Summertime is upon us! Not only does this mean graduation parties, vacation, and sun-filled days on the beach, but for those graduating and transitioning into the workforce, it also means finding a job. Unfortunately, finding a job without having previous work experience is easier said than done. Your 4.0 GPA and impressive roster of extracurriculars may be enough to impress a recruiter, but won’t always be enough to get hired. In short, you’re stuck in that pesky Catch-22 most new grads face, commonly referred to as The Permission Paradox.
What is the Permission Paradox?
The “Permission Paradox” is the relatively new name for the age-old conundrum: you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.
If you’re trapped in the Permission Paradox, you’re probably wondering how to gain work experience at a job that doesn’t crush your soul, without having much (if any) professional experience! Although it may seem impossible, these seven steps are tried and true ways of finding your dream job right out of college.
1. Work abroad
Whether you teach English, become a basketball coach, or choose to volunteer, work abroad programs are a great way to gain valuable working experience. In some countries—particularly China, parts of Africa, and Brazil—simply being a native English speaker can help you get your foot in the door at reputable companies. Ultimately, the skills you gain during your work experience abroad can be leveraged in your job search once you return to your home country.
2. Intern at a company you admire
Internships can provide you with invaluable experience, but you must choose your internship carefully. While some internships will just have you filing papers and making coffee runs, it is possible to find one that will give you interesting assignments and teach you important lessons along the way. Here’s a tip: find someone you admire who could mentor you and ask to intern for them.
3. Volunteer at a non-profit
A fantastic way to gain work experience is to volunteer for a non-profit you admire in a role that’s relevant to your career or field of interest. For example, you could work in an administrative position to gain office skills or volunteer to help conduct outreach or marketing campaigns for your local soup kitchen, urban farm, or community center. If you need management experience, volunteer at a local education nonprofit or after school program. Not only does ongoing volunteer work look great on a resume, but it’s a fantastic way to acquire both hard and soft skills.
4. Work at an early-stage startup
In this day and age, startups can be found practically everywhere. Oftentimes, small or early-stage startups are more willing to hire new grads than larger companies—especially if you can demonstrate that you’re an enthusiastic, fast learner. Ultimately, small startups can provide you with a wide range of experience that will be invaluable going forward in your career.
5. Leverage your contacts
If you aren’t getting leads on internships, startup jobs, and can’t work abroad, you can always ask your friends from school, parents’ friends, or anyone of your social media contacts if they know professionals in your field of choice. You are more likely to get hired for a career you love when a friend or acquaintance can vouch for your character and work ethic. If you have a contact in the field who can vouch for your work ethic, your actual work experience won’t be so paramount to finding a great job.
6. Make yourself an expert in your field
If you know your ideal job, become a thought leader in the field. Start a blog and post regularly on social media by sharing articles, commenting on current news, and tweeting at experts. This will show hiring managers that you’re a self-starter who’s passionate about your industry of choice – both attributes which will make it easier for them to overlook your lack of experience.
7. Conduct informational interviews
If you know the kind of job you want, interview a successful professional in the field about how they got started, how to thrive in the position, and what advice they might have for someone trying to break into that position. Who knows, they may even have internship or job connections!
8. Explore available training programs
Depending on your field of interest, training programs may be the way to go. In San Francisco, tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft tend have to have well-paid programs specifically for recent graduates, while many global banking institutions and ad agencies in New York City and Chicago offer training programs based on your career goals. Although these positions are highly competitive, it’s still worth a shot to apply. Not only will these programs help fast-track your career, but the industry contacts you’re likely to make will be invaluable.
What should I do if I can’t decide on a career path?
The reality is, the process of finding your ideal career path may take some time—in fact, most people have to “kiss a few frogs” before they stumble upon their dream job. Thankfully, there are a few free tools you can use to help speed up the job search process, like Good&Co – a free career app designed to help people discover their strengths and find companies that fit their personality type. At the end of the day, the more you know about yourself, the easier it will be for you to overcome that pesky Permission Paradox and land your dream job!