Make It Happen: Creating Experience When You Can't Find It

If there’s one thing job listings, HR managers, entrepreneurs, and managers can all agree on, it’s that experience makes you stand out and gives you a leg up.

Many of us look at our resumes and see ourselves lacking in experience. Yet, we act like the only way to illustrate experience is by having a company and title listed on our CVs. 

What if I told you that’s not the way it has to be?

There are some very important things you need to recognize about experience:  

  • The most valuable and authentic experiences come from a place of self-motivation. Don’t be foolish enough to think that spending 5 years at a company automatically makes you qualified. If you’ve put in the time, but still lack skills and connection, it will show.
  • Your experience is your responsibility. Don’t be complacent in your journey. As Emilie explains, "buy in" to your own career.
  • You can learn something quickly, but true experience takes time to build and foster. There is a reason, after all, that many companies seek candidates who have 5-7 years of experience for certain roles. It takes people years to accomplish things. Just keep at it.
  • We live in a digital world. With an internet connection, everything we could ever want is at our fingertips. Information and people are both readily available, but it is essential you still connect face-to-face.
  • Experience requires action. Clarity will come through engagement and doing versus sitting at home thinking and dreaming. 

Create your own experiences to get your foot in the door. We don’t all need to be entrepreneurs, but we all can take control of our futures, our careers, and our experiences.

 Here are a few examples of ways you can get experience without a formal role:

  1. Start a blog. (Or not, just start something.)

You’ve heard this hundreds of times, I’m sure, but blogging gives you a platform. Not only does it teach you the backend of blogging, but you’ll learn about branding, writing to an audience, consistency, and you’ll establish a voice.

You will not be successful overnight with blogging. It will probably take you years to even have an established following. 

But it’s worth it.

My GenTwenty co-founder Gina Kirby, landed a job as IKEA’s Social Media Specialist(the first of it’s kind in the U.S.) less than 6 months after her college graduation (and 6 months after we founded GenTwenty). Over 120 people were interviewed for the position but she stood out because of the initiative she had taken with GenTwenty and various work in editorial and social media roles.

Your industry may not be conducive to blogging, and that’s fine. What makes people stand out in your field? Start heading in that direction.

2. Take a class to build your foundation.

Learning does not stop with college and formal education. If you’re interested in something, I can guarantee you there’s a class for it (and probably even free ones).

Lost? Start with these places:

Experience starts with a foundation, and that foundation does not have to be formal. Is there something you’ve found yourself thinking about in your downtime? What do you say, “I wish…” about? Start there. 

Give yourself space to not finish something if you’re not interested in it. If you start a class and halfway through decide it’s not for you, there is no shame in moving on and trying something else.

3. Take everything a step further through authentic connection.

Don’t just start a blog or take a class and let that be it. Take your experience andconnect with others who are interested in the same things. Authentic connection and collaboration will take you further than just experience alone.

Ultimately, you can’t do everything yourself. Sure you could build some skills and something truly game-changing, but it will never go anywhere without the help with other people. 

If you still feel like you’re lacking skills, reach out to someone you admire (find them via Twitter, LinkedIn, related Facebook groups, and introduce yourself. 

Take the time to craft an intentional and specific email or tweet. Ask them for coffee and an informational interview or to collaborate somehow. Tell them what you’re interested in, and ask them about themselves and their journey. And always, always, always, be genuine. It’s easy to spot a fake and self-interested person, so you will be doing yourself no favors by reaching out carelessly.

Creating your own experiences is still a rare thing in this world. Too many people are still living inside the confines of rules that don’t need to exist. Your experience is your own to cultivate — how can you foster it today?