A team of young workers having a meeting in an office

You’ve just finished school and are applying for jobs. Even though you believe you’re a great candidate, you may be overlooked for not having enough work experience. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to bolster your experience. Capitalize on these opportunities, and you’ll put yourself on the path to a rewarding career!

Need to Gain Work Experience? Try These 9 Tips:

1. Volunteer

There are many benefits to volunteering. You’ll give back to the community, gain hands-on experience in your field, foster relationships with industry professionals and learn new skills. Schedules are often flexible, so you’ll still have time available for your active job search. Relevant volunteer experience can help set you apart from other candidates and lay the foundation for career advancement.

There are a variety of websites that list open volunteer opportunities, or you could proactively reach out to organizations in industries you’d like to work in and find out what opportunities are available. If a company doesn’t have volunteer positions available at this time, they may keep you in mind for future opportunities.

2. Intern

Internships are a great way to gain experience. They can help you get your foot in the door at a company, show what you bring to the table, make valuable connections and look great on a resume. They also help you figure out whether a particular type of role is right for you.

If you’re a post-secondary student, your program may include internships, co-op jobs or clinical placements; or the school may offer opportunities through other departments on campus. Outside of academia, you can search online for internships offered through government programs, private businesses and job boards like Indeed. Some internships are paid while others are not, especially if they are for course credit.

3. Look for Part-Time or Temporary Work

Some Canadian businesses are open to hiring part-time and/or temporary workers. This allows you to build experience and put yourself in a good position to pounce on full-time or permanent positions that open up within the organization. Part-time work also can offer the flexibility to work a second job or to focus on your search for a permanent role, and temp roles may come with comparable salary and benefits to permanent jobs within the organization.

4. Explore Freelancing

Freelancing can help you develop in-demand skills and gain experience working with real clients, while offering the flexibility to work on your own terms. Start by identifying your skills and researching whether there is demand for freelancing gigs that use those skills. You can reach out to companies directly or leverage websites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer to connect with clients.

Attract clients by showcasing your skills with a strong portfolio. Include samples of your best work, even if it’s from school projects or volunteering. Don’t be afraid to start with smaller gigs to build your experience and reputation. As you gain positive feedback and testimonials, you can take on bigger and more challenging projects.

5. Attend Webinars, Conferences and Classes

Webinars and conferences are golden learning opportunities—they’ll inform you about industry trends, teach you skills and provide valuable networking opportunities. Consider connecting with other attendees or presenters after the event if you receive business cards (or find them on LinkedIn).

You can also enroll in online or in-person classes to upgrade your skills. Attending classes helps you enhance your current skill set, develop new skills and shows potential employers that you’re committed to professional growth. You may also earn certifications or other credentials to make you resume stand out.

6. Join a Professional Industry Organization

Look on LinkedIn for organizations in your field of work and join groups to participate in conversations with industry leaders. These discussions allow you to hear what professionals have to say about your industry and build your professional network.

You can also search for industry organizations and professional associations in your city, which may give you exclusive access to learning materials and networking events.

7. Shadow an Industry Professional

When you shadow someone at work, you’ll learn what this individual does on a daily basis. It will give you insights into what employers in this field are looking for, what the job is truly like and whether it’s the type of role you’d like to do yourself. Make the most of these experiences by asking thoughtful questions, taking notes and building genuine relationships. This individual may become a mentor or pass along job opportunities they know of to you.

8. Find a Mentor

Mentors can provide you with firsthand insights into how to advance your career and accomplish your goals. They can answer questions about the industry or your job search, introduce you to valuable contacts and may know of opportunities for you to gain work experience.

9. Start Your Own Project

To show potential employers you have the knowledge and skills they’re looking for, work on a self-directed project. For example: build an app, write a blog, create a social media strategy, design a logo, conduct a data analysis on a topic of interest, research and write a whitepaper, etc. You can then showcase your project to prospective employers as part of a portfolio.


Looking for More Job Search Tips and Advice?

Check out The Headhunters Career Resources page for advice on resumes, cover letters, interviews, networking and more. You can also explore our job board to see all our open postings and apply online.