Gaining Experience in a New Field

Many UMUC students successfully balance work and family obligations while in the midst of pursuing a bachelor or master’s degree so that he or she can change careers.  The student reaches graduation and often begins the job search in the new career field only to find that jobs in their new career field require experience.  

Most internship programs are only open to individuals who are currently pursuing a degree.  Organizations create internship programs to serve as a talent pipeline meaning that they want to see how well the intern performs on the job so that they can extend successful interns a full-time offer upon graduation.

There are a variety of alternative ways to gain experience so that you can reach your target career.  Consider these options:

  • Apply for Entry-Level Job: You have probably seen the job postings for entry-level jobs and read their requirements, but have you actually applied for one? And if you applied, did you make sure that your resume was customized for that job and your target industry?  While it’s definitely a lot of work, you need to make sure you customize your resume for each job to which you apply.  If you’re switching careers, make sure that your resume speaks to your qualifications in your new, target career field.  If you do not have any work experience in that new field, make sure you list your relevant UMUC coursework and class projects to demonstrate your experience in this new field.
  • Pursue a Part-Time Job: If finding a full-time job in your new field has proven to be difficult, consider a part-time job that may allow you the flexibility to gain experience in your new field while continuing with your other employer. And speaking of your other employer, have you talked to him/her about your career interests?  You might be able to take on an additional assignment at your current job that is more in line with your long-term career interests and can give you your desired experience.
  • Volunteer: The experience that goes on your resume does not all need to be paid experience. Perhaps you know of a local church who needs your accounting expertise or a school that needs volunteers for an after-school program in coding and IT.  You can find volunteer opportunities using sites like VolunteerMatch or Idealist, but many happen organically.  Simply stop by a local organization and ask if they need help in your area of expertise. Chances are, they will be happy to put you to work.
  • Consider Temp Work or Contracting: If you need a flexible work arrangement, working through a staffing agency or as an independent contractor may be a great solution. While these may have low pay and slim or nonexistent benefits, they can serve as a great gateway for building your resume so that you can better compete for your dream job.  Use these links to learn more about temp agencies and contracting.
  • Get a Mentor. Having an industry expert with experience in your career field may be beneficial in helping to identify career opportunities in your new field. Log into CareerQuest to learn more today.

Everyone needs to start somewhere when they begin a career.  In today’s 21st century job market, internships are playing an increasingly important role in helping college students to gain experience, but there are additional opportunities for you to gain experience in your new career field.

Persistence is key.  Don’t apply to one or two jobs and get frustrated if neither of them work out.  Pursue as many opportunities as possible to constantly look for ways to enhance your resume.  And if you need assistance, know that being a UMUC alum allows you access to Career Services for life, so feel free to reach out if we can help.

Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS at University of Maryland University College.  She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities.  Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the US Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning US service members about the civilian job search.  She is passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.