Shifting Gears: from job hunting to experience seeking

shifting-gearsHave you just graduated and looking for a job? Or have you been job-hunting for so long that you are starting to lose hope? Have you been turned down because you don’t have experience? I have personally been through it all! .

Very often, youth ask “how do employers expect us to get experience if they don’t give us the opportunities?” In this blog, I want to share what employers are looking for in as far as experience is concerned and how to get your career on fast track. Before I do so, I want to share how I started my journey in the professional realm.

When I finished my studies and returned to Burundi, I was confident that I would land my ‘dream’ job instantly. To my surprise, I went through almost a year of job hunting during which I was told over and over again “you do not have the experience.” Yes, a very long season during which I was broke and at some point, I started to lose hope. I started to question my own abilities and before I knew it, lost confidence in myself. I was another jobless youth in a very large pool of unemployed (gifted) youth.

Months down the line, I realized that I need to change my approach – I needed to shift gears from job-hunting to experience seeking. It sounds like it’s the same but it’s not: the former implies a paying gig whilst the latter entails gaining experience as remuneration. So I shifted gears and started to look for volunteering opportunities and within days, a door was opened to work as a part time volunteer in a car repair shop.

For two years, I worked in every department of the car repair shop: I worked as a receptionist, in the administrative department, I counted inventory, and the list goes on. At the time, it seemed like an insignificant career start, but I later realized that I learned so much during the time I served there. I was able to understand the market, identify potential business opportunities, and acquired experience that eventually propelled me to a great career path.

If you are in the same position I was in, I want to encourage you to shift gears as well. There are too many people chasing too few jobs. In fact, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, who apply for the same jobs.

If you are genuinely looking for experience, humble yourself and seek volunteering opportunities as they will provide a platform for you to learn and acquire professional experience. You can volunteer at schools, churches, non-profit organizations, community projects, etc. When employers ask for experience, they do not really care whether you were getting paid for it or not. They want someone that has done it and who can be trained to do it better. And as you take up your role as a volunteer, have the right attitude: work harder than everyone else, be the first to arrive and the last to leave, serve willingly, and enjoy the journey.

Your attitude will take you places!

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