How Can I Gain Experience When You Won’t Hire Me In The First Place?

Julie Shenkman
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It’s a vicious cycle and a common complaint we unfortunately hear from many frustrated candidates, “How do I get experience when employers are only hiring people that already have experience?” It certainly sounds like a Catch-22, so we thought it would be helpful to offer some tips on how to solve this conundrum.

  • Accept an Internship. If you’re starting out in a new field, consider being an intern. Internships aren’t just for college kids anymore—remember when Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did that movie where they were interns at Google? It’s cool I didn’t see it either. But, there’s a new trend emerging—internships for mature workers (their words not mine). They’re typically targeted towards potential employees that have been out of the workplace for at least two years—perhaps you took time off to raise your kids, went back to school, or you were unfortunately laid off. These opportunities are great resume builders, and who knows—you might get hired full time at the end of the program.
  • Volunteer your time. Knowledge you gain from volunteering is valuable experience you should be bragging about. If you volunteer and the experience is relevant to the type of position you’re aiming towards, it should definitely be on your resume.
  • Take a course. If you gained skills from a course you took—that counts for something. Consider including a “Relevant Skills” or “Relevant Courses” section on your resume. This way recruiters won’t have to scavenge through your resume looking for validation of why you’d be a good fit. They can see immediately that you have the skills to get the job done.
  • Educate yourself. There is now so much information available for free online. We’re not saying this should replace any formal training (I mean, I’m not going to go to a dentist that was educated on YouTube), however there are resources like Khan Academy, Udacity, and Coursera (just to name a few) that could supplement your experiences and knowledge. Often these kinds of courses offer certificates that are nice things to highlight on your resume as well.

We hope you find these tips helpful. And yes, it is not always easy to volunteer your time or accept an internship that might not be as lucrative as a full time job, but think of these tactics as investments. An internship could lead to a full time job that leads to a wonderfully fulfilling career.


Image Source: Google


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Dawn so sorry that you encountered that. Not sure why the Interviewer would have been appalled. Personally I think it's great that you are keeping up your skill levels. I don't think that all interviewers would respond that way. Not everyone has the time or the money to go back to college in the old-fashioned, traditional way. Did you ask why he was disturbed? Don't let one person sway you from your goals. Keep learning and growing. There's a company out there who will appreciate your initiative and self-motivation!

  • Dawn Follin
    Dawn Follin

    When it says "take a course" . . . I have a Master's degree, but I'm taking course all the time on Udemy and I brought this up at a job interview and the interviewer was disturbed that that was how I pursued professional development. I thought it showed initiative and self-motivation. I guess I was wrong . . . I didn't get the job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thank you @Blanche for that. So true that we can't always start at the top or where we want to start. But we can still get a great job with a great company and have room to grow.

  • Blanche C.
    Blanche C.

    I think you have to look carefully at the types and levels of ads you are applying to. Even with a degree, we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes, you may have to enter from a side door. I started my career working in an HR dept as a clerical & the other time as an admin asst to a Plant Manager. It was a great company. I had the opportunity to learn the co from the bottom up. It was not the way I thought I would start, but I received the best foundation.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Faleasha SO true. Thank you so very much for your comment.


    I want to explain one thing to anyone who finds themselves not able to get a job with or without experience. It is your responsibility to yourself to keep your skills relevant. Being out of work does not mean you have to be inactive. You have to invest in you. I explained to a gentleman that sometimes, you might have to bite the bullet and volunteer your time to gain the evolved experience and technological skills needed or you may have to take out a student loan to go back to school and learn new skills. But please do not be discouraged because you can not enter the workforce where you think you should be. You might have to start from the ground floor and work your way up. For every year you are out of work your equitable skills diminishes by 10 to 20 percent. The key is to get back in the game and if volunteering at a company for 6 months while receiving unemployment is the only door you can walk through...then walk through it like a BOSS!

  • Diane M.
    Diane M.

    I apply to jobs in the areas I have the several years experience in, but since I don't have any current experience, I am being rejected all the time. I can't get the current experience, even though I have the job before, I can't get a job to get the current experience required, even though temp agencies. Right now, I am seeing jobs that I have done before, the position requires a bachelor's degree for an entry-level position. I have the experience, but not a degree.

  • Fran C.
    Fran C.

    That's all bolony! Everyone needs an income to survive.

  • Miriam L.
    Miriam L.

    Again you hit it out of the park. I disn't consider an internship. I will definitely consider that going forward.


    Volunteer? sure, but who is going to feed my kids and pay my bills????

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Patrick totally understand that not everyone is in a position to get additional education. It was a suggestion. For you, is it possible to get a job where the company will pay for your licensing? The medical field is one area where hiring is supposed to take off. All we can do is watch for that and be ready to apply.

  • Patrick   Hunter
    Patrick Hunter

    The internship is voluntary, most of the time. With a chance of getting hired on as an employee. I have been in the medical field for 20 years. In order for me to get licensed in Arizona, it will take about 3500. Then I am required by law, to have malpractice insurance, which is incredibly expensive. The opportunities I feel I am qualified for, come back to me as over qualified, and he won't stick around very long. I am confident, but discouragement can really take a lot out of you.

  • Patrick   Hunter
    Patrick Hunter

    These are great ideas, if you have something to fall back on financially.

  • Daniel C.
    Daniel C.

    Thank you very much I love that.

  • mouhamed d.
    mouhamed d.

    i like

  • Colin D.
    Colin D.

    Here's another side to the a mentioned in a lot of comments already, not everyone can do volunteer work or take an internship. Why? Volunteer work is exactly that, volunteered. Hence not paid, but efforts donated. And the majority of internships are the same, a learning phase. Again, unpaid. So yes, the "good idea fairy" would say, do these options, but Mr.Bill collector is saying, "show me my money!". In other words it's hard to agree with the choice to take unpaid work and still keep afloat financially.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Marcus - thank you for that! It certainly goes to show that we never give up - keep trying something new until you can break through. Congrats on the new position - even if you did have to uproot. Of course we know that not everyone has that flexibility but, for those who can, moving to where the job is - great way to go. @Louis - I hear your pain. Maybe you could try something different. Find all of the places that would need someone in the field of MSL and contact them directly - even if they are not posting a position. Just by being a bit aggressive, you might be able to open some doors. Just a suggestion to try! I wish you all the best.

  • Louis Martinez
    Louis Martinez

    I read some of the comments below and I agree with the fact that taking some courses or educating myself is not enough to land a job. I have a medical degree, with an extensive if I say so myself impressive career, but all this has turned into "you are too qualified" for this position. Been looking to go back into the field of MSLs and since my experience has been primarily in Infectious diseases/HIV/Hepatitis and some oncology in relation to the above diseases, they don't seem to see me as able to do something else beside that. I have always been good at languages and speak English, Spanish and French. I've taken Latin and Greek (etymology) and still is not enough to land a position.


    It comes down to what the career field and company on whether its experience of degree. For instance I have over 15 years experience in law enforcement/security. But the only jobs that would pay for my level experience required a degree. So I said fine I went back to school and got my degree into something I would enjoy IT. After graduating I run into the opposite problem this time I have my degree and certifications ready to take on the world, well that didn't happen. I lacked the experience working on this particular software or that type of equipment. So after a few years of taking these 3 to 6 month contracts here and there I eventually built up enough experience that I'm able to land a job worth writing home about. The trick is your willing to go to the job not have the job come to you. And I know as a Mature worker in this time of age there is no more setting roots. I had to travel 1889 miles to go to a job willing to give me a chance to build up my experience so I could join the corporate world. Basically my points are this one before choosing a career field do some research on what is weighed more. and second be willing to move, with technology today you're no longer competing with those in your town your competing with everyone in every town.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Evelyn thanks for your comments. So true that volunteering and internships are not for everyone as I mentioned previously. For some this works. The sad truth is that companies don't really want to train you and they feel that if you take a job for which you do not have the experience that you will leave for a better paying job once trained. There is no real loyalty to companies anymore which is why companies act the way they do. It is a two-way street. It's just that the traffic isn't flowing the way we would like it to.

  • Evelyn A.
    Evelyn A.

    Not everyone has a trust fund or the time to Volunteer or take on an Internship just to gain the experience needed to land that dream job we all deserve. Your point to this question isn't helpful at all. Employers are just being selfish and inattentive to the needs of the people seeking employment. Its what I can do for them but they cant do for me? If I am seeking a job that needs experience you can train and retain me for all its worth, this way I am obligated to repay your time and effort. This seems more reasonable to all involved. (my honest opinion) This will never resolve if we are only proceeding on a one way street.

  • Robin T.
    Robin T.

    I glad to see I'm not alone in my plight. I thought I had to kill someone, or set them up to get a job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    These tips are not for everyone. Just take them with a grain of salt - use them if you can. Not all of us can or will find an internship or even be able to do volunteer work. @Daniel it is a crying shame that many times it does boil down to who you know and not what you know but it's not always the case. Showcase your skills and experience. All it takes is ONE employer to read your resume and call you in for an interview. There you can sell yourself.

  • Daniel Green
    Daniel Green

    My wife used to say back when we were both in school "It's not what you know... it's WHO you know." I didn't fully believe that until now. My college buddy and I graduated with the same engineering degree. My GPA is much higher, I have actually been in the workforce (he had not actually had a job before), and I had an extra Certificate of Specialty in a field. We both gave decent resumes to the same company. But he has an uncle for a reference that is a professional engineer that would vouch for his nephew being "so awesome". I do not have that luxury. So guess who got one of the many open entry-level positions??? Here's a hint... it wasn't me.

  • Michael M.
    Michael M.

    From reading the other comments, I see that I am not alone in having experienced first-hand that these suggestions really don't work. I have seen postings for internships that read like entry to mid level positions, and those are usually only available to those who are in school. Volunteering would be great, but most organizations do not want volunteers handling their technology, even in limited ways. Taking courses is always good, but employers still prefer experience over education, and recent experience at that. If it's been more than two years since you worked in the field, good luck.

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