5 ways to get the experience you need to land your first job

For young adults, getting that elusive “work experience” needed to get hired is a catch-22: how do you get experience when no one will hire you without experience?

youg adult job searchingHere are five real-world options to explore for getting experience when you’ve never had a job. The options below all help you develop your job skills, work know-how, contacts, and confidence. And having any of them on your resume can help you get hired.


An internship is a short-term job that may be paid or unpaid, that gives you experience in a real workplace. Internships can be at a company, a store, a school, a government office, or a nonprofit. To find one that’s right for you, try the following:

  • Visit an internship office at a high school, college, or employment program
  • Use an online internship finder
  • Contact the Human Resources office of a business or other workplace you’re interested in

Job shadowing

Job shadowing gives you the experience of following a person in their job for a few hours, a day, or a few days. Ask someone you or your family knows if you can observe them. You can also request a contact through a professional association or school program. Read stories of job shadowing to learn more.

Volunteer work

Volunteering is unpaid work. You can gain skills like writing, child care, teaching, coaching, fundraising, mentoring, sales, phone answering, organizing materials, construction, arts, and more. Call, email or stop in at a nonprofit or school you’d like to volunteer for, and ask about opportunities. Many provide training.

Work in your neighborhood

Did you realize you develop valuable work skills when you do small jobs for friends, family, or neighbors? You might try mowing lawns, raking leaves, doing other yard work, babysitting, taking care of pets, or helping an elderly person with chores. To get paying jobs, ask neighbors and family friends if they need help. List your services at school, put up signs on area bulletin boards, or post on a neighborhood services website.

School and community activities

Participating in clubs, sports, theater, music, dance, religious organizations, and other community activities can be fun and develop your skills. Include these on your resume. Find activities through school districts, community education, local arts groups, religious organizations, and the public library.

Learn more about how to get your first job when you visit CareerOneStop’s GetMyFuture.org, where you’ll find a list of ideas for first jobs as well as tips for filling out job applications, writing your resume, and acing an interview.

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