How To Get The Experience You Need...Before You Have Any Experience

How To Get The Experience You Need...Before You Have Any Experience
by Lauren McGoodwin
Photos Joe Kathrina | December 19, 2014

“I’m a student graduating early in December with a BA in Literature. My ultimate goal is to end up in a phd program and teaching, but when I’m getting my masters, I gotta work. I’m looking to apply to positions in higher education, but I’m finding that although I’m qualified in my abilities, I just don’t have to education requirements. I’ve worked as a tutor and have plenty of administrative experience. Can I still apply for these positions while I’m completing the required education (i.e. my masters)? How can I present myself so that employers will want me despite my lack of education? Thanks!”

- Shelby, Arizona


Congratulations on your graduation! I know you’re planning on celebrating a few more graduations, but let’s concentrate on what type of full-time roles you can pursue right now.

My first post-grad job was working in the admissions office for a university and, like you, I didn’t have any previous experience in higher education. To get that job, I made sure to present the experience I did have during my interview in a way that was as relevant as possible to the job description. In addition, I—along with many of my colleagues—started my master’s degree program while working full-time, so I definitely encourage you to get as much work experience as you can while you work toward your master’s part-time.

As for the type of jobs to pursue, I would suggest looking for roles within admissions and academic advising departments at a variety of colleges and universities. Begin your search broadly so that you can narrow down using other factors as you see fit later.

When you come across a job opening, I recommend applying online AND dropping off your resume in person at the office. It’s always a good idea to network with employees in your target departments or roles by asking them for an informational interview—any sort of personal connection (be authentic!) will help you get a foot in the door.

In the end, the best thing to do is to narrow down which department (e.g., admissions, academic advising, student affairs, etc.) and type of school (e.g., business, liberal arts, computer science, etc.) you want to pursue. Then, be as hands-on as possible when it comes to networking with current employees and getting your resume into the hands of the hiring manager.

Be proactive—when you’re new to the field, it never hurts to chase down a good opportunity!