Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What do people do after college when they can’t find an internship? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I’ve worked with a lot of students who didn’t do any internships or work any jobs while in college and then get into the working world and due to the competitive nature of entry level jobs they don’t have enough experience for entry level jobs, which are usually looking for 1-3 years of internship experience (although the mileage may vary depending on the specialized nature of the job so I’ll speak generally.)
Here are a few ideas for getting work experience on your resume so that you are more competitive.
Go to a non-profit whose work is similar (although it doesn’t really matter if you work at a non-profit that is drastically different than what you’d ideally like to do) and put your all into it. Volunteering can be especially helpful because it shows that you’re community minded, that you can handle red tape, and it gives you a chance to network in person. Also if you’re unsure of where to volunteer, go back to your alma mater-ask your faculty, your alumni department and any staff you were friendly with if they know of volunteer opportunities that you can participate in. Even if it’s one day per week, it can be a huge boost to your resume.
2. Build Something On Your Own
Whether it’s getting involved in the open source community and posting projects on github, or you physically build a ramp for a community center-being able to put a project like this on your resume shows that not only do you have the skills you learned in an Academic setting but that you can work with people and take supervision.
3. Set A Goal And Document It
Maybe your goal is to learn a certain type of language so you enroll in hacker school and document your learning on a blog, which you can then reference on your resume. Or your goal is to find and rate every public bathroom in NYC and you put that online. Or your goal is to sell all of your possessions on ebay to pay off your student loans. Either way it shows that you can commit to a goal, that you have communication skills and it gives you a chance to network.
4. Start Temping
Okay some temp agencies won’t hire you without experience* but if you have any work experience you can probably get some data entry work, which will show prospective employers that you can work in a corporate setting, that you can take management and it will allow you to network.
The most important thing is to stay busy and by busy, I mean busy with something you can put on your resume. That way if you get an interview with your dream company three months from now, when they ask you what you’ve been doing, you have something more to say than ‘job searching’ which some employers hear as ‘sitting on the couch and doing nothing’ even though job searches, especially for entry level roles take longer than ever before.