There comes a time in every college student’s life when you ask yourself one question… How am I supposed to get experience if no one is willing to hire me?
It is no secret that as underclassmen it can be extremely difficult to land the “perfect” #internship. You have the passion, you have the smile, you have the charm, you’re taking the right classes, however, that is not enough to land that job which requires 1-2 years of relevant experience.
Maybe you’re a senior passionate about creative arts, but you attend a university that focuses more on STEM majors and lack opportunities. What are you supposed to do? Perhaps you are a recent grad and your current job experiences don’t quite measure up to your aspirations and goals in life, deterring you from applying for that DREAM JOB. Don’t give up yet, there is still hope!
Sometimes in life, the #blueprint of our future is not always as clear as we would like it to be. However, that is NOT a sign to give up and pursue something else, it is more so a chance for you to explore your creativity to get the result you were looking for. Below are four tips to help you get the experience you need without depending on an employer to do so.
1. Create It Yourself
As a freshman business student, I quickly realized what I wanted to pursue as a career. I had interests in fashion and marketing with hopes of becoming a brand manager in the CPG industry someday. The only problem was the companies I wanted to work for did not recruit at my university. Most of the marketing positions that were available (and there were very few) were sales jobs that involved cold calling, door-to-door sales, and commission-based pay. NO THANK YOU! The next best opportunity required me to have 2 years of experience.
So what did I do? I researched the qualities of a #successful brand manager and created my own experience by developing a personal brand, which I used to gain skills I did not have. I needed experience in graphic design using Adobe Creative Suite so I created a logo and website for my personal brand. I needed experience with product development so I created a collection that required me to come up with a concept, source materials, and create samples. I needed experience creating marketing campaigns so I created social media pages for my brand, worked with my talented friends to conduct a photo shoot and video for the launch of my 1st collection. I needed writing experience so I worked on a business plan, marketing plan, contracts, press releases, and even started a blog. I also needed leadership and management experiences so I hired a total of 10 interns throughout the span of 2 years to assist me in building my brand. I created my own opportunities encountering new challenges and ultimately serving as a catalyst for personal and professional growth.
I wanted to pursue a career as a brand manager and I did just that (on a small scale but did it nonetheless). It gave me the #confidence I needed to look outside of my university for future career opportunities. You too can apply this same concept to your life. Consider creating a platform for your personal brand (i.e. website, blog, vlog, etc.) and use it to capture skills and experiences related to your goals and aspirations.
2. Utilize Your Network
My freshman year of college I attended a panel event featuring an alum who was a model and fashion designer. After the event, I asked her as many questions as I could about how she got into the industry after college and wanted to remain in contact. A couple of months later she reached out to me asking if I needed an internship for the summer. Of course I said yes! Next thing I know, she creates a status on Facebook asking her designer friends if anyone needs interns and personally refers me! Instant internship!
In order to get to know the right people, you have to position yourself to be in the right place at the right time. Attend relevant events, conferences, and meet-ups. Be prepared to introduce yourself and share your future goals and objectives with as many people as possible. Exchange contact information and follow up.
Consider offering assistance for free. Not all experience has to be paid. My design internship was unpaid, so I got a part-time job to supplement during the summer. The #experience, however, was invaluable and had a major influence on my decision to create Dynasty By Brittany!
3. Pursue Unconventional Opportunities
Applying on a company website and networking is not the only way to land the job that you want. Consider getting a membership to an organization or participating in a development program to gain access to additional opportunities and resources.
My sophomore year of college I was encouraged to apply to Management Leadership For Tomorrow (MLT), an 18-month Career Prep Fellows Program for high achieving minority students. This program provided me with a career coach, workshops, seminars, introduction to different industries, and a recruiting process with a variety of Fortune 500 companies. It was through this program that I landed an internship with Kraft Foods, Inc. providing me with sales experience in the CPG industry, resulting in one BIG step towards my future goals.
4. Make The Best Of Where You Are NOW
Sometimes, we can get caught up in the things we don’t like about our current situation that we fail to see the opportunities that lie in front of us. Change your perspective. Make the best of where you are right now, with what you already have. If you are looking for a career transition, but lack the experience to land the job, take another look at your current employer. Are there opportunities for you to step outside your role to work on projects of interests? Is it possible to switch roles altogether to something more suitable for your future?
How can you position yourself to take advantage of the resources available to you right now to gain the skill set and experience needed for your transition? It’s all apart of the game.
So there you have it. I have never been one to accept the status of the environment I inhabited. If my university did not offer opportunities that best fit me, I chose not to settle and looked elsewhere or created my own. Just because your environment is mediocre that does not mean you need to be. Take advantage of any resources that are there and mold it to fit your needs. Take control of your life, your ambition will help you succeed.