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How do I get Work Experience?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The best way to get work experience is to find a way to start working in a field that is either part of or directly related to the industry in which you want to receive that experience. These methods typically include working as an apprentice for someone who has mastered a craft, usually used in types of construction, or by working as an intern at a company. You should try to get work experience in a way that directly relates to what it is you want to do, and is not completely separate from your goals.

Sometimes also called practical experience or “real world” experience, work experience is different from educational experience in that it is gained through work in a professional environment. To get work experience, you should look for opportunities to get into an industry and accept the fact that you may need to start low and work your way up. One important thing you should remember, however, is that the apocryphal tales of the hardworking person who starts off in the mail room and ends up the chief executive officer (CEO) of a corporation are typically exaggeration or fabrications.

You should look for opportunities to get work experience that are meaningful and will actually work to help you launch into the career you are interested in pursuing. For example, perhaps you are interested in becoming a book editor but you need work experience to break into the field. You might start off as a book seller working for a publisher as a representative for bookstores, and then work your way up into the position of editor. While starting off with the publisher as a custodian would certainly get your foot in the door at the company, custodial work would not likely help you get work experience that translates to landing a job as an editor.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with working as a custodian, but it may not help you get work experience that will allow you to move up in a company. The best work experience is typically that which serves as a gateway for you into the industry. You might consider becoming an intern or an apprentice to get work experience. Even though you may end up being sent to fetch coffee or carry heavy equipment for people, that can often still help you break into an industry.

While on the surface it may seem the same as the person working as a custodian, being an intern or apprentice means you are working around people who have the potential to help you advance your career. That type of grunt work experience is often about “paying your dues” and proving that you really want to work in the industry. Just as many major colleges can use difficult classes early on in a program to get rid of students who are not serious about moving forward, intern programs can try to eliminate people who are not truly committed to the industry.

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