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Code Like A Girl

Where to Get Experience When You Have No Experience

Freshly hatched out of college.

Unless you’re a recent grad from one of the top universities in the world, chances are you’re in an employment rut because…

ALL THE OPENINGS WANT EXPERIENCE!

For some reason, unless you are from a big name school, it feels like companies don’t consider your degree as significant experience in the field you’re trying to get into. So, if your first step was a degree, then the next step is finding ways to get experience so you can finally land that dream job. Below are a few gateways into getting your resume pumped up.

Volunteering

No one wants to pay for your work because it’s either A) no good or B) there is not enough evidence available to show you’re actually pretty talented. Consider volunteering your services! For the tech oriented, VolunteerMatch has hundreds of design, web, and social media opportunities. If you’re not in tech I still believe this is a good place to start for that initial management, transaction, or customer service experience you’ll still need for most jobs out there. No, you won’t get paid, but think of it this way: if you can show a potential employer a live site you redesigned for a non-profit, you’ve gained tangible experience and someone to confirm you can do it. Hopefully you’ll make friends along the way for volunteering your time and improve your networking ability.

Internships

This is how companies window shop the latest models of employees. Don’t treat your internship as something expendable even if they promise you up front it won’t lead to anything permanent. You still need to be mindful and weed out the good and the bad opportunities, but basically treat your internship like a real job. It’s your chance to prove you’d be a great addition to the company. Who knows, you might get hired (I did). If anything, still make friends within the company for your professional network since it will help you later.

Experimentation

Coming from a design and tech background, this is akin to keeping your skills sharp. If no one wants to hire you for what you want to do, just do it on your own! Either make up a hypothetical project or have yourself a filter jam to keep your professional gears running smoothly. In design and tech, innovation is a big part of your value so you want to make sure you’re ready to stretch your mind to the limit. Consider joining something like 30 Days of Code or working through a set of design challenges. Upload these practice works on your social media accounts as a record that you’re continuing to keep your skills sharp, it will steadily pay off! Added bonus: you might find yourself with a cool new project or portfolio piece that doesn’t look like school work because you made it comfortably on your own time.

Read

You’re already doing this if you’ve dropped in to read articles on Medium! Read up on your career path in books, magazines, and online articles and hubs. It will never hurt for you to stay up to date on the industry you want to belong to. Another thing that helps is to join in writing. Start an anonymous blog on Tumblr, or try out a Medium account and grow your personal brand, anywhere is fine. This doesn’t replace face-to-face networking, but you’d be surprised who you might connect with just by being a voice out there.

Don’t always be a silent reader, if you can’t think of something to comment on, at least let a writer know you enjoyed their article; that nice comment could lead to a conversation with someone who might help you become more employable. Don’t be fake though, that can be very easy to sniff out. Genuine connections can lead to much better opportunities in the long run, so practice it in the small things like comments.

Find a Mentor

Depending on how shy you are, this could be an awkward and almost impossible task. It can happen anytime, especially if you land an internship or start volunteering, because someone may see a bit of themselves in you and want to help you further your career. One of my previous mentors gave me this rule of thumb: It’s good to have two mentors within your career field, and one outside of it. For now, just try to connect with one.

I have to say with tools like Twitter, it’s easier than ever to connect with people. Instead of trying to make an appointment to speak with someone, you can jump straight into their pocket by sending them a tweet or message online. Etiquette on how to go about this can be it’s own huge topic, so I’ll just leave it at that (but I encourage you to discuss in the comments, I’m still fairly new at this and I’m sure there’s great advice out there on how to approach someone you admire online as a potential mentor).

All the information above is from my personal experience. I’ve tried all of these tactics and they’ve really helped me show a well-rounded skill set despite my young age. These toddlers will still have an edge over you and me, but at least with these venues for experience you’ll be back on even ground since you already meet the height requirements.

Thanks for reading, and let me know how things go! You’re also welcome to tweet me @Zarbars if you need a little bit more help making a first step into one of these gateways. Best of luck!

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