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How can I get work experience if no one will hire me without work experience?

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It’s a Catch 22. How do you get a job without experience, and how do you get experience without a job? This is a common dilemma for many job seekers, especially youth. While there is no simple and easy answer, all is not lost. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and learn how to turn an empty resumé into one with a wealth of experience.
For starters, you probably have a lot more experience than you realize. And the best part is that much of this experience does not have to be job-related. For example, have you ever: 
  • belonged to a club or committee?
  • volunteered your time?
  • played or coached a team sport?
  • had a hobby?
  • been a babysitter?
  • learned another language?
  • worked on a project or presentation?
  • had a summer job?
While many more questions could be added to this list, you get the point. Even if you answered “Yes” to only one or two, you do indeed have previous experience under your belt. Throughout our lives, we do many tasks and take part in activities that we don’t recognize as providing valuable experience, but they do!

These experiences can provide you with many “transferable” skills, such as cooperation, organization, communication, and patience (a much needed skill for a babysitter!). Here are some more examples: 

  • Baseball: Teamwork
  • Volunteering at church: Administrative
  • Condo board member: Communication
  • Lifeguard: Leadership
  • Studying: Organizational
  • Spanish course: Language
  • Prepared class report: Writing

Don’t shortchange yourself! Prepare a personal list of experiences and activities with the corresponding skills that you have acquired. You’ll be surprised how much you have to offer an employer!

How to get work experience
With this in mind, it is now up to you to pursue opportunities for gaining more experience. Here are some options:
Internships: An internship is a work-related learning experience, usually for a short period of time and at low or no pay. It is a great way to gain knowledge about an industry and profession before you decide to permanently work within this field.
Volunteer work: The great thing about volunteer work is that you gain work experience, essential skills, and the satisfaction of helping your community. As well, volunteer work allows you to make valuable contacts.
Part-time work: Many people rule out part-time work for financial reasons. This is unfortunate because part-time work can provide a wide range of varying tasks. And often, there are ample part time jobs available. So don’t ignore this opportunity to gain experience.
Summer work: A summer job in a chosen industry allows you to learn more about an industry and decide if it is right for you. The more varied your summer jobs are each year, the more skills you will have acquired.
Temporary work: Temporary work can allow you to enjoy a flexible schedule and varied work environment. It allows you to try out a position and come away with more knowledge about the industry, along with important contacts.
Job shadowing: Job shadowing involves conducting short interviews with industry professionals to learn more about their fields. The experience can be anywhere from a few hours to a week or more, depending on what you and the person you’ve selected to shadow agree on.
Web sites offering ways to gain experience in the job market
"AIESEC is the world's largest student organization. It is the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential to have a positive impact on society. AIESEC provides more than 5,000 leadership positions and delivers more than 350 conferences to its membership of 22,000 students. It also runs an exchange program that enables over 4,000 students and recent graduates to live and work in another country."
"Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights. Its mission is to oppose human rights abuses committed by governments, non-governmental bodies, and private individuals. Amnesty International provides internships at its International Secretariat offices in London, Geneva, and New York. Internships are also offered by the national offices of Amnesty International's sections in countries such as Canada and the United States. The internships are on a volunteer basis."
"Since its inception in 1996, Career Edge Organization has helped more than 1,000 organizations, including many of Canada's biggest companies, tap into a highly educated talent pool of skilled graduates and internationally qualified professionals. To date, they have placed over 8,000 talented interns into both entry-level and mid-professional positions in unregulated professions from coast to coast."
"Exchanges Canada is a Government of Canada initiative that creates opportunities for young Canadians to connect with one another; enables young Canadians to experience the diversity of Canadian communities, languages, and cultures; and provides access to information on exchange programs and activities available to Canadians in Canada and abroad."
"Job Bank is a Government of Canada initiative that allows you to view Canadian employment opportunities and to advertise your job profile to employers and receive a list of matching jobs. There is a section on part-time and temporary work with useful information and links."
"Interested in being a volunteer intern at Oxfam? Internship positions provide a substantive, challenging professional development experience and will expand your understanding of Oxfam’s work to build lasting solutions to global poverty and injustice. Oxfam Canada involves interns in a variety of placements. Areas of work include communications, campaigns, fundraising, office administration, overseas program research, policy development, and advocacy. "
" is all about helping youth between 15 and 30 years of age. It is the place to tap into a wide variety of information. Whether you need a hand finding a job or would like to start your own business, it is all there at your fingertips. You will find information ranging from health and education programs to sports and cultural activities. Start your job search, research an internship, plan your career, or finance your education."
"Under the Youth Employment Strategy, the Summer Work Experience program creates summer employment opportunities for secondary and post-secondary students and supports the operation of Service Canada Centres for Youth where they may also find a job. These jobs provide students with the opportunity to acquire skills, gain valuable work experience, and help finance their return to school."

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