Getting Started

How to gain experience to get a new job

Written by Michael Hoon

If you currently have the day job that pays the bills but isn’t quite building towards your career goals, or you want to switch career tracks, then you have to be smart about collecting the skills you need to bolster your resume. Beyond the day job, there are ways to demonstrate and build the skills that will look good to future employers and prove your worth in a new position. It may take a little bit of hustle and some extra unpaid labor, but it can pay off in the long run.

8 ways to gain skills to get the job you want

1. Target the entry-level position

First, you need to research the skills you need. Figure out the places where you find yourself saying, “I’d love to work there, if only… ” or “I’d love to do this, but first I need to…” Find out specifics. What are the skills emphasized in these job ads? What skills do you currently have that are transferrable? Then, work from there. Setting your sights on an entry-level job in your preferred industry while building the skills required for the dream job are a winning combo.

2. Take classes

Most importantly, you want to figure out ways you can build these skills beyond the traditional workplace setting. Building skills through small certificate programs or local or online classes are a good way to learn and demonstrate your abilities. Taking classes can also show your motivation to prospective employers.

Online courses are a convenient way to build your skills or interests on your own time. Whether it’s a Google Analytics certificate, or a continuing studies course in graphic design at your local art school, you can find low-cost ways to build your skills in a new area.

3. Take on self-motivated projects

Did you take that class in graphic design? Great. Now make a website of your sample work. Gather a portfolio. Take the knowledge you have and translate it into action. This extra step can lead to a showcase of your skills and work beyond a line on a resume, and it demonstrates to future employers your ability to take initiative.

4. Build your online presence

Beyond a website, there are a number of social media platforms available to keep you informed on your industry of choice and help you interact with that industry. “Liking” an organization on social media and staying up-to-date is the first step. In addition to following any appropriate feeds, you can build your own presence surrounding that field, while developing your knowledge. For example, if you want to work in a museum, follow art news feeds and link to articles you find interesting. A lot more employers are looking at prospective employees’ social media, so let that be a plus for you.

Beyond these basics of staying on top of industry trends, you can build your own stories on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or your platform of choice. Investing the time to engage with your industry will keep you informed of opportunities available and the skills you need to get the position you want.

5. Consider a side gig

Part-time work or freelance work is a great way to get your foot in the door for a new position. It likely won’t come with benefits, but it can help you develop skills and experience in a new area as a stepping stone toward a full-time position. These smaller side gigs can help bolster your resume with smaller projects related to your desired industry.

6. Explore internship opportunities

While an internship often requires a bigger (and often unpaid) commitment than a side gig, getting one at an organization can often lead to longer-term work. Helping with a company’s odds and ends can also really show you an insider’s view of the industry and what it is like working at a particular organization.

7. Volunteer

Whether it’s working on a political campaign, for a local environmental humanitarian organization, at a neighborhood food bank, or anywhere else that needs a helping hand, volunteering can demonstrate your passion and commitment to more than just your own personal goals. Employers also often value soft skills like collaboration, so you can let your volunteer work speak to that side of your merit.

You can also gain job skills in whatever aspect of the work you do on a voluntary basis. If you want to work in marketing, for example, volunteering to assist on a marketing department campaign at a service organization can help you gain necessary skills and insight and help you land your next job.

8. Find opportunities at work

The easiest way to go about gaining skills is to look at the place that already pays you to do work. Find projects within your current job that can support a career move and help you build new skills—whether it’s simply offering help on a project for a colleague or directly asking your superiors for opportunities. You can slowly gain experience that will expand your resume and still get paid to do it. Get an idea, take some initiative, and go for it.

About the author

Michael Hoon