Alternatives to internships: Different ways to jumpstart your career

Alternatives to internships: Different ways to jumpstart your career

It almost seems as given that in order to get your foot into the world of career, an internship is an unavoidable first step. And while internships give us invaluable experience and an insight into what our actual job would look like, they might not be suited for everyone. If you are looking to jumpstart your career in any field, here are some alternatives to internships you should look into. 

Mentorship

Often spoken about, but scarcely seen in practice, mentorship is one of the most powerful tools for inciting your career growth. Mentors can help you set a direction in your career, give you the tools to achieve your goals and help your networking. 

So, who is a mentor? Mentor is someone who you look up to professionally. A person who besides their professional achievements, is willing to share their experience and help you set strong foundations for your career development. 

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career mentorship and mentor

What does this mean? Regardless of the stage of your career development, a good mentor will help you set up a measurable goal and motivate you to achieve it. You’ll learn skills such as consistent goal setting and how to refrain from the state of complacency. Through their personal experience, they’ll seek to motivate and inspire you. In short, identifying a mentor at an early stage of your career development improves your chances of reaching success in your career. 

How to find a mentor? Look around you. Is there someone in your professional field you admire and would want to become one day? Do you like the way they approach work, how they deal with obstacles or what they have achieved? If yes, approach them and express how much you’d like to be mentored by someone like them. Reaching out to someone you admire is rather difficult if your network is limited. But, this should not stop you. You can always send them an email or reach them at professional social platforms such as LinkedIn. However, if you haven’t identified your mentor, you can always attend networking events or look through online platforms such as Find A Mentor, Meetup, Mogul, iCouldBe, iMentor, Score.

Freelance 

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career freelance

Although this might not be as obvious of a choice at the beginning of your career, freelancing can give you an insight into what your chosen industry is truly like. By freelancing, you get a chance to practice your skills, improve the content of your work, learn how to set prices and negotiate with clients, and if you really have passion for the chosen branch of your profession. 

What are the first steps you can take? Depending on your profession, there are different platforms for freelancers. Some of the most known ones are Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer.com, Envato Studio, Toptal, PeoplePerHour, and Guru

If you are a designer you might also want to look up platforms such as Dribbble, 99designs, and DesignHill.

For writers, there are platforms such as iWriter, Cloud Peeps, The Writer Finder, Freelance Writing, Journalism Jobs, and Clear Voice.

Developers might be interested in platforms such as 10xManagement, TopCoder, Codable, LocalSolo and Ruby Now.

Build Your Online Presence 

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career - build your online presence

Whatever path you choose to jump-start your career, building your online presence is essential to your career success. We are all aware that traditional CVs are no longer enough to set you apart from the crowd. Most of the job applications ask you to submit your personal website – online portfolio aside from the usual requirements. 

How to build your online presence? Start by cleaning up your profiles on social media platforms. Make sure that your profiles look polished and professional. Then highlight your skills and achievements that are most relevant for your profession, as this will be base for your personal website. 

Why should you have a personal website? A personal website allows you to control the content, layout and Google search results. It is time you take control of your digital footprint. A personal website makes you appear professional and sets you apart as someone who is willing to take an extra mile and is not afraid of a challenge. Choose a personalised domain name like .ME that will speak volumes of who you are, what you are set to achieve, and will present you in the best way possible. 

How to build a personal website? If you are not a developer or a designer, take a moment to research websites like Squarespace or Wix that make building a website a piece of cake. You can no longer hide behind an excuse that building a website requires developer skills, as there are website builders that can help you build a website by yourself without knowing a single line of code. 

Connect With People

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career - connect with people and network

Networking has always been, and always will be the best way to get your foot through the door. After finishing your studies make sure you don’t let the connections you’ve made there fade. Consider connections as your ace up your sleeve. But don’t stop here. 

How to grow your network? 

The first step: Attend the networking events. Approach people and introduce yourself, but make sure your behaviour is natural yet professional. 

The second step: Introduce yourself at the end of the event. If you’ve attended a great lecture, at the end of the lecture, approach the person who has impressed you and give them your honest observations and compliments. 

The third step: Follow up! All your hard work will fall on flat ears if you don’t muster courage and follow up on the connections you made. Express how glad you are that you have met them and remember to congratulate them on their achievements, or send them an article that you think they might find interesting and it pertained to the conversation you had. 

You never know, this person could become your mentor or someone who might help you find the job of your dreams.

Keep On Learning

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career- keep on learning

Always be a keen learner. One of the tricks of not falling behind is to keep on learning. Write down the list of your skills and give yourself an honest evaluation – do you have what it takes to succeed at this competitive job market? We all need a slight push from time to time, so whether this is a new course on Coursera or Udemy, or perhaps reading an article a day from your professional field, keep yourself motivated to acquire new knowledge. 

How to recognise job skills?

At times looking at the job requirements seems mortifying. The requirements the companies ask for appear impossible to fulfil and you are on the brink of giving up. Instead of heading down this rabbit hole, make a list of the most common job requirements in your professional field and look for ways of achieving them. Could you take a course to improve? Do you need additional experience? Take a freelancing job!

Make sure these skills listed as job requirements are not an obstacle for your success, but rather a certain level up, just like in video games.  

One Last Thing Before You Go

alternatives to internship - how to jump-start your career

Jump-starting your career sure seems like a daunting job at the very beginning, but there’s a way to bypass the traditional routes like internships. Our advice would be to follow all the steps we laid out for you, as these are more complimentary than a one-way ticket to success. Make sure you keep on connecting with people and increasing your networking group, as you might identify a mentor that would help you with your career growth. Don’t be discouraged with the job requirements when you scroll down the job listings, rather overcome them by taking on a freelancing job, or by learning a new skill through courses. 

We wish you the best of luck! May your career be a successful one!

Author:

Tijana Ostojic

Tijana Ostojic

Most likely you'll find her planning her next summit with a bunch of books in her hiking backpack. Keen on a written word, she's working hard on writing a book for children.

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