Career Launch

How to Get Experience for a Job (By Creating Your Own Experience)

Morgan Von Gunten
March 2020

There is more opportunity than ever for you to create your own work experience.

I don’t mean going around and telling people you were the head waiter at your favorite restaurant if you’ve never actually done that.

But you can definitely create something that proves your ability to do a full-time job, even if you’ve never done that job before.

Some of the most effective ways to create your own experience before winning a job are to:

  1. Start writing online.
  2. Build something with a software tool.
  3. Document what you learned while teaching yourself a new skill.
  4. Help a friend.
  5. Research the company(s) you like and create a project that creates value for them.

Let’s dive into each of these!

1. Start writing online

Writing is one of the most powerful things you can do for your career. As Sahil Lavingia says:

Writing does a few things for you. It helps you:

  • Process your thoughts
  • Share your ideas
  • Strengthen your creative muscle
  • Communicate clearer
  • Gain new perspectives
  • Learn more
  • Be more productive

And writing can take you one step further: when you write publicly, it brings opportunities.

My favorite writing tips:

  • Write daily. Even just a sentence counts. Consistency breeds inspiration and opportunities—and your craft will continually get better.
  • If you can say it simpler or in fewer words, do so. As William Zinsser says in On Writing Well, “Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose.”

What should I write about?

Write about what you’re learning or doing or creating. Write what you’re thinking about or about something you did in the past, or write about a book you read.

You could write about anything. But here are two things to remember:

  1. Always write valuable posts.
  2. Try to have a theme for your writing, then write with that theme in mind.

The act of putting words onto a page and making that page public and doing that consistently gets people thinking, “I see that. I bet they could bring that level of consistency and drive and creativity to the area of business where I need them.” It doesn’t have to be perfect to win opportunities. Sometimes, it just needs to exist.

Even if you’re not planning on launching a career that requires you to write often, being able to write and show that writing creates so many opportunities.

2. Build something with a software tool.

If you’re interested in a specific entry-level job but don’t have the experience, figure out which software tools that type of job usually uses—then go learn them!

Not only does this help you get a leg up in the hiring process—you’ll already have some knowledge of the tools you’d use daily on the job—but you’ll be able to create more value on the job from day one, making you an awesome candidate.

Here are some ways to get started:

A. What tools should I learn?

A good place to start is narrowing your focus: what type of job would you like to have? Specific roles use specific tools. If you’re not sure what career path is most interesting to you, here’s a fun quiz to give you a good starting point based on your personality.

For example, if you’re interested in becoming a marketer, marketers usually use:

  • An email marketing tool
  • A social media scheduler
  • An analytics tool
  • An ads tool

So you could learn:

Or, sales roles usually use a tool like Hunter.io to find contact information for leads, a tool like Sales Hub to qualify leads and automate outreach (among other things), and a tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to interact with leads.

You could also look into tools like Adobe XD, Sketch, Photoshop, or Illustrator if you’re interested in design, and Intercom, Drift, or Zendesk if you’re interested in a job in customer success.

The cool thing is almost any software tool is fairly easy to learn! I recommend signing up for free accounts on the platforms you’d like to learn, then using the tool to create a small project you can show on an online portfolio or skills profile.

Which leads me to my next point:

B. What projects can I create with these tools?

Get creative! You could create anything—and it doesn’t have to be anything huge to be valuable. 

For example, you could try these projects:

  • Mailchimp: create a free account, then set up an automated email campaign to your friends and family. (You’ll need to add them as contacts and tag them, or—better yet—create a simple landing page in Mailchimp so anyone can join your email list on their own!) Design your emails and schedule them out. Voila!
  • Buffer: sign up for a free account, connect your social media account(s), and schedule ten day’s worth of posts! 

These are both things you could do in less than a day. What skills do you want to show an employer, and how could you create proof that you have those skills?

Building a tech stack of tools a startup actually uses can be really attractive to their team. Because even though you only used the tools while building your own learning projects, you could already hit the ground running on day one—you’d have the know-how to accomplish tasks from the start. Plus, a project demonstrates your skill set in a way nothing else can.

There are so many tools out there to learn and master. I recommend checking out sites like YourStack or the tools section on these career guides to get started.

3. Document what you learned while teaching yourself a new skill.

This is a great way to take the previous step of learning a new software tool to the next level.

Once you try out a new tool or build a project with that tool, document what you learned.

Or, document what you learned while teaching a family member or a friend something. Or how you set up your new phone. Or how you make your favorite smoothie. 

If you haven’t learned something new lately, here’s a great reason to go out and do it! Take a course on Udemy or Coursera. Write down or record what you learn, focusing on clearly explaining what your new skill is so someone else can learn it from you.

If you can share your process and teach someone how to do what you do, you show an employer you have an understanding of that process—and that you can replicate both hard and soft skills to on-the-job work.

Bonus (and this is a great one to do): publish your project(s) on the web! You could do that on a portfolio site like Medium, WordPress, Github, or Behance —or, at the very least, upload your project to Google Drive with link sharing set to “public.”

Showing your work publicly, online, can create incredible opportunities.

4. Help a friend.

Do you have a friend who’s working on their own business, running an event, or building a side project? Ask them if you can help! 

Maybe you could create posters or invitations. Maybe you could find leads for their email list or grow their social media. Or maybe you could make them a cool website with a tool like WordPress or Webflow. Let them know you’re trying to get some experience—so many people are happy and even excited to help people just starting their career. 

Get creative, use (or build) your skillset, and you’ll win some great experience that’ll help you long-term. Then, document what you learned or did (see above section!).

5. Research the company(s) you like and create a project that creates value for them.

You’ve probably spent some time on the websites of your favorite companies. Maybe even more time on the website of the company you’re dreaming about working for.

Have you noticed something about their site or product that could be better? Something you could create that you think would be valuable to them, however small?

Create that thing.

One of our awesome Crashers told me about how he used this approach on his job hunt. He was about to interview with a company and saw they didn’t have a chatbot on their website. So he made one. And they hired him a week later.

Creating a project doesn’t just create value for the company. It creates something for you, too: experience. Win-win!

It doesn’t have to be anything big or time-consuming. Just look for a way to use your skills to create value, then share what you make with someone at the company. Let them know how excited you are about working for them.

They’ll notice.

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