A classic dilemma

Get past it and get your first gig

So you finished your undergraduate education in May and you’re still on the prowl for your first job. Apparently, you’ve been running into some difficulty finding that dream position. It’s no wonder, considering that 30 minutes into every interview, you’re hit with the big question: “So, what experience do you have?” And every time, you have no answer. “I’m obviously not going to get this job, either,” you think to yourself.

A recent survey developed by OfficeTeam, a specialized administrative staffing firm, and conducted by an independent research firm found that 47% of executives polled considered “experience in the profession, such as internships or temporary work” to be the most important qualification a prospective employee could have. Having a college degree came in a distant second at 18%.

It’s the classic dilemma of many first-time job hunters. “Many graduates face a Catch-22 situation in their search for their first full-time position. They can’t get a job without experience, but they can’t get experience without a job,” says Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. So what’s a college grad to do? “Working as an intern or temporary [worker] allows students to build their skills and business network,” says Domeyer. OfficeTeam offers some tips for conveying on-the-job experience:

Illustrate what’s in it for them. Show that you can “hit the ground running” once hired, by mentioning examples of your ability to work as part of a team, your ability to manage time and projects, and your knowledge of office protocol.

Make the connection. Many college students have job experience that may not seem to apply to positions they may be seeking after graduation. Focus on transferable skills, such as interpersonal communication abilities or word-processing aptitude.

Close the gap. Make sure you take the time to build your abilities through temporary work or internships. Don’t discount volunteer or unpaid work because the skills you gain can have relevance to the job for which you are applying.

Work the interview. You must emphasize your interest in working in the field, make your goals clear when it comes to choosing which department you want to work in, and describe how you plan to use the skills you will gain working for the firm. For more on landing your first gig, read:

Getting Your First Job: How to Get the Job That Will Give You the Right Start (Jobs and Careers) by Penny Hitchin (How to Books, $ 19.95)

Hire Education: What Every College Grad Should Know About Landing That First Job by John W. Hobart (Lighthouse Point Press, $ 16.95)

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