5 Ways to Get Real-Life Job Experience

By Alicia Geigel on March 15, 2022

As a college student, it isn’t always easy getting the job experience necessary to land the post-graduate position of your dreams. In today’s world, most positions require that applicants have at least a couple years of experience in the respective field, along with higher education, which can be nearly impossible while balancing attending classes and doing schoolwork.

Getting real-life job experience while in college isn’t impossible, however, and there are a few different ways to leverage your position as a student and utilize your resources in college to gain experience. Each major step in life consists of a journey to get there, and this applies to landing your first job outside of college. It takes some worth to gain real-life experience, but the journey to get there is worth it.

Are you a college student? Looking to gain real-life job experience prior to graduating and landing a big job? Here are five ways you can do so, and most are within your immediate reach!

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1. Internships: The most common way to gain job experience before having a real job is through internships. Internships are popular among college students, as most are catered to nurturing skills and building foundations in your respective field. Many internships are unpaid, but the experience of working with whichever company you work for is a huge asset on both your resumé and any job applications you send in. Meaningful experience matters, and if a company sees that you interned at multiple places for a prolonged period of time, it shows that you have developed skills in your field, which could be of benefit to them.

2. Freelance/Self-Employed Jobs: Another great way to gain job experience is through freelance and self-employed jobs. Many freelance and self-employed jobs don’t require a lengthy resumé filled with prior jobs or higher educational degrees, but rather just want you to demonstrate that you have skills through perhaps completing a standardized test, submitting a portfolio of work, etc. This is great because you might not have a lot of legitimate work experience, but you can highlight your skills through the work you’ve done in school. To an employer, freelance and self-employed jobs can show that you are creative and look for different avenues to develop your skills and gain experience. A definite plus!

3. Campus Jobs: What better place to look for job experience than your very own campus! My first “real” job was as an usher in my university’s fine arts center, and I loved it! Work-study jobs are a great way to help fund your education while giving you the experience of a real job in the comfort of your college campus. Talk with your career center for any opportunities that could be on campus or venture out to different campus buildings and look for job postings. Sure, these jobs may not be the big break you are looking for in terms of your career, but they can still provide you with a steady work experience, which is meaningful to employers. Plus, if an employer sees that you were working while in college, it shows that you can multitask and have good skills in time management!

4. Volunteer Opportunities: While volunteering is not a paid working opportunity, it can be a significant way to gain real-world experience. Ashley Williamson of Life Hack suggests, “Doing something as simple as working in a charity shop, for example, can really make a difference for a cause, and also can give you truly valuable retail experience. Best of all, most charities are pretty flexible with their volunteering hours, so you can fit the work around your own schedule.” Look for volunteering opportunities in your hometown or on campus, and add that experience to your resumé, detailing everything you need on the job along with references to vouch for you!

5. Network to Find Connections: Networking is one of the most important aspects of your college experience, as it helps to build your connections and get you to the job of your dreams. Talk with people in your classes, join a club, visit the campus career center, go to your professor’s office hours, etc. to establish relationships and learn more about opportunities around you. Connecting with university faculty, in particular, is important because they can help guide your career search and they can also be a part of your growing network of people. You never know what could come from a simple conversation with someone!

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Job searches can be frustrating, especially as a college student with little to no real-life job experience. While landing a real-life job in college and post-graduation can seem like an uphill battle, these are several ways to gain experience before then and make your resumé stand out to employers. From taking on internships to volunteering, there are several ways to work towards your career of dreams!

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