Dear New Shrink,

I am a recent college graduate and have come to realize that most positions require experience. Seeing this in the job description has stopped me from applying to several positions that I feel I am qualified for. How do you get experience if they require experience just to get the job? Perhaps I am missing something but this seems nearly impossible. Please help!

Sincerely,

Need Experience

Dear Need Experience,

Ah, the catch 22 of starting out in the real world. This is certainly a frustrating dilemma for many entry-level candidates. While it may seem like an impossible feat, I hope to provide you with a few tricks to maximize your search.

First off, you have to consider what is meant by the word experience. Experience is not just limited to full-time, paid positions. Coursework, projects, volunteer work, internships, and other assorted tasks can build your experience portfolio. Do not limit yourself to applying for an opportunity that fits just because you do not have continuous, full-time work experience. You need to begin by considering your background and experience and showcasing this on your resume. Focus on your strengths and how they relate to the company or the position. Even if it was a class project that gave you exposure to the industry, focus on the skills and techniques required to complete that project and what the end result was.

Next, consider how you might gain further experience in your industry of interest. Consider applying for a summer internship to gain experience and build contacts. You will be given a chance to demonstrate your skills and experience within a supportive work environment. The benefit here is twofold; by taking advantage of this opportunity you will gain experience and prove yourself to be a useful and dedicated worker. In fact, many companies hire directly out of their internship programs for full-time positions. From the corporate bottom-line, internship programs serve as an opportunity to preview an employee before committing to a full-time guarantee while also giving you a chance to test out that industry before making a longer commitment.

You might also consider registering for a temp agency. Although the focus for many openings may be on administrative duties, you will gain access to the industry and market yourself as an employed professional. If you have a particular “dream” company, consider calling their human resources department and asking which temporary agency they use. Then contact that temp agency and register with them. Each temp agency has a particular procedure in place, but often this will require that you submit a resume, complete a typing test, and conduct an in-person interview. Once you enter the doors of your “dream” company you may learn about potential openings, network and meet other employees, and learn what it takes to succeed.

Beyond gaining additional experience, also consider the positions you are looking at and finding ones that truly fit your background and qualifications. When searching for opportunities use key-words like “entry-level” or “assistant” as these positions often require limited experience. Many major companies have a career section dedicated to entry-level hires or college graduates. View these sites to get a sense of what the company looks for in new candidates and the terms they use to describe their entry-level opportunities.

I know I say it all the time, but please do not dismiss the power of networking. You need to surround yourself with a group of people who can vouch for your qualifications and traits. Whether or not you have significant work experience, if you have people who can vouch for your hard work and dedication, you will increase your chance of securing a full-time position in your industry of choice.

KATRINA DAVY, is a professional career counselor who works in both university and private settings. She holds degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!