One of the most frustrating things about a job search is that even listings for entry-level positions require a certain amount of experience. How are you supposed to get experience if you can’t get a job?
Traditional internships, job shadows and volunteer experiences aren’t available or accessible to everybody, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to gain experience, and even earn a little bit of money, using virtual tools.
Volunteering is usually viewed as an in-person activity, but the expansion of digital technology and its use in the way that people interact means that there are more and more ways to volunteer online every day.
Virtual volunteering can be a great way to develop and demonstrate your hard skills in particular. For example, if your career interest is in IT, you can assist with network security testing or help write code. For careers that require sales and customer service skills, volunteering with a political campaign or community effort as a phone banker provides valuable experience and can often be done from home.
Of course, any work that you’re able to do will help you develop your soft skills, too. Since you’re communicating with a company at a distance, you’ll build your written communication and networking skills, and demonstrate time management skills in your ability to complete your volunteer work while keeping up with the other priorities in your life.
An internship—basically, learning on the job in a formal training structure—seems like it’s something that would have to be done on-site, but many companies have staff that work remotely, and it’s possible to intern that way under certain circumstances, too.
These opportunities are usually best suited to certain careers—communications, research, graphic design, IT—but they can be very helpful for building experience and a portfolio that can lead to full-time jobs.
Doing any kind of virtual work isn’t for everyone. You need to be able to self-start and do your work in at least some isolation with minimal supervision; fortunately, those are also soft skills that you can sell to future employers, too!
If you determine that a virtual opportunity is right for you, get started by looking up virtual internships through sites like Internships.com and searching for volunteer opportunities through Idealist.org and Help From Home, or, if you have a particular company or organization that you like, it’s always worth asking the human resources department if there are virtual ways to build your skills with them.