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Career Planning

Are You Experienced?

"Are you experienced?" may be a daunting question for a recent graduate, but you can find your way around it.

Peter Vogt, Monstertrak Career Coach

June 04, 2008

Are You Experienced?

Graduation is just around the corner, and you're panicking because you feel you have little or no work experience that will wow prospective employers, and you don't have enough time to get any before you graduate.

Don't despair. For starters, you may have more experience than you realize -- experience gained not through professionally oriented work or internships, but instead through part-time, volunteer experiences, student or community organizations, or even your own hobbies and avocations. A campus career counselor can help you identify and effectively market these important undertakings.

But even if you have no relevant experiences to speak of, you can still pursue or create some after you've graduated from college. Though there may well be such a thing as too little when it comes to your work experience, especially as it relates to the professional career you want to pursue, there's no such thing as too late.

What can you do after you've graduated to gain some (or more) helpful work experience in your chosen field? Your options may surprise you. You can:

* Get a Postgraduation Internship.

There's no law saying you can do an internship only while you're still in college. Many new college grads pursue internships, either for credit or not, paid or unpaid, after graduation. Certainly you may have to make a case for yourself with the internship provider. On the other hand, many internship providers appreciate interns who are a little older than most and who have, like you perhaps, given more careful thought to their career goals and how they'll achieve them.

* Take a Part-Time Job in Your Field.

It's easy, often for financial reasons, to rule out part-time jobs without seriously considering them. Be careful in this regard. Part-time jobs sometimes offer good opportunities for you to gain experience, because they're frequently hard to fill and often consist of a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Maybe you could combine a part-time job in your field with another part-time job in the same or a different field so you can still gain the experience you need and pay the bills.

* Volunteer to Do Project Work for a Company.

Companies everywhere have tasks that go undone and projects they dream of tackling but don't have the time or staff to pursue. Does a company in your field appear to have a gap between what it is doing and what it wants to do? If so, consider offering to fill that gap, if only on a temporary, volunteer basis. You win, because you gain work experience you really need. The company wins because you help it achieve goals it couldn't have achieved on its own. And this mutually beneficial relationship just might lead to something paid and permanent.

* Take a Temp Job.

These days, temporary staffing firms offer opportunities in many career areas within an assortment of professional settings. By temping, you can earn some money, perhaps receive important benefits such as health insurance and get some professional experience. Perhaps most importantly, you can gain that experience in a wide variety of companies and industries. This experience might make you that much more appealing to employers who consider you for full-time positions in the future. All companies like to hire employees who have wide-ranging skills and can deal with both ambiguity and constant change.

One of the greatest alleviators of career-related fears is the knowledge that you have options. That's certainly the case when you find yourself facing graduation with seemingly little or no career-related work experience.

You do have options in this increasingly common situation -- many, in fact. By pursuing one or more of them and accepting the hard work and occasional risks accompanying that pursuit, you can give yourself the experience you need to land the satisfying job you really want.

This article originally appeared on

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