DISCLAIMER: I can’t tell you how to land your first job. I’m asking a question, not solving every college grad’s main problem.
Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, and Careers.com are all helpful tools for finding your first job. What these websites don’t tell you is how to gain relevant experience for your first job. I can search as much as I want for jobs that sound interesting to me or are in a certain field, but I can’t seem to meet the requirement of “3+ years of relevant experience”.
First off, what is relevant experience? I’m sure I can twist my words enough to make someone think that cutting bagels for 6 years is relevant experience, but they aren’t going to know that just by looking at my resume. Recruiters aren’t going to read my resume and think, “hmm she has worked at Bruegger’s Bagels for 6 years, she’s definitely qualified to work here.” It’ll sound more like this, “6 years of schmearing cream cheese? HAHA.” It’s not like I’m going to write down, “ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstance, dealing with angry customers because we ran out of plain cream cheese, and demonstrated excellent leadership qualities by doing everything by (dramatic pause) my (dramatic pause) self.” That would be unprofessional to rip your previous employer a new one and that is unrelated. So what I can think on my feet, that doesn’t mean I can market a product. It may just be that I don’t have any relevant experience, but why can’t school be relevant? I learned a lot in school and that’s more than 3 years! Shouldn’t that count for something?
Second, how do I obtain this so called relevant experience? 3+ years, 5-7 years, 8 years of experience. Where do they come up with these numbers? I’m fresh out of school, I’ve held one internship (because they are really hard to get!) and I’ve worked at a minimum wage job my whole life. Where would you like me to get 8 years of experience from? And no, I’m not trying to be the CEO of Disney or anything like that. Some of these jobs are Administrative Assistant positions or they are labeled Entry Level. Can someone please tell me why an entry level position, ideal for recent graduates, requires 5 years experience?
At my current internship my colleagues always talk about starting off as a level 1 technician or working the call center, but I don’t want to do either of those things. I understand that you need to start somewhere and move up, but I don’t see how starting in a position unrelated to the field you want to be in is helpful. Maybe I’m coming off as an elitist, my apologies, but that is how I really feel. You don’t see many garbage men move up to own the company, or the mascots eventually owning the football team they used to cheer for.
While an internship is primarily for learning, who’s to say I’ve learned all I can from my internships? Your first job should also be a learning experience and I think corporations should recognize that. They should be aware of the fact that I may not have 3+ years of experience persuading people to switch their cable provider, but I have 21 years of real life, academic, and hourly experience. I’m even willing to learn more! Combining what I’ve learned in my personal life, through school and even by schmearing bagels, should be enough to get my foot in the door. If it’s not, what was the point. Devoting my time to education, learning to solve problems in my personal life, and the ability to quickly adapt while I’m at work has got to be good for something. That something should be meaningful, prestigious, and fulfilling. College grads are still young and malleable, we are hungry, and we have the ability to learn quickly. Everyone has experience, while all of it may not be relevant, it should still count for something.
My senior year will be starting in the fall and I’ll begin to apply for positions. Will I have relevant experience by then? Probably not. Will I be able to say I worked at a marketing agency and successfully acquired 15 new clients for the fiscal year? No way. But will I still apply for the opening? Yup! If I can land an interview, you bet I’m going to turn schmearing bagels and handling money into engaging in customer relations and maintaining finances.