Positions requiring experience from applicants, while applicants can't gain any experience without first having had a job, is a situation that has been frustrating job-seekers for ages. But there are ways to make oneself employable and gain experience without having landed a position in formal employment first, an education expert says.
Dr. Felicity Coughlan, director of the Independent Institute of Education, a private education provider, says what employers are looking for in many instances is just to be given proof that someone is able to self-manage and that a candidate can be trusted to make a contribution from as early as possible. "The experience requirement is an attempt to ensure new employees are productive as early possible. This makes good sense, and while there are several good reasons to be training new people, it is always helpful to have someone who has done something before," says Coughlan.Seek opportunities to gain experience
Students must analyse the kind of work they intend to do and then look for opportunities to build appropriate experience in that niche. "For instance, if someone is studying towards a journalism qualification, volunteering to run a student newspaper or getting involved in putting together newsletters for local NGOs are the right kinds of experience to present to a potential employer.
"Volunteering at a children's home is good experience for someone studying social work or psychology, but it may not be the perfect fit for someone studying law. However, helping to put together a fundraising campaign for the same children's home would enable business and public relations students to put together experience they can present to potential employers," Coughlan says.Key values attract attention
"You gain the skills you need to show that you have some of the experience required by the employer, but at the same time, you are giving something back to the society that enabled you to get the education in the first place. And the beneficiaries benefit from a much-needed service they did not have to pay for from their often meagre available funding."
Career counseling researchers have noted that while the value of different attributes employers look for varied, there remained key values and attitudes that attract the attention of employers. Some traits are universal in terms of their attractiveness to employers who need to decide whether a candidate is worth investing in, and includes a strong work ethic, dependability and reliability, a positive attitude, integrity and honesty, willingness to learn and self confidence.
"The competition for good jobs is brutal, and to succeed you must cultivate the qualities that will set you apart from millions of other job seekers. Gaining relevant know-how where need exists will not only enable you to tick the omnipresent experience-box on your application, but it will also provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the qualities that can turn you into a valuable and valued asset should an employer take a chance on you," Coughlan concludes.