Lacking relevant work experience can land you in a catch-22 situation. You need relevant work experience in order to get the right job, but you need the right job in order to get relevant work experience. This is why many graduates feel pressured to do unpaid internships because it’s seen as a stepping stone to relevant paid work. Of course, you can also do a paid internship, but the competitive nature of the graduate jobs market means that these paid internships often have relevant experience as a requirement. And even if they don’t, there will no doubt be applicants who do have such experience, who you will be competing with.
So what are you meant to do? Are you destined to do a series of unpaid internships before getting paid for your hard work? Depending on the industry (i.e. media or fashion) this may be the reality of the situation (unless you have those all-important connections and contacts who can help you gain employment).
On the other hand, there are certainly ways to gain a valuable skillset (without doing an unpaid internship) so that you can impress potential employers.
These suggestions involve putting in time and effort without compensation (perhaps even incurring a small cost). However, they do not involve working a 9 to 5 job and doing work that, according to the law, you should be paid for, but aren’t being paid for.
There are loads of free resources for learning a second language. You can use Duolingo and then practice what you learn by meeting up with people who speak the language. You can do this in many ways. You could meet native speakers using sites like Meetup and Couchsurfing, look up language exchange events on Facebook, or try out a language exchange app.
If you decide to take a gap year after graduating from uni, this is another chance to learn a second language. Choose a country with a culture and language that really fascinates you and take some classes for a while. Befriending locals and practicing what you’ve learnt is the best way to sharpen your language skills.
Knowing a second language when applying for jobs can be highly advantageous, especially since some jobs list fluency in a specific language as a desirable skill.
You can learn so many useful skills online, often for free. For example, you can set up your own blog using WordPress and then learn the basics of designing a website, creating content and sharing content. So many people do this and it involves accumulating a bunch of impressive, transferable skills. Building a successful blog or website can teach you WordPress skills, SEO, HTML, CSS, content writing, copywriting, research, editing, communication, social media marketing, affiliate marketing and email marketing.
If you can generate a certain amount of traffic from your website, then this will catch the eye of many employers. In addition, attracting lots of visitors to your site gives you the opportunity to monetize your website, which can present you with all sorts of business opportunities.
Programming - one of the most useful and lucrative skills you can have - can be learnt completely online as well. Many programmers are self-taught. It may take some time to become adept at coding, but within a year you could start getting high-quality gigs.
There are all sorts of societies you can join at uni, which gives you the chance to meet like-minded people, enjoy what you are truly passionate about, and perhaps gain some valuable skills along the way. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a journalist, then contributing to the student newspaper can be a great introduction to the profession.
Follow your passion. Learn a skill that you genuinely want to learn. Complete a project or achieve a goal that motivates you or manifests your untapped creative potential. A lack of work experience doesn’t have to hold you back in your career path. You can prove yourself to be a valuable asset to a company in so many other ways.
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