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Career Corner
The experience obstacle

( -- It's every job hunter's nightmare: You send a resume or fill out an application in response to an employment offer, only to be rejected because you don't have enough experience.

Of course, the question this situation raises is, "How can I get job experience without getting a job in the first place?" In other words, it's a classic Catch-22: You have to have experience in order to get experience.

No matter what the job -- from washing dishes to working as a rocket scientist - employers have been reluctant to hire someone with little or no experience. It's difficult to blame them for being so cautious. Few companies are willing to risk the time and money it takes to train a new person on the specifics of a position if he or she doesn't even have the basic knowledge of the profession or the trade.

While this hurdle can seem tough to overcome, it's not impossible. Believe it or not, there is one sure way around this dilemma: volunteering.

You may not have considered this option, since you are looking for paid employment. Don't be too quick to discount the many benefits of volunteering which can help to make your job hunt a success:

Gain Real-World Experience

Volunteering allows you to learn exactly what effort and knowledge a particular job or career field entails. You will also get hands-on experience with the tools of the trade, which can give you an invaluable edge over other job seekers in your own job hunt.

Build Your Network

You will meet a number of people who work in the particular career field in which you have chosen to volunteer. Perhaps they will come to see you as a dedicated and conscientious person, and may be able to introduce you to someone who may be hiring. They may also serve as a reference for you when you apply.

Clarify Your Vision

Volunteering is an excellent way to test the waters before embarking on a new career path. Asking employees about challenges, how they got their jobs, and how many hours they typically work in a week will give you valuable insight when making your decision.

You'll Feel Good

Most volunteer positions are geared toward helping the company or agency accomplish a goal. If you can look back at your volunteer experience and realize that you had a hand in making something positive happen, that will build your self-esteem and help make your job search that much more productive.

Now that I've talked up volunteering, I'm sure you must be wondering where you can go to find these opportunities. Well, they are all around you. You could volunteer to work for a local hospital, charity or business. If they don't have any volunteer opportunities when you ask, they may be able to refer you somewhere you can find one.

Another great place to volunteer is with your local city or county government. You may be surprised with the variety of services provided citizens. If your ambitions are to become a lawyer, a city or county attorney's office might be a great place to volunteer some time. Most computer departments could use a few people to assist with computer software and hardware And, if you love animals and may be considering the veterinary field, an animal control office could be where you get your experience. This is just scratching the surface of the many positions which may be available to you.

(c) 2001

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.