How do you get a job, when you have no professional experience?  This is something almost all of us have faced or will invariably face upon the completion of our education or trade training.  No matter how far we go with our education, it is always just one component of a prerequisite for job listings.  Most job listings specify both educational and previous work experience minimum requirements to be eligible for consideration. 

So if you’ve just finished your education and you’re ready to enter the workforce, how are you supposed to satisfy the previous work experience requirement, if the vast majority of the jobs available require some prior work experience?

I hear from job seekers in a situation along these lines on a daily basis.  Fortunately there are a few things that you can do to help fulfill the requirements.

Volunteer for Community Organization.

Not all work experience has to come from a paid job.  Working on your degree?  Find a philanthropy that needs someone with your industry skillset to volunteer their time and talents.  You can then add that experience to your resume and even pick up a professional referral source at the same time from people who run the organization. 

If you’re done with your education and still don’t have the experience you need, perhaps you can find a stop gap job, doing something to bring in income; while you volunteer in a community organization or church to help get the experience you need.  The stop gap job could be anything from retail to waiting tables, or even as an office administrative assistant.  Think of this as way to give back to the community while helping yourself in the process.

Find an Internship

Internships can be paid or unpaid but either way, the experience you gain counts as professional work experience.  Many companies list their internship opportunities on job boards like #ProjectHelpYouGrow.  Internships can also turn into job offers as those who find good interns typically don’t want to let them go. 

Another option for some can be a Co-op where you work part time for a company and then go to school part time.  This makes graduating college take longer but again the experience you gain is valuable as it counts as work experience on your resume.

Ministry Opportunities

Beyond the local philanthropy option, another avenue for freshers to consider is one from a ministry.  Many religious organizations have need for volunteers to help run a program, build something for a community or otherwise distribute items of need to the poor.  If you are of any particular faith, you could check with your local religious center and see what options might be available to you.  If you are part of a large religion, you could even check their website for more information.

There are a lot of great projects.  Helping them, in a way that relates to your desired career field, should help you accomplish something you need, in garnering experience but also help you feel great about contributing to society by putting your faith into practice.

Professional Interviews

I have found many people are still missing the mark of LinkedIn and one of the great advantages it offers.  We have access to search for people via their position, company and education fields.  I graduated from Liberty University.  If I’m looking for help finding a job, one thing I could do is reach out to people who also graduated from Liberty University for a bit of help.  Instead of asking for a job, which most are not in position to offer, I can ask for a professional interview.  I could do the same with people who might work at a company I want to work for, or who have a title that I would like to have.

In any case, instead of saying, “hello (fill in the blank) can you help me get a job?” I would ask something along the lines of, if you were graduating from Liberty University today and just starting out, what are some things you might do to find a job in the economy today given you don’t have any real world experience?  You could ask how they got started.  You could ask what were some of the stumbling blocks they encountered when they got started, that you might avoid.  There are a variety of things you can ask to help take advantage of their knowledge that wouldn’t cost them anything to give you.  Ironically with this line of questioning, you’re helping to inflate their ego and build a rapport that could end up getting them to invest more in your future by either writing you a referral or calling someone they know on your behalf.

Think Outside the Box

I am not a huge fan of clichés but in this case, you must think outside the box.  People don’t want to hire someone without experience but they also are able to bend in most cases if you give them a valid reason to.  It takes a lot of effort to finish your education and I commend you for putting in the hard work.  Now that you have finished, don’t be discouraged because more has to be done.  Volunteering, Interning, Serving and Interviewing those in your field can be just the thing you need to shoot the gap.  Be creative, stay positive and keep moving forward.  Your path has just begun.  The first bit of energy needed to get going might seem hard, but you can do this.