How to Overcome the Work Experience Catch-22

Career Blog

Published: October 13, 2020 by iSchool Career Advisor

Do you feel stuck in the catch 22 of needing experience to get hired but feel like you can’t get experience because no one will hire you? Not to worry. There is a solution. Experience can come in many different forms. You’ll want to start early as an MLIS student, be flexible, open minded, and think BIG.

  1. Start early – as soon as you can, begin thinking of opportunities to gain experience and develop new skills. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to put the skills you are learning in the virtual classroom to use in a practical way. Don’t wait until you are graduating to think about getting experience. This is a process that is part of your life as a student and goes hand-in-hand with taking your MLIS courses.
  2. Be flexible – be willing to try out and take advantage of diverse opportunities that come your way. Think of each experience, whether paid or unpaid, as an opportunity to gain new skills and relevant experience.
  3. Be open-minded – consider opportunities that you had not previously considered; step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Consider broadening your scope of what is possible and be open to trying something new. You might just surprise yourself and find a new area of interest. Being a student is the time to try something new and reality test your career ideas.
  4. Think BIG – there are so many possibilities to gain experience.
    • Consider a virtual internship, an in-person internship, or an informal internship (using SJSU Handshake).
    • Look into part-time work or full-time work that is related or not related to your area of interest (unrelated jobs have transferable skills and absolutely count as experience).
    • Check out volunteer or project based opportunities that have part-time hours or perhaps are only once a week or once a month commitment.
    • And don’t forget about the skills you can gain through community service or your involvement in professional associations.
    • Be sure to include independent and group projects or assignments from your MLIS courses.

You have so many options to gain experience. The trick is to widen your definition of what counts as experience and be able to articulate to a potential employer how you’ve gained the skills needed to do the job you are seeking. When you can do that, you’ll have it made.


Vey needed right now.

Thanks Jillian, your blog topics are very current and speak to the needs of mlis students navigating this covid -19 maze.

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