Economy & Jobs

5 Ways to Get a Job With No Experience

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You’re trapped in a catch-22: Every job posting you view wants you to have “prior experience,” but you can’t obtain this requisite experience if someone doesn’t give you a job. “It takes a job to get a job,” as the old adage goes.

What should you do? How can you get a job with no experience? Here are five solid options.

1. Grab an Internship

Perhaps the single best way to break into an organization is to arrive on its doorstep as an intern. The cardinal rule of internship selection: Pick the opportunity that’ll most likely result in a direct job offer.

The point of an internship is to prove yourself to your future employer, not to have the word “intern” appear on your resume (although that may help attract a different employer). Your resume matters less than your relationships; working directly for the company builds those relationships. Once your future bosses see you in the corporate offices each day, they’re more likely to extend an offer.

Internships come in two forms: paid and unpaid. Don’t let the compensation dictate which internship you select. It’s better to accept an unpaid but prestigious internship at a company that’s likely to offer you a job and help you build connections. You can work a night shift waiting tables or babysitting to pay the bills—if all goes well, that second job will be only temporary.

2. Start Freelancing

If you have specific skills that can be leveraged into freelance work, such as graphic design, bookkeeping, or writing, try gaining experience as a sole proprietor. Start by reading a few books and blogs by full-time freelancers within your industry. These people are instrumental in describing how to make a living as an independent contractor. Even if your goal is to land a full-time company job, you’ll make connections, improve your skills, and build a portfolio to present to employers during job interviews.

3. Volunteer Your Time

Nearly every industry has related charitable causes. People who work in the financial industry, for example, may be drawn to nonprofits that protect senior citizens from fraud. Medical professionals may join charities that prevent or cure diseases. In addition, most industries have their own associations that look after the interests of that group at large.

Try volunteering for these industry associations and related nonprofit groups. Join the board of directors if you can, and help organize events and activities. This is a great way to gain exposure to your field and make connections that could result in a job.

4. Highlight Applicable Experience

You may not have direct job experience in a given role, but you can highlight related responsibilities at previous jobs.

Let’s imagine that you’re applying for an assistant editor position at a magazine. You don’t have any prior job experience as an editor, but you used to be the administrative assistant for a small gardening company, during which time you compiled, edited, and distributed the weekly company e-newsletter. This is related work experience, even if it’s not a direct position. Emphasize this experience on your resume and during job interviews.

5. Work Your Social Media Connections

The final tip to get a job with no experience: Connect with recruiters on social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. Share their articles and comment on their updates. This will help them recognize your name in their pile of resumes, earning you special consideration.

Don’t let your lack of experience turn into an insurmountable obstacle. Everyone starts their career from scratch. The higher-ups in an organization were once in your shoes, and if they could make it, so can you. Get creative, stay positive, and keep applying for jobs and internships. You’ll get an offer before you know it.

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Paula Pant is the founder of award-winning website AffordAnything.com and a journalist and blogger specializing in personal finance, real estate and lifestyle design. She has been featured more than three dozen publications, including Forbes, DailyFinance, Marketplace Money, Business Insider, Inc. Magazine, and many more.