Before despairing that your lack of work experience will doom you to a lifetime of unemployment, remember that every gainfully employed worker started out in your shoes. Yes, employers want to hear about your experience, but the trick is to realize you don't necessarily have to get paid to gain experience and learn skills that are valuable in the workplace. The following tips can help you land your first job. Build Your Credentials ¿Credentials are important, and technical schools are a great way to get them,¿ says Stephen Hahesy, guidance counselor for Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton, Massachusetts. At Bay Path, students begin building their portfolios from the start. This is key, because a well-put-together portfolio consisting of work from academic classes, pictures of completed projects, transcripts and a resume can help compensate for a lack of on-the-job experience. Get a Co-op ¿If you have the opportunity, take a co-op position, which is usually a paid position where you get hands-on experience,¿ suggests Hahesy. An internship or part-time co-op job tells employers you already have experienced a real-world work environment and know what to expect. Volunteer Jessica Cronin, human resource generalist for Eastern Connection, a Woburn, Massachusetts-based overnight delivery service, recommends volunteering at a friend's office, even if it's only for a few hours a week. ¿You'll make good connections, and it may even turn into a full-time job,¿ she says. You also might consider volunteering at a nonprofit. This can be a win-win situation: The organization gets an extra pair of hands, and you get experience along with the added potential bonus of a good reference. Be Persistent Knock on the same doors more than once if necessary. Persistent candidates show potential employers they are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals. ¿Drive and energy are desirable traits for any employer,¿ says Cronin. Mary Lou Connolly, dental assistant at The Valley Dentists in Hadley, Massachusetts, knows how determination and drive can land a job. Connolly dreamed about enrolling in a dental-assisting program at a local college. Her plans to attend school took a back seat following a family tragedy that forced her into the job market. ¿I was bringing my children to the family dentist when I mentioned to the dentist that I was looking for a position in a dental office,¿ recalls Connolly. ¿He said that his office was looking for a part-time, entry-level sterilization technician.¿ Connolly jumped at the chance to get her foot in the door. She told the dentist she was more than willing to start at the bottom and would learn whatever he would teach her. Her enthusiasm helped her seal the deal. Within two months, Connolly found herself working chair-side as a dental assistant.
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