Last week at one of my presentations, someone asked me how you’re supposed to get experience when every job seems to require you to have prior experience in order to be hired. It’s the horrible catch-22 of youth, the same conundrum that 16-year-olds everywhere face when they get their license. “Ok, I need a job to pay for a car, but I need a car to get to work to make money to pay for a job. I think I’m screwed.”
Never fear, noble youth-babies. Normally I’d tell you how to destroy your future, but this question is actually too difficult to try and answer in my standard fashion. So, in an effort to be normal and straightforward (words which it sort of hurt me to write, by the way), here are a couple ways you can gain experience despite the fact that everyone expects you to already have some. Everyone else is going to tell you to volunteer and work for free and all that, and maybe those are good ideas. But they’re also annoying to hear. So here, I hope, are two solutions you’ll like better:
Work For Someone Who Can’t Demand That You Have Previous Experience! Small business owners are significantly more flexible on this point, mostly because they know they can’t afford to be annoyingly picky if they only have a finite amount of resources to offer an employee. In this case (as with accidental injury, prison term, or tumor size), smaller is better. Start-up businesses especially would love to have someone with experience – but failing that, they’ll often be quite happy to take people who display an eager desire to work. Then, if you someday grow out of that company and want a place with more advancement opportunity, you’ll have experience to talk about at your next job interview.
Start a Business You Have No Intention of Making Successful! I’m guessing this is some of the weirdest advice anyone will ever give you, but I swear it’s good advice. Musicians get better by practicing, as do athletes and chefs and professional knot-tiers. Which means that you’re getting an MBA but are worried that employers will look down on your lack of business experience, there’s really no better way to get that experience than by starting one up. Write a business plan, get your business off the ground, and learn as you go. You’ll learn a TON about business that will come in handy whenever someone asks about your previous experience – and since employers like knowing that you’ve learned something from past mistakes, your various “business” failures can actually be turned into positives in the interview. And who knows? Maybe your crazy idea will actually succeed, and then you won’t need to bother with any stupid interviews in the first place.
Hope that helps. Now get out there and start gathering some experience. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want an inexperienced person performing outpatient hernia surgery on me. Or flying my planes, or building my buildings, or cooking my fugu fish, or doing my taxes, or OK I’m done now.