5 Ways to Gain Hands-on Experience Early in Your Career

It can be a daunting task when you’re trying to determine what career path to take in life. Plus, you then need to figure out how to gain entry into your field of interest. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of avenues you can take to kickstart your career (and determine if it’s the right one for you). One of the best ways to do this is through hands-on experience.

In other words, carrying out activities that will give you the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully acquire a job. Internships are one of the options available to you, and 79.5% of managers in a survey said they are more likely to hire someone that has done a relevant internship than someone who hasn’t.


What is the Importance of Hands-on Experience?

Education can only do so much to prepare you for the working world. Hands-on experience adds the last piece to the puzzle. 

Not only does it help give you a competitive advantage over other candidates when applying for roles (according to a report carried out, 56.1% of internships turn into a full-time job offer), but it also allows you to view the selected industry to see if it’s definitely the path you want to follow. Oh, and hands-on experience, especially internships, is known to increase salaries when starting out in a new industry too! 

Let’s dive into both of these advantages a little bit more. 

Gain an Edge Over Other Candidates

If you think from an employer’s perspective, it’s in their best interest to hire someone who has actively proven that they can carry out the duties of the role. On-hand experience shows you can execute this, making you stand out in a very crowded graduate job market.

That way, you can focus on finding the best role that aligns with your job search itinerary without sacrificing any important elements. Whether that be company culture, preferred working style, or other points. 

Determine if the Industry Lives up to Expectations

Recently, we came across a story about an individual that dreamed about becoming a doctor. However, there was one slight problem: he was afraid of blood. Thankfully, he decided to carry out some hands-on experience before starting a career in the medical field, which prevented a catastrophe. Instead, he now enjoys a thriving career in accountancy!

Improve Confidence

The importance of hands-on experience extends beyond just looking favorable in the eyes of employers and knowing that you want to continue down this career route. It also provides you with great confidence when starting out. This confidence is crucial when beginning your new role as it will help you make a great impact and help lead to fast career progression. 


1. Apprenticeships 

If you’re wondering how to get hands-on experience, apprenticeships are a great way to do this. For many years the UK government and others have offered the apprenticeship scheme. It provides you with the ability to learn the career you have chosen without needing any experience. Although apprenticeships do pay you, they are typically paid at the national minimum wage rate in the United Kingdom (this will differ depending on the country you’re from). Once the apprenticeship is over, you’ll also receive a nationally recognized qualification. 

Teenagers and young adults that have decided not to go to university typically use this method to acquire hands-on experience. However, it’s becoming more frequent for individuals who are looking to swap to a different career later on in life.  


2. Volunteering

By volunteering at a company that shares common values in your field of interest, you can acquire valuable skills and experience. There is also the added benefit of networking, helping you to get your foot in the door over others vying for the role. 

Some industries are easier to volunteer in than others, so you’ll need to take this into consideration. For example, volunteering opportunities are common for the following places:

  • Schools
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Community centers
  • Local councils 

Now, you must keep in mind that a significant amount of skills can transfer over to roles in different industries. For instance, volunteering in a customer service role for a non-profit will give you skills and knowledge that can be used in other customer service positions, no matter if it’s in a different industry. However, it’s still in your best interest to search for volunteering opportunities that are closely linked to your career path when they’re available. 


3. Job Shadowing

If you haven’t heard of job shadowing before, it involves watching a professional in your desired industry. Typically, job shadowing lasts for a couple of hours or days, and it provides you with the ability to see how the role is performed first-hand. You can learn how certain processes are completed, helping to remove any ambiguity when starting a new role. It’s also a quick way to see if you like your field of interest. 

The recommendation for you to find a professional to shadow is to look towards friends and family. Otherwise, you can extend your search by asking your wider network (e.g. University classmates and others) to see if there are any opportunities. 


4. Freelancing

Did you know there are roughly 1.56 billion freelancers on the planet? Although a chunk of them move from a permanent job to freelancing, there are many industries where it’s the other way around.

The beauty of this method is you get to decide the rates. When starting out, you can charge competitively to attract your first clients. As time progresses, rates can be increased as your portfolio grows. And there’s a chance during this time that one of your satisfied clients will reach out to see if you’re open to working for them on a permanent basis. 


5. Internships

If you’re wondering how to get hands-on experience, internships are a fantastic way. They’re offered in almost all industries and allow you to work in your selected career environment. The majority are unpaid; this is because they’re taking the time to provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge you’ll need for one of their positions. 

According to a recent survey, 84% of individuals who have completed internships found them to be valuable. And the highest-ranking benefit of doing one was receiving hands-on work experience (79.2% of survey participants said this). 

However, it can sometimes be difficult to find one, especially one that has been vetted, offers good coaching, provides support, and gives you the opportunity to take up-skilling courses. But there is a solution…


Try Virtual Internships

Virtual/remote internships have been exploding in popularity recently as they allow you to work at innovative companies worldwide, all from your laptop. A once-distant dream has turned into a reality for many. Virtual Internships is one of the leading providers for students, graduates, and others looking to gain career experience without barriers.

Currently, we have over 250,000 opportunities with companies all over the world; 6000+ alumni have already benefitted from our remote internship program. As a result, they have been able to begin exciting journeys in their selected field.

Will you be next?

Enroll Now

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