The Problem With Getting Experience After Graduating
I have just found this piece of text I wrote a while back (more than 3 years!), during a difficult period of my life. And while everything has turned out just fine, I still wanted to put this out there for everyone going through a similar experience of having just graduated, not having experience, and not being able to get experience because they haven’t worked before – a difficult position to be in.
I would like to start by saying that, even if you are going through a difficult moment in your life, just take the time to stop, breathe and organise your thoughts. Don’t let emotions get the best of you, and you’ll be alright!
So there has been a lot of talk concerning this issue. How exactly do you get experience in a field (let’s say Marketing) when you have recently graduated and haven’t worked in marketing just yet?
Unfortunately, I had to work part-time in retail while I was studying at university. Or rather, I had a part-time contract, but worked 35-40 hours a week because I needed the money. I was not able to afford living abroad and not have a paid job, so I worked in retail. I wanted to undertake unpaid internships in my field, marketing, but simply did not have the time. When I wasn’t studying, I was working.
I graduated with a second-class, upper division degree in marketing. I obtained a first class mark on my final business project concerning consumer behaviour in millennials. Right after university, I went on 20 interviews for low-paid marketing internships, and all of them rejected me on the basis that I did not have enough experience, but ‘loved my energy in the interview and were sure I would get another role more suited for me very soon’. And I believed that. I finally got a marketing internship working for a small marketing agency because of networking, and I felt incredibly lucky to finally get a chance to gain some experience. I was then able to develop skills like SEO, design, copywriting, social media, e-mail marketing campaigns, CRM, CMS, writing newsletters, and other ways of communication.
After the internship ended (as it was a small agency there was never a chance of staying there after 3 months), I got into a Sales job, as I needed money and more experience in a corporate environment. I made sure they offered me some marketing experience and that I’d be able to develop my communication skills while I was working there. I was foolish to believe that would be the case.
After I had enough money and figured I wasn’t getting anything else out of a sales job, I decided to look for marketing ones full time. I went on just shy of 20 interviews in the course of one month. In addition to that, I had 15 other phone interviews. All of these led me to some type of final/second stage interview, and I was rejected on all of them. As I thought I was doing something wrong, I always asked for constructive criticism after the bad news arrived. Turns out, even though I was applying for graduate jobs that required no experience, my 3 (almost 4) month internship did not provide me enough experience to get said jobs, even though they ‘really liked me in the interview, had nothing negative to say and were sure I’d find another role very soon’. And so I applied for another marketing internship through my old university and got that job. As it is only a 1-month funded internship with no chance of extending afterwards, I am still going on interviews. I got extensive feedback on a particular one that listed everything they really liked about me – followed by ‘we feel like you don’t have enough experience in a marketing environment’.
Now, I completely understand that in a lot of these cases it came down to them finding someone that had a bit more experience and thus might’ve seemed more qualified for the job. But is this right? My issue is this: when a job is advertised as a graduate job that does not require previous experience, you shouldn’t have to reject someone on the sole basis that they don’t have enough experience. If you truly believe they did great in the interview, you should consider how well they performed in the tasks you asked them to complete and assess that. Everyone that you are interviewing for that role should not have a lot of previous experience, or else they should be looking at a more senior role or you should be advertising the role very differently.
In the meantime, I am now attempting to acquire as much experience as possible in a marketing environment before having to leave the internship, and hope I won’t have to find another job in sales because of money, which is not my goal in any way. Because, let me tell you something about myself: I like working, but more specifically, I like working in a marketing environment. I do my best in all these jobs because it honestly gives me pleasure to do so. And so it is heart-breaking that might have to, again, get a job that I don’t love, as it isn’t possible for me to undertake unpaid internships for the moment.
I am not lazy and have worked since I was 15. I always attempt to do my best in any marketing job, having gained additional experience with proof reading, social media campaigns and copywriting. And just when I thought I was getting more experience and more chances of getting a marketing job, companies still reject me because of my lack of experience. So even after a lot of research I still have this question: how do you manage attaining this precious ‘experience’ and be paid when you’re just starting out? Is there a magic formula I still don’t quite grasp?