Experience is essential

Those three little words have brought me down so many times.

As if job hunting isn’t difficult enough, it seems that particularly in the retail and hospitality industries (typically the most suitable for a full time student), no one wants to hire a rookie. No one has the time or money or patience to train someone from scratch and therefore won’t consider taking on someone who hasn’t worked in a very similar business before.

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last few months trawling through online job listings trying to find something appropriate for me, and it always goes exactly the same way: find an ideal job, discover it is in a perfect location, check off all my qualifications and personal qualities and then hit that brick wall: “Experience is essential”.

The paradox is then, how does one get experience if no one is willing to hire you without it? I have been lucky to get another job in a completely unrelated area but for those who are in need of employment and are looking to these industries, where are they supposed to go?

In the end, it comes down to being willing to give someone a chance. To acknowledge that a decision might have temporary negative effects or might take a while to pay off, but sticking with it for the sake of giving someone an opportunity to start out.

I’m studying public relations and journalism but I am also a theatre nut. So naturally, when I saw that a national theatre website that I follow religiously was looking for volunteers to join their publicity department and help with shooting and editing videos, I jumped at the chance. It was a bit off my usual area of expertise but I thought; “hey, it’s still a foot in the door and it’ll look great on a resume”.

I shot an expression of interest off into the cosmos via email and was feeling quite blasé about it (as I didn’t expect to be successful, given my lack of experience), but within three minutes I had received a response from the manager. The crux of his message was that considering what I was studying, this role probably wasn’t right for me but he’d love to meet with me to discuss the possibility of doing some PR work for them.

This was way beyond anything I had imagined and despite being incredibly anxious about it, I met with him a few weeks later. After about forty-five minutes chatting with him in his inner-city office, I came away as the newest member of the website’s staff, in a role that the manager intended to invent just for me. I am now referred to as their ‘Communications Manager’, and I handle their social media, PR and event management.

I don’t yet have my degree. I have never worked in the communications industry and so have little vocational experience. Yet this man must have seen some sort of potential in me and was willing to give me a shot despite my age and background.

Granted, this is a volunteer position, but there is just as much at stake for him than there would be for any other company. I am one of the public voices of the site – I post from their Facebook and Twitter accounts, share site content and interact with followers – of which there are almost 9,000. But I have been trusted with this job and, so far, I don’t believe I’ve let them down.

I understand for some, taking on a newbie just seems like too high a risk. But I am now and always will be grateful to those who are willing to give you that ‘foot in the door’ chance to learn new skills, gain some experience and prove yourself.


2 thoughts on “Experience is essential

  1. Congratulations on the Communications Manager gig, that is wonderful! I’m sure you will be awesome at it! Great post, I can see what you mean about the need to give people a shot and I’m glad there are some great folk out there that do!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Marnie! Yes, it’s been a great opportunity and I’m starting to find my feet with it so it’s going well so far 🙂

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