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10 tips to develop relevant work experience while in college

Have you ever heard the phrase “You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job”?  I’m sure you or someone you know has been in that exact situation at one time or another.

Here are 10 tips to get relevant work experience while in college, so prospective employers will take notice.

  1. Contact your college career center.  Most every school has one and the staff members are trained to help students find jobs and internships.  The services are free, so why not make an appointment to see how they can help.
  2. Remember that it takes time and effort to find a job. Write a resume and cover letter that highlights your experience, skills and abilities and target them to your organizations of interest.  Devote an hour or two a day to your job search and you will find that calls for interviews will begin to happen.  And when they do, contact your college career center for tips on interviewing strategies.
  3. Give some thought to what job you might want to have when you finish your education.  Sometimes adults will say “What do you want to do for the rest of your life”?  I don’t know about you, but that type of decision sounds a bit overwhelming.  Instead, consider what you want to do for the first couple of years after you finish your college education.  Today, the world of work permits people to change jobs and careers much easier than in the past.
  4. Once you have narrowed down those jobs that sound interesting, start a list of organizations where you could learn about your new career.  You can use YellowPages.com to help find a list of organizations by subject area.  Then visit the organizations’ websites to see what positions are open.
  5. Networking is also a good way to find a job. Tell everyone you know about your interest in working.  Give them ideas of the type of work that you would like to do.  Ask if they have contact information for people who might be able to help you.  Be sure to reach out to faculty members, former supervisors, friends and family.  Most everyone knows someone who could be a useful contact.
  6. Internships in your field of interest are another way to acquire relevant work experience.  This type of work typically has a defined beginning and end, such as a semester or for the summer.  You will have the opportunity to learn about your career while doing projects for the company.  This learning experience can sometimes turn into full-time work, but the employer is under no obligation to keep you on past the end of the internship.
  7. Get involved in a club or organization that you find interesting.  Something career-related is helpful, but not a requirement.  Group membership is a fun way to gain skills that can be useful in full-time employment.  For example, if you have an interest in animals, volunteer at the Humane Society.  You can offer to coordinate a dog-washing event to raise funds. You’ll gain valuable organizational and fund-raising skills that could be of interest to a future employer.
  8. While you are looking for a career-related job, consider applying for any job that looks even a bit interesting.  Students often avoid fast food and retail work, yet many of the skills gained through those jobs can be applied to most any career.  Think about it.  If the barista pays close attention to detail when assembling your “low-fat caramel Macchiato with two shots of espresso over ice,” then one could assume that person would also pay close attention to detail when preparing your tax return.  That is a transferrable skill.
  9. Take a ride around town and look for help wanted signs in windows.  Look online at sites such as Indeed.com.  There really isn’t ONE place to look for job openings, which means you have to look in a lot of places.  And don’t forget to keep networking. 
  10. 10. My favorite way to learn about job openings is by listening to people talk.  Think about how much you hear just waiting in line at the grocery store.  If you hear someone mention something about a job opening, ask him or her about it.  I know…your teacher said that eavesdropping is rude, yet I look at it as another tool to discover job leads.

Following just a few of these tips will help you secure a job and gain relevant work experience while in college.

The content for this post is provided by the WKU Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD). The WKU CCPD exists to assist students and alumni in both identifying and reaching their career and employment goals, partners with employers to access an educated and highly trained workforce, and supports faculty and staff in developing opportunities to increase student learning and skill development to meet the demands of an ever-changing work environment.  Students and alumni interested in utilizing our services just need to reach out to the office by emailing us at CareerHelp@wku.edu or calling 270-745-3095.

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 Last Modified 4/5/17