Need experience to get hired? Try these ideas

young coffee shop worker

A lot of jobs require experience to get hired, leading to the eternal question: “How can I get experience when I can’t get a job?”

Right now, many employers are eager for workers, so it’s a good time to apply even if you don’t have all the experience they’re looking for. However, there are different ways to build some experience when you’ve never had a job.

These options can help you develop job skills, learn about what it’s like to work in different environments, meet people who can help in your future job search, and grow your confidence. Plus, having any of these experiences 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. For example, if you want to work with animals, you might want to job shadow a veterinarian technician or veterinarian.

To get started, identify the type of work you’d like to observe, and ask your family, teachers, and friends if they know anyone who does that kind of work. If you come up short on contacts from people you know, other sources to find people to job shadow include looking into related businesses in your community to ask about shadowing, requesting a contact through a professional association, or applying through a school-based program. 

It can be helpful to practice what you want to say when you ask if you can shadow the person in their workplace.

The Job Shadow website also offers stories from people who work in a wide variety of jobs talking about what they do in their work.

Volunteer work

Volunteering is unpaid work. It can be a terrific way to develop professional skills that translate to a paying job. The skills you can learn through volunteering are pretty unlimited, for example, writing, child care, teaching, coaching, fundraising, mentoring, sales, phone answering, organizing materials, construction, arts, and more.

To explore volunteer opportunities in your area, try searching “hands on (name of your city)” or “volunteer work in my area” for listings. Many cities and locations have online listings for volunteering in their area.

You can also target a nonprofit organization or or school you’d like to volunteer for, and call or e-mail them to ask about opportunities. Many provide training.

Informal work

The small jobs you might already do for friends, family and neighbors can also help you develop valuable work skills. Informal work such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, weeding, babysitting, taking care of pets, or helping an elderly person with chores are all great ways to build skills.

To get paying jobs, ask neighbors and family friends if they need help. With permission, you can list your services at school, put signs up on area bulletin boards, or post on a neighborhood services website.

School and community activities

If you participate in clubs, sports, theater, music, dance, religious organizations, and other community activities – you probably have enjoyed yourself while you developed skills that may relate to a future job. You can include these activities on your resume.

If you would like to join these kinds of activities, look for websites for your local school district, community education office, local arts groups, religious organizations, or the public library.

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