If you are a student looking for a full-time job or even summer internship, it is undoubtedly a challenging time. Less jobs, more applicants. It can feel quite defeating in some ways. Remember first, that no experience is ever wasted in building your career. Even volunteering for an organization that has nothing to do with your career interests can give you helpful skills, whether it’s about learning persistence, adapting to a new environment, working with new people or dealing with uncertainty. So let me say it again, no experience is ever wasted in building your career.
In times like these you need to be clearer about what kind of work you want, what skills you want to build, how your unique collection of experience, knowledge and personality benefit an organization. This is also a time that calls for creativity, thinking outside the box, networking (with friends, professors, professional organizations, cultural organizations) and sheer guts and willpower. More than ever, you need to clearly communicate your brand and your benefits to an employer.
Be wiling to take on different forms of work — shorter internships, lower entry-level positions, interships instead of full-time paid positions, field studies. Perhaps it’ll be a summer (or a year) with a multitude of experiences — a mix of short-term work, travel and classes to help you gain new skills. For those who do not have visa limitations and can afford to, consider volunteering. Find an organization that can utilize your unique skills and background. For example, if you’re an international student, maybe it’s finding a local organization where you can be a translator while you help build their marketing or strategy, and be either a volunteer or a lower-paid employee so you can have experience.
The market will turn. The question is, before the market rebounds, what are you willing to do to gain the skills and experiences you need. When you talk to a future employer, they will value more that you took action and worked to learn and gain experience in a tough market, than if you said you were just hanging out and waiting until the “right” job came along in a better economy.