Getting professional work experience when you are not working in your chosen field can be a bit tricky. Employers want people with experience, but you may wonder how you can get experience if you don't have a job in the field.
Below, readers share stories about how they creatively improved their professional work experience when they were not working in their chosen field.
Instead of focusing on getting a job without experience, these readers figured out how to get experience without the job.
Writing Provided the Credentials Necessary to Get the Job
My first employer out of college had built the facilities I'd designed and no longer needed a manufacturing plant planner, so I jumped into the first job that came along. Unfortunately, it was production planning, where as my degree was in engineering. It was essentially picking out parts per engineering specifications and buying and testing and arranging pick up of parts. I was capable and competent at it. However, my training and interests were in process improvement.
As an outlet, I began writing process improvement concept articles for the industry magazines. This was not a critique of my own company, just written as a how to do things right in the area. The articles ranged from electrical subcontracting or assembly outsourcing or writing software manuals per job category instead of "dumb user, engineering guru, system admin" levels. That many of the articles originated as projects my own supervisor shot down wasn't relevant.
Along came an interview with an engineering supervisor I had acted as a liaison with. However, the exact position wasn't exactly a match with my experience, only my training and skills. However, I described in details many improvements I could see could be made in his department (process improvement gears a turning). "Are you sure you're qualified to do that?" he asked.
"Do you have access to the Internet?"
"If you can get to the Institute of Industrial Engineering website, you will see that I've written for them, and several other magazines, on the very subject I've been discussing with you here."
The website listed several articles on process improvement on the product area I was interviewing with. "If they think I'm qualified to write about process improvement in this area, surely you can give me a chance to prove my skills with your group."
My technical publications gave me the credentials to get the job. It also established a verifiable reputation for the time I was working, where a plain resume would not have. And I did get the job.
I volunteered at a crisis line for a year while working on my undergraduate degree. I added it to my resume because I had always heard that volunteering looked good. Little did I know how good it really looked.
The 2 latest jobs I applied for I received interviews, and while in the interview, my volunteer work at the crisis line was the center of the discussion. They were so amazed that I helped people work through their problems for free, that they didn't even bring up my actual working experience and one even hired me on the spot!
Volunteer experience not only looks good, but it gave me an edge when I may not have gotten the job on experience alone!