As you search for a job it is not uncommon to see postings requiring two, three, or even seven years’ experience, which can lead you to wonder how workers ever get that experience if companies only hire applicants with multiple years on the job. But getting an entry level position isn’t the only way to gain valuable experience.
I was once introduced to someone who, with an overwhelming amount of passion, expressed to me that he wanted nothing more than to be a stand-up comedian. Intrigued, I asked him to share with me some of his material, to which his reply was that he had yet to write any, a notion that seemed unbelievable for someone so passionate.
“What do you mean you haven’t written any,” I asked him. “I don’t have the slightest desire to be a comedian and even I have some comic material written down” (if only for my own amusement).
As if to justify his position he offered the excuse that he just hadn’t found any gigs yet, and therefore there wasn’t any need to come up with any specific material.
Like this aspiring comedian many of us possess a notion that the only way to gain experience is to work in the field, but this should neither be an excuse nor a deterrent from obtaining a job. The Greek sage Epictetus once said, “If you wish to be a writer, write.” The same can be said about many job fields. If you don’t have any work experience, then create some. There is not a thing in the world that can stop you from constructing your own industry experience.
No Experience? Then Create Your Own
Do you really need a job and a boss to order you to create a program, a website, or any other projects? If you want to practice your programming skills, make it a point to design, create, or even modify an existing program in your spare time. Ask around and see if anyone needs, or knows someone who needs work done on a new or existing website, application, or program. Ask to work for free; do anything to get your name attached to a project.
Whether you are fluent in C++, Java, or a variety of additional programming languages, starting a side project not only allows you to sharpen your skills, it will also provide you with a portfolio to present to a company during the interview process. You will no longer have to offer a blank stare when a hiring manager asks you what experience you have. You will instead be able to reply with confidence that you have not yet held a job in this industry, but you can present some projects that you have worked on. It shows that you possess the diligence and capability to work independently, and it demonstrates a serious dedication to your craft.
Create Your Own Website
If you are familiar with HTML or any other website software, consider building a personal website. If you excel in graphic design over programming code, use one of the many website builder platforms that automatically convert text and designs to HTML. This can range from a simple blog containing thoughts on recent news and technology to a professional looking publication. It can have a creative name or something as simple “your name”.com. It only needs to be a place for you to store work you contributed to. Consider starting a commentary on the IT world or the current technology that is being developed.
Designing, building, and maintaining your own website will illustrate your creativity as well as will set you apart from applicants who only present a standard resume of work experience. It also exhibits your ability to manage a project, something sought after for someone being considered for future management.
The Internet has made creating meaningful side projects an easy and cheap (often free) way to build a portfolio of work and create valuable experience for potential jobs. So don’t wait until after you have obtained a position to start building experience. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to go out and create your own experience.
By Kevin Withers