No matter where you are on your career path, experience is invaluable, even if it is not directly related to the job you plan to apply for. Whether you’re in school or simply working a job to pay the bills, it’s never too late to boost your resume experience for your ideal career.
Here are six ways you can gain more valuable leadership and professional experience as well as skills to help you more effectively pursue your target career opportunities:
- Summer Internships: Summer employment is essential to both undergrads and graduate students. We need the money, and it gives a little structure to our vacation But an internship may be much more valuable to you and your career than a traditional hourly gig. Summer internships often have full-time hours, last multiple weeks or months, and provide you with real accomplishments, professional contacts, references and opportunities for full-time employment. If your financial situation allows, consider unpaid internship opportunities, for there may be more of them in this job market than usual. No one will ever ask you if your internship was paid or unpaid, and unpaid ones can offer as valuable an experience and can also lead to full-time paid opportunities. To find internships of interest to you in this tough economy, I recommend using job aggregators like Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com and LinkUp.com. Indeed and SimplyHired collect listings from across hundreds of job boards online, including Monster and CareerBuilder, and LinkUp uniquely collects listings directly from company websites, often revealing opportunities that weren’t externally advertised. Craigslist.org is also a great place to search local opportunities, so check out the internship listings under your area of interest or the city near to where you live or go to school. And last, never forget the power of the almighty Google. Try Googling specific companies or types of internships. You might be surprised by how much you find.
- School-Year Internships: Companies and organizations are always in need of interns, even after the end of summer. So if your academic schedule allows, consider using the search tips listed above as well as checking with your career center for opportunities for which you can apply. Again, internships give you valuable experience, references and contacts, and, if unpaid, may even count for academic credit. Plus an unpaid internship during the school year may be more acceptable for students who lack the time required to hold a traditional part-time job.
- Volunteer Work and Mission Trips: Community service, including domestic and international service trips through church and school groups, offers you a way to give back. It also provides you with leadership opportunities and looks good to employers, especially as more companies develop corporate social responsibility initiatives and efforts. You can find these opportunities by asking friends how they got involved, volunteering for a local animal shelter, serving as a tutor for local students, or joining service fraternities, charitable organizations and churches in your area. You can also search online. Idealist.org is the global directory of volunteer opportunities and other resources and is a great place to start.
- Extracurricular Clubs and Activities: Whether you’re in college, grad school or just launching your career, get involved with as many extracurricular groups, organizations and activities of personal interest or relevance to your career as you can manage. These are often more fun than work but will also help you build your resume and provide valuable leadership experience. Therefore, invest yourself in your clubs and activities, and pursue more responsibility and leadership positions when opportunities arise.
- Entrepreneurial Ventures: If you are creative, entrepreneurially minded and have launched or will launch a business of any size, don’t forget to play up your efforts and accomplishments on your resume. Employers value entrepreneurs as employees, for they not only find new and innovative ways to grow their businesses but also tend to have strong general business skills.
- Social Media and Blogging: As more companies and organizations get involved in social media channels, employers are increasingly seeking social-media-savvy employees. Become an expert on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media network, especially from a business perspective. Blog on career-relevant topics, which is another great way to establish your personal brand and expertise and use it to sell yourself. Google Blogger and WordPress are two great platforms to help you get started and launch your own blog.