Recent graduates: are you feeling overwhelmed as you begin to head down your career path? Even if you have an idea of an occupation you’d like to pursue, starting out with little or no job history can be daunting. How do you break into a career without having previous experience in that field? Luckily, there are a number of ways you can test the waters and learn about a company or an industry before you are ready to apply. Combining research, networking, outreach, volunteer work and a positive attitude will help you learn more and make connections – and prepare you for an actual job prospect.
Do your homework.
Researching an industry is a huge first step: you need to know all the ins and outs of your area of interest. Start by finding out which jobs are associated with a particular field (for example, communications-related jobs could include a writer, editor, social media manager – the list goes on). Then consider how your qualifications could apply to a particular position.
Also, seek out relevant companies that exist in your area and their backgrounds, such as the number of employees, the range of positions and levels of qualifications in their employees, and their current products or activities.
With a knowledge base of your field of interest, you will have a better sense of what your options are and what kind of company or position you may want to pursue.
Request an informational interview.
Reach out and contact someone who is already working in your ideal field, company, or job, and request to conduct an informational interview. This is an excellent method to continue building your knowledge base. Many people who have reached their career objectives are very willing to help by sharing their experience and wisdom gained during their path to achievement. You can learn not only about the details of their work, but also how they obtained their career goal and what sort of obstacles they had to overcome along the way.
Informational interviews are also a very effective means to network within your field of choice. Contacts will recognize that you are proactive and enthusiastic about an industry, and may keep you in mind if an opportunity arises in their company. So, don’t forget to bring a business card to the interview!
Besides making connections through informational interviews, be creative and find other means to network with key contacts. For example, go to public events hosted by an organization or company of interest to you. Ask for an introduction if you know a family member or friend with a connection you would like to make. Use professional social networking sites like LinkedIn to build your contact base.
If there are no current job openings, or if you are not yet qualified to apply for any available positions, start by seeking out volunteer jobs or internships. The more volunteer work that you can financially accommodate, the better, but even one or two days per week is enough to begin building your relevant on-the-job experience.
The benefits of volunteering or interning are manifold: first, you can learn immensely from first-hand experience. Second, the job experience will add a necessary complement to the academic qualifications on your resume. Finally, this is another effective way to build your important base of contacts – and may even lead to a paid job within a company once you have established yourself among its employees.
Heading into today’s job market certainly can seem intimidating. But building your experience, knowledge, and connections in simple yet significant ways will ease the transition as you begin to navigate your career path.
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