The biggest problem with getting top notch work experience on your resume is that you often need high quality industry specific work experience to land that job in the first place. This creates a Catch-22. How can you get high quality resume experience if most of the jobs that would be considered resume candy are out of reach to those with no working background? College students consistently face this quandary.
One solution is to keep having a bland and uninteresting resume and pray that someone will hire you based on your work ethic or random chance. Sadly this is the course that most job hunters take. Blindly clinging to their resume in hopes that the 29th submission on Monster.com will finally be the one that strikes gold.
The real way to address this problem is to create work experience for yourself. I don’t mean lying and doctoring up your resume with fake jobs. I mean actually creating meaningful work experience out of the blue.
There are two ways to do this. You can either help others or you can help yourself. These aren’t mutually exclusive and can even benefit each other. These strategies can work in tandem with your current job search and your current employment. Even spending just a few hours a week on something can give you the extra boost you needed.
Find someone in your extended network who does something that interests you. A family friend, a friend’s parent, a siblings friend or someone you know through your community.
Offer to help them out for free with a side project they are working on and tell them you’re trying to get some concrete experience on your resume. This can be as simple as helping 1 or 2 times for a few hours a week. You have to be proactive and willing to work for free to build real concrete work experience on your resume.
Giving first without asking for anything in return is the key. You give your work away for free and in return you build work experience, credibility, and professional contacts.
With the right twist, putting this part time work on your resume can make it substantially stronger. Let’s say you have a family friend who is a real estate broker. You work full time as a waiter and spend one afternoon a week working with them for a month. Now the top line work experience on your resume reads:
Sales Clerk, XYZ Real Estate June 2011
- Evaluated & helped close 12 real estate deals
- Worked directly with clients to solve problems
- Helped brokers organized and manage sales leads
This is industry specific and much stronger than “Waiter, George’s Restaurant” at the top of your resume.
The upside of this strategy – there is also a possibility the person you are helping ultimately hires you. Don’t expect this – but if you do a good job and they are on the lookout for someone new, you will certainly be on their radar.
For a total contribution of a few hours a week you have successfully generated concrete work experience on your resume.
Go out and create something on your own. Remember you are trying to build resume experience and not necessarily a real viable business. Create a website, a blog, or an info product. These kinds of projects are almost completely free to build and all they take are time and dedication on your part.
Dedicate one evening a week to building your own blog. You could even take that time to build up your personal brand online. This alone could be a huge aid in your job search.
Here is quick bullet list of things you can start doing right now to test and create a few business ideas.
If nothing else – assuming every single idea you test is an epic failure – you will come away with a tremendous learning experience about business, organization, marketing, customer acquisition, and striking out on your own.
But the key is that even if these projects fail (in the traditional sense that they lose money)- you can still list them on your resume, and it puts you at a huge advantage because you show initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Here’s your short-do list to jump start your creative juices.
- Download Evernote. It’s 100% free and works on any mobile device. This is your idea basket. Use this to write down and store any and all ideas you have.
- Start writing down your ideas. It doesn’t matter how the idea sounds or how you would flush it out. Evernote takes 3 seconds to jot an idea down and mark it with a few keywords so you can revisit it later. I currently have 66 “muse ideas” stored in evernote that are random business ideas I came up with wandering through my daily life.
- Sign up for a free or cheap website creation service. Weebly is great for this and Unbounce is even better but charges a small monthly fee.
- Start testing your ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen – they key is to test as cheaply as possible and see if they stick. Use Micro Testing. Set up a simple one page site and see if you can generate interest. Try to capture leads or get people to sing up as a means to gauge their interest.
- Build traffic to your test pages. Traffic can cost money. It can also be free. If you want to pay for your traffic you can use Google Adwords. If you want to get free traffic you will need to work on your social media presence and building up an online following.
- Create the product. If you have enough interest then create the product. Use something like e-lance to hire out a team and build it for you or do it yourself. Sometimes giving up equity in your idea is a great way to get someone onboard who can create something for you.
It really is that easy. It isn’t rocket science. Instead of burning 30 minutes watching YouTube videos or submitting your resume for the 47th time on Monster.com- you are risking almost nothing to step out and start generating ideas and testing them. Get the wheels moving.
Who knows where it will take you – but I guarantee you will gain a tremendous amount from the process and come away with concrete experience, a better name, some real tangible asset that you have created out of thin-air (even if the product is an epic flop you still made it from nothing) and maybe just maybe you will even have a functioning business that actually creates income.
If you’re really serious about building something on your own you should seriously considering checking out my five favorite books on entrepreneurship for a much more detailed guide about how to construct and test your ideas for a small business.
Just creating this website and having it on your resume will make you look great – even if the website is a flop it shows that you are entrepreneurial and went out on your own to create something. You can use all of this to spice up your resume and make yourself even more credible.
Here are some things I want you to do within the next 24 hours that will help you get started.
- Brainstorm a list of ten “Contacts” you know that you might want to work with.
- This can be family friends, parents of your friends, acquaintances, or members of your community who you admire that work in an industry you like.
- The SMALLER the organization these contacts work at the better – this is because a big corporation has too much bureaucracy to deal with a random person helping out on the side – a small business would probably love to have the help and be more than willing to take you on as a free part time worker.
- Stretch your mind and think of 10 people. It’s easier than it seems.
- Reach out to at least ONE of the ten people in the next 24 hours and tell them something along the lines of “Hey, I am interested in your industry and I wanted to learn more about it. I was wondering if I could maybe help you out with a project or two in the next few weeks just to get a sense of how the industry works and get some work experience on my hands.”
- Make sure they know you just want the experience not any money.
- If you don’t know the contact personally, go through your mutual contact and have them make an introduction for you.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
You need a way to differentiate yourself from the army of people out there right now hunting for jobs. The way to build experience is (1) by working for free and helping other people WHILE you are job searching (i.e. right now) (2) by building and doing things on your own WHILE you are job searching. These are things you can start on literally today.
The key is to remember – I’m not saying build experience INSTEAD of what you’re currently doing – you can do all this stuff while at your current job, while doing your job search etc.
This strategy might take 2-3 extra hours of work a week but could pay huge dividends over time. You risk almost nothing by doing this and you have a lot to gain in terms of building assets and experience for yourself. This will yield a hell of a lot more than submitting your resume 10 more times on a job board.
If you did the exercise above and you really really can’t find anyone you want to help, send me a tweet. I will see what I can do to help!