The job market can be very frustrating.
If you're not able to get a job, then you need to get some experience to help you get a job. But when no one hires you, what do you do to get experience?
That's the conundrum that many young people are facing today. And it forces many people to make some very tough decisions.
Here are a few different ways you can get some experience or build up some skills that can help you get a job.
Your status on the job market
Every job seeker is looking for the perfect piece of advice when it comes to getting their first job. I'm here to tell you that there is no perfect piece of advice.
The job market is hot right now. Yet, it's tough for job seekers to get a job. And when I say job seekers, I don't just mean recent graduates who have just entered the workforce. I mean people who have been on the job market for months, even years, looking for a job.
And it's not just the job seekers who are frustrated -- employers are frustrated too. They want to hire the best talent, but they can't find the best talent because the best talent can't get a job. It's a bad situation for everyone involved.
What exactly is job experience?
Job experience is a fancy term for a list of the jobs you have held, the skills you developed during those jobs and the accomplishments you attained.
You need to have some experience and skills to impress your potential employer. You need to have some stories and anecdotes to tell about your work experience. You need to be able to demonstrate that you have some skills that are valuable to your employer. And you need to be able to explain clearly and concisely what you have done in your past jobs.
Moreover, the more "interview" experience you have, the better you will be at answering questions and talking about your work experience. So at least there's a light at the end of the interview tunnel.
The importance of a job experience
The importance of job experience is something that seems to be a bit blurred among the generations. People tend to think that they can just start working without having much experience and get another job after a while.
And while it is true that some people have done that, it is not a good idea to follow their path. The best way to get a job is to have an outstanding resume to show your employer that you are a perfect fit for the job.
This is not something that can be done in a day, but it is worth investing time into it and doing it right. You need to have some kind of work experience on your resume in order to become a professional in the field you aspire to join.
The importance of having an online presence
However, I will tell you that the most important thing you can do is to start developing that online presence. This means creating a website, a blog, and social media accounts. A presence that will help you to stand out from the crowd.
You've probably heard the old saying: "It's not what you know but who you know." And while this might be true in some cases, having the right online presence can actually help you land the job of your dreams, even if you don't have any experience.
These days, an online presence can be as simple as a LinkedIn profile or a personal blog.
So how can you get a foot in the door with a seemingly nonexistent resume? The answer is by creating a solid online presence. You can land a job by networking and branding yourself online, even if you don't have a degree or previous work experience.
Twitter and Linkedin are entirely free and great for networking. As with all social media, be careful to not fall prey to "busy work" and try to be a positive force within your community.
The impact of a personal blog
Writing has been around for thousands of years. It's one of the oldest forms of communication we have. But it's also one of the most effective ways of communicating in the digital age. Writing on your blog is one of the best ways to showcase your skills and knowledge for future employers. It's almost like having an online resume. If you're looking for a job, a personal blog can help you showcase your skills to future employers and get your foot in the door before you even finish school.
A personal blog is an excellent way to get your name out there and show your skills to employers. It has a far bigger impact than you might imagine. The best way to prove your worth to an employer is to show them in action. If you've got a blog, you can show them how you feel and how you think. And you can show off your best work. After all, who doesn't like seeing a new website that you've built or seeing your past work?
It's a great way to show your skills and prove you know what you're doing. Plus, it's a great way of attracting new clients (see later point!). You can even show off your skills in other areas, like photography, videos, arts and crafts, or whatever you love doing.
In the beginning, it may be easiest to start a blog on Medium or Dev.to. Later you'll want your own professional presence that you can control. This can be done with a blogging platform like WordPress or using a static website generator like Nikola.
The power of volunteering
If you are out of work or looking to get experience in your field, volunteering can be a great way to gain experience. Many people don't realize this, but it is an altruistic way to get the experience you need to get a job.
While your "official" experience will come from the job you are doing, you can also get a lot of experience by volunteering.
For example, if you are looking to be a graphic designer, you can volunteer at a local non-profit agency. They could use some designs for fliers or brochures, and you could get some experience and help them out.
You can also volunteer to be a tutor or to help out at a charity drive. A lot of companies look for people who are charitable or who have volunteered before.
In machine learning, there is a lot of AI and data science for good initiatives. These work in different fields and capacities and can be extremely valuable to join. In addition to necessary skills, they may also teach some data science ethics as a bonus.
The benefits of internships
If you want to get your foot in the door and start getting all the benefits of a job, but the only problem is that no one is hiring you without experience, consider taking an internship.
Because not only does an internship help you get a job, but it also gives you more insight into the industry you are trying to enter. Here are some reasons why taking a paid or unpaid internship is a good idea for your career.
It can help you to discover the career you want. Sometimes it takes a while to discover the right career path for you. When you're an intern, you can try out different jobs within your field and see if any of them are the right fit for you. You can also take it as an opportunity to explore careers you didn't even know existed.
Caveat: I don't think unpaid internships are a good thing, and I've personally rejected them, but as we say in Germany: If necessary, the devil eats flies. In our early-career, we are expected to do a lot of free work due to inexperience. Basically, it's a cost-benefit analysis, and I'm aware that it takes a particular privilege to be able to accept an unpaid full-time opportunity.
The value of freelance projects
Experienced managers are often quick to tell their interns that the best thing about working at a company is that you'll learn to do something you never thought you'd do -- and that's true. But working for a company that doesn't have a project to help boost your portfolio can be tough, especially when you're trying to put together a resume and cover letter. It's even tougher when you're trying to get into a new industry or if you're looking to move into a different one. That's where freelance projects come in.
At the end of a long week, especially when you're running low on funds, it's clear that working for free cannot be the only way to get experience. Working for free isn't a way to get your foot in the door. If you don't have a job, take the initiative. Start your own project.
You can start out on websites like Fiverr and Upwork. Offer your services to people you know, be it friends or professional contacts. And make some income while honing your skills.
The opportunity of machine learning competitions
The current job market for machine learning engineers is quite competitive due to the fact that these roles are in high demand. You will find it hard to find a company willing to hire an inexperienced engineer with no prior knowledge of the field.
However, one way to get around this is to use machine learning competitions as a way to gain experience.
These competitions are often hosted by prestigious universities and companies. For example, the Kaggle website hosts machine learning competitions on a regular basis. The goal of these competitions is to solve specific problems using data science and machine learning algorithms.
Kaggle gets criticized for various reasons: their problems aren't realistic representations of real-world data science and machine learning. This is valid.
Personally, I see it similar to coding on Leetcode and Hackerrank. It teaches you specific skills that will make your engineering life easier. They can often serve as experience for entry jobs, especially if you were lucky enough to win a challenge.
Be aware, however, that sometimes you will have to explain the transferrable skills you learned from competitions, because many people, especially hiring managers, do not understand what is involved in competing at such a high level.
The importance of reaching out to companies
We have all seen it: the job opening with the description that says something like "experience preferred" or "experience required." It is no secret that most job seekers who apply for these jobs are not selected for interviews. However, there is a way to get your foot in the door, even when you don't have experience. This is how you do it:
First, read the job description carefully and highlight the skills that you can offer without experience.
Then, write a cover letter that explains how your skills match the job description.
For example, suppose the job description says "must have experience with marketing strategy". In that case, you could say something like, "I have been involved in several projects during coursework in which I had to analyze a company's data science strategy, and I am very familiar with the strategies that have been successful in the past."
Then, you should write a resume that highlights your skills and experience, trying to word it as close to the job description. You can use your cover letter to explain how you have the required skills, even with no formal experience. Transferrable skills are particularly useful here.
Conclusion: Don't give up, try to find a job that will value your experience and then work towards getting it.
It's a difficult time to be looking for a job right now. It seems like there are hundreds of people competing for every job that's out there.
In order to stand out from the crowd, you have to think outside the box and really sell yourself to the hiring manager.
I hope these were useful examples of how you can show the hiring manager that you would be a valuable asset to the company - even if you don't have prior experience.
From volunteering to internships, over freelancing to networking, you have options to try and improve your chances of scoring that first job out of college.
And as always, you're probably best off ignoring any boomer advice. I have yet to meet a hiring manager that wants my printed resume or a firm handshake.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you think that job experience is as important as technical skills?
Yes, they show that you're able to apply technical skills and work in a business setting.
What are some easy ways to build up your portfolio without having to work for free?
Start freelancing on Fiverr or join machine learning competitions on Kaggle.
How do you find creative ways to impress your future clients?
Work your way into domain subjects and find interesting ways to build a tangible self-contained project like an interactive website, app, or visualization.
Is there a way to be productive and not feel like you're doing grunt work for free?
Yes and No. Learning a new skill takes hard work. However, being proactive can be your way into working on super exciting projects within your role.
What kinds of careers have NO experience requirements?
Almost none these days. What people call "unskilled jobs", like a waiter or burger flipper, will still be filled by someone who has experience rather than someone completely new.