Getting experience to start your career can feel like driver's ed. It's even harder to get that first job with a disability. When I was first learning to drive, I was attending a boarding school since my parent lived overseas. I did take driver's education, but that only included six hours of driving practice. There were no cars for me to practice driving.
When I turned 18, I went down to the local Texas Department of Public Safety office. I had passed driver's ed, I had practiced my turns, and I had even tried to parallel park a couple of times. I took my written test. No problem, I always made A's. However, reading is not the same as driving.
I got in the car, I buckled my seat belt (I think), and I pulled out onto the highway...
I almost killed us both!
I did get my license a year later. Thanks to my (then) boyfriend and lots and lots and lots of driving in neighborhoods where you have to go slow, I got the practice I needed.
It works the same when getting your first professional job. It's even tougher if you a person living with a disability and you have not had as many jobs as your peers.
Getting Experience to Start Your Career
Yes, you have (or are getting) a degree, but it's not the same as experience. Here are seven ideas for getting experience to start your career.
- Internships while you're still in college - The university career services office is a great place to visit your freshman year and begin planning your internships.
- College work-study - Try to get a job in your major to gain experience in your field.
- Cooperative education - While not as popular as it once was, you alternate semesters working and going to school.
- Good ol' volunteering - Otherwise known as the unpaid internship; choose carefully so that you get familiar with many aspects of your field.
- Professional "temping" - Many temp agencies have professional departments that provide contract labor for larger companies and startup ventures. You can try out a lot of opportunities.
- Freelance - The "gig" economy offers flexible opportunities for short-term and project-based experience.
- Start your own business - while not for the faint-hearted, starting your own business can offer you the opportunity to market yourself based on your work and not your ability to interview.
When you are launching or changing your career, you may not yet have the professional skills to succeed in interviews or to keep your job...yet.
Try a more step-wise approach instead of the "all in" to get your first professional job. Consider establishing a basic income first. Don't use up your one great networking contact only to make a fatal professional mistake that gets you laid off or fired. Be flexible.
You will get your career launched. You just need more practice.
What other great ideas do you have?
Photo Credit: David Marcu