How do you get work experience for the new career you want?
In some cases, though, it can be difficult to change career direction without having some kind of work experience in that field. A résumé alone probably won’t get you the job.
But there are ways you can start “being” what you want to do.
In his book The Pathfinder, Nicholas Lore talks about “creating agreement” – making sure you’re seen as an “insider” by the people in your chosen field. Here are some things you can do to begin thinking of yourself as already there, even if you have no previous working experience:
1. Learn more about the field you’re interested in. Read as much as you can about it and find out what the requirements are. Identify any areas where you might need further training. But before returning to school, find out what you really need. You may only need to take a few classes or a certification program.
Also, try to get as much first-hand work experience as you can. Job shadowing is a great way to learn about an occupation. Ask someone who’s working in the field if you can observe him or her during the work day to get a feel for what the work requires. And if there’s a particular company that you’re dying to work for, consider taking a temp job doing what you already do so you can see what it would be like to work there. To find out more about various occupations, you might want to start with:
2. Build your network. Get out and talk with people. Networking is the most important thing you can do when changing careers. Start by doing some informational interviews. Be sure to interview several people, so you can get different viewpoints and perspectives about the work you’re interested in.
Network both in-person and online. Get to know the key people in your field of choice, and make it a point to learn from them. Follow the industry leaders on Twitter, and use LinkedIn to locate people in your field. Networking can help you start to become a part of the “inside circle”, as Lore calls it.
3. Join associations or professional groups related to your targeted career. Another great way to build your network is to attend local association meetings, as well as conventions and seminars put on by professional groups. A couple of great online resources offering lists of associations are:
4. Look for an internship. If you can find them, internship opportunities are a terrific way to get work experience. Internships can also lead to paid employment. My own career change to social work involved returning to school, but I was able to get an internship at the organization I wanted to work for after graduation. When my internship ended, I was kept on as a paid employee. Whether or not your internship turns into paid employment, it’s still an invaluable opportunity to get to know even more people in the field and at the same time show what you can do.
5. Get actual work experience through volunteering. Volunteering jobs are often the best option for getting work experience you can use on your résumé. And volunteering isn’t just for retired people anymore. Before committing myself to a career change, I started out by volunteering so I could assess my interest and get an idea of what employment opportunities might be available in the area. My volunteer work provided me with a wealth of valuable knowledge and connections.
Most nonprofits have volunteer positions, and some small businesses may even offer unpaid work opportunities. If the position you want doesn’t exist, be proactive – create a plan showing how you can help the organization with its goals. You can search for volunteer opportunities through:
What are some other ways you can think of to gain work experience?