How can I get the experience I need for entry-level jobs?

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Experience-RequiredMegan from Alverno College asked:

“I’m 28 and have been working full-time for the last 8 years. I recently went back to college to get my Bachelor’s degree and should graduate May 2017. What is my best course of action for getting an entry-level job now in what I want to do, so when I graduate I will already have experience? All entry-level jobs seem to need three years of experience and a degree. I feel stuck.

Hello Megan,

Congratulations on your decision to pursue a college degree. Your decision to return to college alone says a great deal about you! Your desire, determination, and dedication already demonstrate your strength to achieve to be the best you can be!

Start early defining what you want to do

Starting your career search early will certainly give you an advantage. As you begin researching your options, it is important to identify what you would like to do.  Ask yourself some questions:   What is your major? Why did you choose it? What do graduates with this major do when they graduate?  What kinds of experience do you have and what kinds do you need?

Depending on your program of study, your choices for your career path can vary widely. Some programs offer broader options for your career choices (e.g., Psychology, English, Communication), while others track into very specific career paths after graduation (e.g., Accounting, Education, Nursing).

Visit your campus career center to see what resources are available for you.  Most career service centers have job boards, virtual and on-campus. Search to see what entry-level jobs are available. When you identify some that interest you, visit with a career advisor to discuss strategies for learning more about them.

You may not find a position right away, so work with your career advisor and as you explore your options.. Trust me!  Career advisors are delighted to assist proactive students like you!

Know the people around you and make sure they know you

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know … right? Wrong?  It’s BOTH what you know and who you know, and it is your job to make sure that the people who know you also know what you can and want to do.

Keep in mind that every person you know can one day be a networking contact in your job search.  Now that you are back in school, begin growing your network of contacts.  Make connections with your professors, your classmates, your academic advisors and your career advisors.  Do informational interviews with people working in fields that interest you.  Draw upon the knowledge, experience and advice of the people around you.   And, make sure they are aware of your career interests.

People can’t help you if they don’t know what kind of help you want and need.  Don’t make them guess.  Help them to help you.

Experience…you have the experience

You have eight years of experience working full-time! Don’t discount that experience! It may not be in the fields you wish to enter, but it does show that you are dependable and that you know what it means to work a 40-hour week..  Be sure to include the degree you are currently pursuing AND your previous experience on your resume, because both matter to prospective employers!

Don’t feel stuck, you are on the right path

Don’t pressure yourself too much. You are starting your college career on the right foot.  Just know that you are surrounded by campus personnel that want to help you.  Tap into all the resources available and use them to your advantage.

Good luck!

About the Author

Mitzi Austin

Coach Mitzi has been in the higher education industry providing student services for two decades. She currently serves as the Regional Career Services and Business Development Director, providing career services to students, graduates while building employer relations. She finds the ability to coach and help students shape their career path to be a truly gratifying role. Over the years, she has spoken to students as young as a 16 years old and as seasoned as an 80+ year old great grandmother (who really resembles Mrs. Santa Claus). Born and raised in Japan, she loves to get involved in anything international. Mitzi has memberships with several professional/community organizations in multiple metropolitan cities which help tremendously with staying connected with the employers. Mitzi holds a Masters of Management degree with an emphasis in human resources management.

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One response to “How can I get the experience I need for entry-level jobs?”

  1. Virah says:

    This is exactly how I am feeling. I’ve been contacting my career center back and forth to get ahead and work on gaining an internship position to knock down those required experiences. We all have to start somewhere. Keep pushing.