The best investment in your professional self is what learning opportunities are pursued outside of the physical (or digital) classroom. Gaining experience, whether short or long term, can have a tremendous impact on your personal and professional development. If time is a concern, explore these tips for gaining experience when time is limited.
- Discover what options are available for gaining experience. Experience can be obtained in many forms including informational interviewing, participating in professional development, part-time interning, and even additional responsibilities to develop new skills at your current job. Commit yourself to exploring opportunities for professional development. Making a commitment to explore options is an internal conversation with yourself. You may be working a full time job, or have other time limits, but toying with ideas about networking events, attending conferences, interning part time, or conducting an informational interview is the first step in developing a plan of action.
- Develop a plan and hold yourself accountable. Goal setting is an important part of the career exploration and development cycle. Set a goal and a possible date of completion that is conducive with your demanding schedule. A goal may include conducting additional research about a job title that you’re unfamiliar with, or requesting an informational interview with a professional who can answer questions you have about their career. Whether it’s big or small, action oriented goals are essential for building-in experience.
- Enlist your contact network for assistance. You likely know more people in your field of interest than you think. Your immediate contact network, friends, family, and colleagues, can be instrumental in providing information regarding job vacancies, companies you’re interested in working/interning for, and more.
- Find holes in your calendar that can be filled with professional development opportunities. Think about events that can be added to any available time in your calendar. This can be over the weekend, planning ahead for an imminent conference or workshop, or a consistent job shadowing or interning opportunity over the course of a semester.
It may be challenging to build-in time to gain experience, but the rewards are well worth it! Once you have completed your experience, think about the skills you have developed and re-shape your application materials. You will likely feel confident moving forward in your job search and should have plenty of stories to share during an in-person interview.
John Link is the Assistant Director in the Webster University Career Planning & Development Center.