If you are transitioning into a new career, gaining initial experience can be a difficult feat. It’s far too easy to say, “Oh, just get an internship.” Although there are internship opportunities that provide a competitive salary, many do not (assuming they provide compensation at all). For many, particularly those with family responsibilities or who wish to maintain a certain standard of living, a full-time internship may not always be the answer. Here are some alternate ways to gain resume-worthy experience while keeping your day job.
Gain experience on the job. While your current position might have nothing to do with your desired career path, a little creativity can change that. For example, if you are pursuing a bachelor’s in Environmental Science with a concentration in Sustainability you can join the Sustainability Committee at work, or provide a proposal for a sustainability initiative in the workplace. Someone pursuing a marketing career can offer their talent on related departmental projects, share new marketing projects, or reach out to the marketing department and inquire on how you can assist with any projects they may be working on. However, prior to pursuing anything outside your assigned duties, ensure you have a conversation with your manager about your career desires. A good manager will help you nurture your talents if possible.
Join a committee outside of work. Volunteering on a committee not only gives you experience, but can provide you access to networking opportunities as well. Consider your alumni association, church, a non-profit organization, the PTA, a professional organization, or a meet-up group related to your industry of interest. However, keep in mind that you don’t need an official title to contribute and share ideas. Take on roles that will help you shine and sharpen your skills.
Start/contribute to a blog or forum. Personally, I know starting and maintaining a blog is hard work, but if you’re passionate about what you do, it will show. Blogging is not just ideal for those interested in a career in writing or journalism. For example, someone interested in Information Technology can start a blog expressing their point of view of emerging technology, or perhaps start a vlog (video blog) on You Tube providing programming tutorials. In addition, use social media to showcase your work (e.g., Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and/or Tumblr). When using these sites, offer your insight on forums, which gives you an opportunity to learn from others, build your personal brand, all while having the advantage of doing it on your own time. The opportunities are endless and so is the exposure.
Take on freelance opportunities. Freelancing gives you a chance to build your portfolio. There are project-based virtual internship opportunities that may provide flexibility around your work schedule to consider as well. However, be prepared to do some pro bono work. Despite the lack of pay, always do your best work, as satisfied clients make the best references.
When doing an internship is not feasible, remember you can start your “YOUternship” on your own terms. Keep your job while you find a way to do what you really love. Now that’s having your cake and eating it too.