When I got my Master’s degree, I was so sure that I was ready to walk into any workplace. But reality set in when I started to put in countless job applications but wasn’t getting interview invitations. “What’s the problem, people? I mean, I have TWO degrees for crying out loud!” I soon learned that what makes you the ideal candidate for a job has little to do with formal education and everything to do with experience and your dedication to the field.
Your education gets you in the door, your experience keeps you in the door, and your ability to apply your knowledge and experience in various situations makes you indispensable.
Aside from those facts, there are so many other ways to gain career-related experience outside of formal jobs/titles:
- Local and national professional association involvement (special committees, conferences, continuing education credits, etc.)
- Publish writings in journals, blogs, newsletters, etc. related to the field you’re interested in
- Take on leadership roles in community groups
- Start your own blog, up your LinkedIn postings and engagement, become a thought-leader!
- And in some cases, scale back on the level positions you’re applying for
The last point I included because so many of us get caught up in titles. After my graduate assistantship and Master’s degree, I thought I was ready to become a full-time, professional Career Counselor. But when I wasn’t securing any offers, I stumbled upon something that was a lower position but better fit. I took a 10-month fellowship, I forwent a “real” job with a real salary, and worked my butt off as the equivalent of an intern. But after that 10-month sacrifice, I’d positioned myself as a more experienced, more knowledgeable professional and had interviewers knocking down my door!
So, if you want teaching experience, volunteer to work at after-school programs. If you want to plan events, plan the events happening at your church. If you want to work at a college or university, seek out college-prep schools and programs. Be the assistant instead of the director and work your way up. These are all ways of connecting to your desired field without having to have some of the more rigorous credentials. Look at these as parking spaces that are close to wear you want to be but ways of buying time to gain more hands-on experience.