but the more you learn through this difficult time about yourself and your career goals, the more your next job search after this one will be a walk in the park. So hang in there, and please use the section below to let me know what other career advice topics you would like to learn more about!