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Ways To Gain Experience Without Taking An Unpaid Internship

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Let talk about stopping the cycle of needing a job for the experience but to get the experience you want, you need the right job. I understand.

In today’s world for young people, it’s just about impossible to get a job without a job with 100% relevant work history. It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle that if you want the job you need the skills but you need the skills to get the job.

Whether you’re still in school, folding clothes at Hot Topic, or working at the local comic shop, this information is going to help you jump into a new career change and help you break into a new industry!

Sometimes this means looking for an internship. In theory, taking an internship is a great idea. Companies offer you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what a job in the art or design industry might look like and in turn, the companies get an extra set of hands. The HUGE downside is most internships are unpaid. So before I completely jump into talking about some of this. I’d like to note that you should know your worth. You do not need to take an unpaid internship to gain some experience. I suggest avoiding places that aren’t worth paying you for your time.

If you’re considering an internship, weight your options. These positions can teach you may be priceless in the long run, but they don’t help your short term when rent is due and bills are due.

So, let’s avoid working for free. However, you still need to give your resume a lift. Here’s some alternative to consider to break into the industry.

Develop New skills, inside and outside your wheelhouse.

Not all skills are learned while on the job. In fact, you can add to your relevant skills from the comfort of your home or the coffee shop. There are lots of websites that can help you boost your skills. Skillshare has thousands of tutorials on art and design. There is Udemy for Animators. Try the podcast, Adventures in Design for Design and career guided content. Don’t forget about the school of YouTube. You already have an idea of the job you want to land, think about the other components to that position and what skills might apply to land the job you want.

Because of the world wide web, you can find picking up skills at a pretty low cost, most of them online. There are also non-profit organizations like Launch Code. Taking the time to teach yourself skills like HTML, print production, social media marketing, photography, Photoshop, Google Adwords, Facebook blueprint, Facebook developer, or any relevant skills shows potentials employers you’re willing to put in the time and effort to exceed at your job.

Get Engaged in your industry

Whether you’re still in school or working a 9–5, there are still ways to build out your resume right where you are.

If you’re still in school, try joining clubs or programs that relate to the field that you want to work in. That might mean, working in the campus lab, joining and editorial club, or starting your own program. If nothing at your school exists, build it with like-minded people. Not only will you gain experience but you will have time to manage your own time and dictate the amount to time you want to put towards your pursuit.

If you’re breaking into the workforce, there are plenty of professional organizations that function like the career centers they have colleges and universities. Focus on the first suggestion, hone in on your skills. LinkedIn Premium (or a free trial) can be your best friend into looking at insights into your industry. Meetup is a great website to find like-minded people interested in your hobbies. Facebook groups are also a great place to start your own or build a community. While in these groups, just be sure to make a genuine first impression while networking.

Start your Side Hustle

Want to show a potential employer you can hack it in a field? Don’t wait for their permission; DO IT YOURSELF. If you’re a writer, write. Trying to become a graphic designer? Make some comps and mock-ups. List your services on sites like Fiverr and sell your products on Etsy. Starting a side hustle that relates to the career you aspire to have looked great on a resume and has the added appeal of bringing in actual cash.

When I was in college, I worked three jobs. One in the design lab at school, one doing freelance design/illustration work, and a part-time job in retail. It burned up all my time but during this, I was granted access to a lot of tools and resources that helped me understand many of the inner-works of the design and agency community while getting paid to do contracted work, and adding skills to my repertoire.

Find a Mentor and Ask Industry Leaders Questions

If there’s a company out there that you’d kill to work at, reach out and ask if you can shadow someone there for a few days or weeks. They might say no, but they might say yes — and it never hurts to ask. You won’t get the full internship experience, but in a temporary role, you’ll be able to understand the broad strokes of the sector, make connections, and networking that can showcase your talents.

Remember, when you ask people for help, most are willing to give you career advice or will be able to answer any burning questions you might have about your specific industry or skill. Go get ’em, tiger!



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