You’ve just started your career – out of school, out of Uni, out of training – you’ve cast off into the ocean of work. You’ve looked at a few job sectors, seen what they broadly do, and narrowed it down. It’s time to write a CV. But, apart from your academic achievements and a Duke of Edinburgh award, your material is looking a bit thin. How do you gain experience when in order to start you need experience?
1) From leisure to experience – Reword your personal experience into industry experience for your CV. You are employing a diverse set of skills on a daily basis, just in your personal life. Research what skills you need for your chosen field and start to think about what things you’ve already done that have utilised such skills. Put it on your CV.
You’ve landed an introductory role within your chosen field. It’s early days, but from the little you know, this is the field you want to flourish in; and at least you’re mature enough to have the long-term in mind. Exciting!… Now what?
2) Gather interdepartmental knowledge – Expand your fundamental skill set. This will not only give you options for specialization within your sector, but also allow you to transfer to another sector, if you find out this isn’t for you. Acquiring such knowledge will also allow you to see “how things are actually done” on the job. It’s no secret that in practice, people cut corners and break the rules. Being able to see how things are done in practice will allow you to plan and communicate better. It’s a way of working smart.
3) Know the overall M.O. of your business/sector – Being able to see the bigger picture is as important for your career trajectory as understanding the specifics. You might have your particular role mastered, but you’re only one organ in a large body. Seeing the bigger picture, understanding the ultimate goals, structure and methods of your business/sector, will allow you to start thinking creatively. You might see how things can be made more efficient or productive. This is the beginning of you standing out and the beginning of expertise in this field.
Knowing the grand machinery of the business/sector is good, but where do you fit into it? You’re not going to keep your current duties for the next 40 years are you? What’s your future in this company?
4) The Ladder – Know your future opportunities within your business/sector. What positions do you see yourself having? Perhaps you don’t see any and that might mean this business/sector isn’t for you. But, perhaps you’ve done your research and think a few sound interesting. Don’t just wait to be invited into a particular role, actively work towards it! Find out what that role entails and start demonstrating your ability. You can even tell the higher ups of your ambitions for the role, so that they’ll be watching out for you.
You’ve seen how things are done in other departments and expanded your basic skill set. You’ve got the bigger picture of your business/sector. You’ve even got an idea of the roles you want to work towards. Now, you need contacts.
5) Network – Use Social Media, Exhibitions, Trade Shows and face-to-face meetings to advertise yourself, learn of new opportunities and soak yourself in the hot topics of the day. No one can make it on their own, and getting informal tips, learning the work language and having dialogues with others will introduce you to new opportunities.