Breaking out of the entry-level barrier to mid-level positions is not easy. Many times, it means getting past the catch-22 of needing the experience to get the experience, but there are avenues to make the journey easier:
- Always exceed your employer’s expectations: This work ethic will get you noticed and shows you to be a team player. Sometimes learning a new skill simply means volunteering for it. You may have to work a little bit later – but if you want to become a social media expert, for example, the best way is to enthusiastically take on the new work responsibility.
- Volunteer pro-bono with other organizations, local charities and religious affiliations: If you are not getting the type of experience in your full-time job that you need to move on to the next level, try local affiliations or industry associations and chapters for experience. They will appreciate the free assistance, and it’s a wonderful stretch to try your hand at new tactics.
- Network with purpose: Nowadays, it’s not enough to hand out business cards and think you made a bonafide contact. Learn about the individuals that work at the organization you are aspiring to join. Visit their LinkedIn profiles and Facebook pages. What are their likes? Did you go to the same school? Are they traveling to an area with which you are very familiar? Can you make some restaurant recommendations or suggest vacation spots? When you meet someone – state your vision. Who are you? What is it that you want to do? What was the biggest problem you solved in the workplace?
- Perfect your personal branding: Your personal brand is something you should be working on upon graduation. Positioning yourself as an expert is all about your blog content and your contribution to the industry. If it’s too early in your career to develop your own content, work with Google Reader, have the content come to you and then share it with others. Learn about the relevant content sites out there and get involved in Twitter chats. These outlets will help grow your reputation as a thought leader. Also, consider writing some short dos and don’ts about your field of expertise. It may sound strange, but “don’ts” always pull more clicks. People are always most afraid of making major mistakes.
- Research, research, research: Getting to the next level means knowing exactly what the position entails. Learn about the keywords used and all the qualifications. Be sure you can back this up with tried-and-true experience. Nothing aggravates a potential employer more than someone that lists keywords on their resume but doesn’t have the actual practical experience to go with it. Choose about 25 key companies for whom you’d like to work and research them on Vault.com and GlassDoor.com. Become acquainted not only with the company’s business, but also their corporate culture.
- Know how to make that salary and position jump: You may now be at the stage where you are qualified to do a job that pays $20,000 more but still getting paid $20,000 less. How do you address the salary question? Always remember to come from a positive place. You never want to say that your company was holding you back or that they don’t pay well. Whether you like your current job or not, never back-bite. You are heartbroken to leave your current company, but this opportunity is a dream job, and you feel you can make a real contribution.
- When asked about salary – you have a few options: You can always turn it back to the employer, asking what they’d consider based on your qualifications. However, that may lead to a game of salary Ping-Pong. The next option is to give the potential employer a very wide salary range. The range can be as wide as $10,000 or $15,000. The next option of course is to let them know that it was key at the time to gain the skills you needed to excel in your field. Now that you have those skills and the practical experience putting them to use, you are ready to earn the salary that more closely matches your skill set.
Most of all, have faith that you will get to that next level. Remember that 20 percent of job rejections eventually result in a job offer – so don’t give up.
Richard Spector is the manager of client services for PRSA Jobcenter.