Gain hands-on experience

Gain hands-on experience

Gain hands-on experience

Develop work experience, skills, and contacts through unpaid activities.

Most employers want to hire people with experience. How can you get experience if no one will hire you? It is a classic bind. One solution is to gain skills and experience through unpaid work. You will improve your job prospects when you gain practical experience that can translate into job skills for the employer.

Try one or more of these strategies:


An internship is a short-term job, often unpaid, that gives students or job seekers experience in a real-world work environment. They are available in government, private businesses, and non-profit organizations. Apply for an internship through an internship office of a school, by using an internship finder service, or by contacting the Human Resources office of a business directly. Visit Internships for more ideas.

Job shadowing

Ranging from a few hours to a few days, job shadowing allows you to learn about the real, day-to-day work of an occupation by following someone as they work. You can arrange a shadow experience by asking to observe someone you know through your network, or requesting a contact through a professional association or school program. Read accounts of job shadow experiences.

Volunteer work

To volunteer means to work without being paid. There are opportunities to volunteer in every community, typically at nonprofit organizations and schools. You can gain skills like writing, childcare, teaching, coaching, fundraising, mentoring, sales, phone answering, organizing materials, construction, arts, and much more. Contact an organization you’d like to volunteer for directly. Many provide training.

School and community activities

You gain skills when you participate in clubs, sports, theatre, music, dance, parent organizations, religious affiliations, and other community activities. Include these on your resume. To develop skills in a specific area, join a group involved in that field. Find opportunities through school districts, community education, local arts groups, religious organizations, and the public library.