Ways to Get Experience and Break into Your Career Field

By Lauren Burmester

Experience picIt’s a well know paradox in the world of employment…. You need experience to get experience.

Most employers want you to have experience in the field, but you can’t get experience until you work in the field. Here are some ways to help you gain experience and break into your career while still in school.

 Internships and Cooperative Education

Internships are the most common way to gain experience while in college. Internships are usually one-term working experiences that can be paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time. Internship eligibility varies by employer; typically companies are looking for above average students who show initiative and can contribute to the company positively.

Cooperative education or co-ops are typically full-time, multi-term work agreements with one organization. For example you might work for your employer the summer after your sophomore year, and the following spring and fall semesters. It is common in a co-op to rotate through different departments or projects within your organization. Internships and co-ops are a great way to learn the company culture and see if you the right fit for the working environment.

On Campus/Research Jobs

Working on campus as a student assistant or in a research position is another common way to gain experience in your field while in school. Almost all departments at a university utilize student workers. Find a student assistant position in an academic department that ties into your areas of interest to gain experience. Typically research positions are not highly advertised, so it is recommended to seek out a faculty member whose research topic is an interest to you. Additionally, organizations external to the university, such as research centers, offer undergraduate research opportunities.


Volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door of an organization or career field. Volunteer work can be something you do as an individual, as part of club or organization involvement. You can develop skills and experience through volunteering that can be listed on your resume. Volunteering shows initiative which employers deem a highly desirable quality. Volunteer work not only helps you develop professionally, but can also be personally rewarding

 Student Associations or Clubs

Involvement in a student association or club is viewed very favorably by employers, and can be an essential qualification, such as leadership, for certain types of work and career paths. You don’t have to be president to gain leadership skills. You could be the recruiter, fundraising chair, an event planner, or secretary. The important things are what you accomplish and the skills you use and develop. Find a club or association that is relevant to your interests or career goals to further strengthen your experience in the field. Quite often members of student clubs and organization are invited to attend conferences, lectures, and industry events that can be a great opportunity to network with companies in your field.

Lauren Burmester is the Aviation Program Manager in Career Services.  She has been an employee with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University since 2006 working in Advising and Admissions.  She completed both her Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Studies with concentrations in Aviation Safety, Space Studies, and Business Administration, as well as a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in Safety Systems at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, graduating with distinction.  Lauren’s passion for the Aviation and Aerospace industry is instrumental in assisting students achieve their personal and professional goals.


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