A Head-Start on Gaining Experience

At one time or another while searching for a job, you probably noticed that most of the jobs required several years of experience in order to be hired. Therein lies a potential dilemma: if you are just starting out in your career, how do you get experience when employers want you to have experience to begin with?

If you are planning to attend or are already attending college, you can reduce the risk of this dilemma by pursuing opportunities that give you a head-start in getting experience before you leave college. In addition to long-standing opportunities such as internships, co-ops, service learning and volunteering through organizations, there are freelance work opportunities via the Internet in which to gain experience.

There are many websites that facilitate freelance work, such as Elance and oDesk. These freelance marketing websites provide a venue whereby freelancers can advertise their services (whether writing, business consulting, web design or other service) to companies or professionals seeking to hire them. Generally, you create an online profile showcasing your professional credentials and you submit proposals according to job descriptions. Freelancers can earn up to hundreds of hours of experience, plus up to thousands of dollars in fees for providing services.

To recap the long-standing ways to get experience while in college:
Internships are usually for one term, such as summer work.
Co-ops are for multiple terms.
Service learning (including work-study) is a course that combines teaching with a community service component.
Volunteering (in the sense here) is going beyond standard internship or co-op programs and pursuing usually unpaid, part-time work through one’s own initiative and it may be multiple term.

All of the above mentioned opportunities can build experience leading up to getting your college degree or vocational certificate. Moreover, they can lead into a job at the very place where the internship or one of the other opportunities was performed.

If these opportunities interest you and you would like more information, consult with your college adviser, financial aid office or websites that provide relevant information. Also, check with a classmate or someone (offline or through a relevant online blog) who has been through an internship, co-op or the like so as to get their opinion of it. This can help you make an informed decision about what opportunity is best for you and how you may best pursue it.

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