You need a job to gain skills, but you need skills to gain a job – it’s nonsensical, frustrating and now, you’re wondering if you’ll ever get a job in your dream industry. Don’t worry about it – there are plenty of methods to gain the skills you need, some that you could even pursue in the comfort of your own home.
1. Seek Out Online Resources
The Internet is essentially an unlimited pool of resources to improve your craft. Consider the sheer amount of tutorial videos, free virtual courses and articles to read. Narrow all of that down to content relating to your career path and you’re on track to gain so much new knowledge from simply browsing the Internet. If you’re an aspiring makeup artist, you can watch tutorials on YouTube; if you’re going into digital marketing, you can read articles breaking down SEO and copywriting basics.
Researching online is worth a shot no matter what industry you’re in. Even if you don’t feel like you’ll find a lot, you might stumble across types of resources you would’ve never considered – for instance, videos of people discussing their time in the industry could have a ton of insider knowledge or forums and communities where insiders trade tips. Just take the time to Google some skills you’d like to learn and see what pops up.
Don’t forget you can take to the Internet to practice what you learn, too – post your own makeup looks on Instagram or implement your newfound SEO and copywriting knowledge into your own website. This allows you to get hands-on experience while building a portfolio, too.
2. Try Volunteer Work
If it’s an option, definitely look into what you can do as a volunteer. Look into local non-profits or start-ups and see if there’s any way you can help them out. If you’re in school, see what you can do for clubs you’re involved with – for example, does the drama club need a graphic designer for their flyers and social media? Look online for remote opportunities, too, since there are plenty of those right now – for another example, if you want to be a writer, there are plenty of start-up online publications who will take your work.
If no organizations around you are actively looking, reach out to ask anyway – pitch your abilities and suggest what gaps in their organization you could help fill. Even offering your skills on a service like Fiverr helps you improve your skills and pad out your resume. You’ll learn so much on the job while offering real weight to your skillset and creating a network of references who can vouch for your abilities.
3. Work with a Mentor
When you’re looking for your first job in an industry, a mentor is an incredibly valuable person to have in your corner. They will help to boost your confidence, both professionally and personally, while setting you up with stories and advice from their time in the industry. Most importantly, in the midst of all the other benefits, you can ask them to help you improve your skills and give feedback on your attempts – after all, they have a history of practical experience! Once you’re confident in your skills, mentors are also a great way to help get your foot in the industry’s door – they can provide you with job opportunities, reference letters and a whole network of other people to meet and learn from.
Now, where do you find a mentor? It’s more simple than it sounds – just look around and reach out! Look for people on LinkedIn or other work-based online communities that do the work you dream of doing. Even people in the industry who you follow on Twitter or Instagram could end up becoming your mentor. Send an email where you detail what you admire about their work and tell them a little bit about yourself, too, and see if they’d be interested in helping you out. Provide links to your work or LinkedIn if possible, as well.
4. Find Feedback
It’s one thing to constantly practice, but in order to improve your skills, you need to get consistent feedback. Yes, you’re constantly learning and practicing if you do the other points on this list, but you need the opinions of others to know if you’re on the right track.
Let’s say you want to pursue fashion: take advantage of fashion-related communities online – post sketches of your designs to fashion communities and ask for feedback on how they look. When you make your own clothes, post them on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube and see what people have to say. If you’re nervous to outright ask for feedback, that’s okay! You can even analyze the number of likes and shares your content gets to measure how people feel about it.
But what if you’re not doing something artistic and you can’t seek opinions? There are plenty of other ways to gain feedback, just think creatively of what spaces on the Internet could take you in. Let’s say you want to pursue digital marketing – you wouldn’t make a social media account to show off your marketing skills, but you could make a social media account for something you’re a fan of and use marketing techniques you’ve picked up to build it from the ground up. The feedback will come in the form of analytics and seeing how much attention you’re able to garner.
Even without a job, you have no excuse – get out there and build up those skills! Whatever you do, it adds a ton of weight to the skills on your resume and offers content for your cover letter. Play your cards wisely and, on top of your new skills, you can even end up with a network of connections, a portfolio and a mentor to help you throughout your journey. Good luck!
Need some advice as you step into a new field? Ask Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, One Career Question!
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock