Learn about gaining job skills in this free lesson, which covers volunteering, returning to school, and other ways to build your portfolio.
If you'd like to develop new skills while also learning more about a specific career, consider pursuing volunteer and internship opportunities in the field. While you won't be paid for your time, you'll be gaining important work experience and valuable insights into the industry. You'll also be able to network with different professionals in the field, who could later serve as a reference or even notify you of a job opening.
Talk with friends or family members, or network with people who work in a career field that interests you. Sometimes just letting people know that you're willing to dedicate your time is enough to get started. Idealist's Volunteer Resource Center offers a great introduction to the basics of volunteering for career development. You can also use the International Volunteer Search to find volunteer opportunities near you, no matter where you live.
Sometimes all you need is a little extra guidance and support. Building a relationship with a mentor in your career field can help you learn more about the industry from someone with direct experience.
The right mentor will be able to offer realistic insights and valuable advice on how to meet your career goals and guide you on the path toward success in your field. Whether you're just starting your career or are taking on a new position, a mentor can also teach you how to navigate the politics of your workplace and build valuable relationships with your coworkers.
Network with people in your industry who might consider serving as a mentor. If you're currently in college, you can find a mentor near you on StudentMentor.org. If you prefer to work on your own, you might get started with a basic job skills course like JobSTART101.
Even if you don't currently have a job, you can gain experience in your field by pursuing related projects on your own time. For example, a web developer might spend his free time building a personal website, while a recent MBA graduate might create business plans for several different companies.
Projects also give you the opportunity to show potential employers what kind of work you're capable of creating and why your strengths and talents would make you a valuable employee.
If you feel that your career isn't suited to project-based work, you might consider starting your own blog about your field. You'll be able to showcase your knowledge and establish yourself as an expert in the industry.
Over time, you'll even been able to build your own portfolio, which can highlight your projects and show potential employers what you're capable of creating. Check out our Blog Basics tutorial, or consider using an online portfolio site like carbonmade or VisualCV to get started.