Finding experience can be hard.
And it’s even harder when you’re new to the field. Almost every job, even entry-level and internships, are showing preference for people with previous experience. And to me, this seems absurd.
But the challenge of “you need experience to get experience” can be overcome. All you need is initiative and a little free time.
Here are six ways to get the experience you need, without having to apply for it.
Start your own business
It may seem daunting, but there are plenty of small businesses you can start easily. If you’re passionate about photography, crafts, design, or just about anything, find a way to monetize it. Then, start learning and applying business skills to help both you and your business grow.
I found my passion for photography when I was 13. When I was 15, I started a photography business. I used my photography to grow a social media presence, build a website, develop ad campaigns and curate a newsletter list.
To employers, having a thriving business, even though photography is a pretty basic skill, showed that I was a self-starter and responsible. It proved I was able to organize and manage a full roster of clients. Having my own business also provided an extensive amount of networking opportunities through the sessions themselves and a way to brand myself as a creative mind.
Work for a small business
One of the most valuable career experiences I have had so far was working for a small local business, a sorority boutique. I expanded my design skills for email marketing, worked with product marketing, as well as optimized marketing campaigns for social media.
While you may be thinking “but I’ll probably need experience to get an opportunity like that”, finding work in small businesses usually isn’t challenging to find. Seek out business owners in your network and offer to expand their marketing efforts for free or at a low cost. By working with a small business that may not have the initiatives you’re wanting to offer, you’ll gain a lot of “learn by doing” experience.
Start a blog
If you’re interested in a career in content marketing, or any type of marketing really, starting a blog is a great way to get the content creation experience you need — that’s why I started this blog.
When you have a blog, you have the freedom to dive into the marketing aspects as much, or as little, as you’d like. You can learn about identifying your brand and translating it to your website, photography and social media. You can develop a style guide and brand voice to fuel your writing and your content. You can dive into SEO with Google Analytics and lead generation with Mailchimp. As well as gain technical skills by hosting your own WordPress site, integrating plugins, and writing custom html to make your blog exactly what you want it to be.
Lastly, having a blog will differentiate you from other candidates when you’re applying for jobs. “Oh you want to know about my experience with social media? Check out my branded social media accounts for my blog with X followers or my 10 blog posts on social media strategy.”
Take a class or tutorial to get a certification
With so many educational resources on the internet today, it’s pretty easy to learn something new. But when trying to gain experience as students, we often forget that learning outside of the classroom can be almost as valuable as real experience.
There are countless resources for free online classes and tutorials to help you develop the skills you need before applying to highly competitive jobs, and getting a certification of completion can give employers proof that you really have learned something. A certification in Google Analytics for example, will give you a leg up on applying for a digital marketing role against someone with no experience or knowledge at all.
Volunteer your skills
If you can’t find a way to get paid in money, try to get paid in experience by volunteering your time.
With all of the non-profits out there, I can guarantee you that many of them have a need for marketing. Often organizations are looking for volunteers to run their social media accounts, manage their website presence, or develop marketing material for the organization as a whole.
Research non-profit volunteering opportunities in your area such as pet shelters, local charities or small festivals, and see if they’re looking for volunteers in a skill set you’re interested in. If you can’t find any positions listed, consider reaching out and asking for a volunteering position… the worst that can happen is they say no, but keep you in mind for later needs.
Look to student organizations
As students, we also sometimes overlook the value that lies in student organizations. Every organization needs leaders, and no matter how big or small, you can gain valuable experience by leading an initiative, developing something new, or even just managing what they already have in place.
In a few of my organizations, for example, I’ve taken on a graphic designer/marketing manager role, and been able to develop campaigns and marketing strategies for promoting our events that encompass touch points across social media, print, and digital. Find a club you’re passionate about, invest the time, and you’ll be on your way to getting resume-worthy experience.
In a world where you typically need experience to get experience, creating your own experience opportunities can drive your marketing education. Starting small by learning a little on your own shows initiative and a desire to succeed. So next time you’re sitting at home contemplating your career, because I know I do that all the time, start DIY-ing your experience instead!