The Vicious Cycle: How Do I Get Experience When I Need Experience to Get Experience?
by Rebekah Mathes
“How do I get experience when I need experience to get experience?”
I’d be willing to bet that nearly every job-seeking millennial has asked themselves this question at some point or another.
To many, college graduation is a mix of excitement and success with a large dollop of intimidation and worry. Job-hunting becomes a nightmare with no end in sight. As time passes, the “dream job requirements” go out the window and are replaced with desperation for anywhere that will put you on their payroll.
My own job-hunting process quickly started to feel like this. I thought I did everything right leading up to receiving that diploma: Internship þ, volunteer work þ, study abroad þ, campus involvement þ, good grades þ, part-time jobs þ. What else could I have done? Oh yeah, managed to somehow gain 1-3 years of experience in a related full-time position. It began to feel like a huge Catch-22. Jobs that I should be qualified for wanted more experience, but to get more experience I would have had to be out of school. It felt like I was the bottom of the barrel just because I was a fresh college graduate.
I’m not the only one that has felt that way – in addition to fellow college friends; many millennials out there are having this problem. A Newsweek article quotes a Washington, D.C. graduate:
“You’re like, ‘I’ll do anything and apply for everything…so far, I have applied for around 30 jobs, if not more, and have heard back on two of them, I didn’t get either job because I don’t have enough experience. These are entry-level jobs, but experienced people are taking them.” Newsweek adds that she estimated, on average, friends who graduated along with her applied for 60 jobs before landing one.
I had multiple interviews with several companies, a couple of which even had me coming in for three interviews before the dooming news of “we went with another candidate” that everyone hopes not to hear. It can be incredibly discouraging, right at a time when new grads are trying to see where we fit in the world and what impact we can have out there. I was told over and over what the position really needed was someone with more experience; essentially, someone who already knew how to do this exact job and all the responsibilities of it. But it was an entry-level job. The keyword being “entry”, right?
With each interview, I started to feel like my value was decreasing. I wanted the job experience that I needed but no company was giving me the opportunity to gain it. So, I developed an odd habit. I began using my lack of experience as my flaw.
When I finally interviewed for 113 Industries, I was exhilarated. I knew I was right for the position. It was everything I was looking for, a better fit than any of the others had been. But when I was invited to the office for an interview, I dreaded being told that they too were looking for a candidate with more experience. By this point in the job hunt, I felt so strongly that this lack of job experience was my greatest weakness and I confessed so when asked. Not the best approach.
If there is one lesson I can leave any new job-hunting grads with, it’s this: don’t let the cycle of not landing jobs create holes in your confidence of what you offer. All I showed my interviewer with my answer was that I lacked confidence in my abilities; in reality, I knew I could do the job well. Making up for the lack of job experience, I brought a strong academic record, internship experience and skills I’d focused on honing over the past 4 years to the table.
Spoiler alert: I landed the job. But I also finally gained the awareness that, at the end of the day, I can’t let an offbeat job system effect how I view myself as a candidate and change how I present myself to companies, coworkers and clients. New grads, keep proving to potential jobs that you have more to offer than previous job experience, and don’t let the vicious cycle get you down.