No professional experience? No problem. There are plenty of other ways you can find references for your job search.
by Nick Armstrong
A reader recently asked: “I have no work experience and, therefore, no professional references. What should I do (other than not say that to a potential employer)?”
A lot of Millennials are in the same situation she is, so I’d like to share my response publicly.
You might not have any work references, but you most certainly have academic references or people who can speak to your character.
You might have a favorite professor (college) or teacher (high school) whose class you excelled in, consistently performed well for and so on. To this day, my best references come from my favorite marketing professor. I graduated in 2007. Think about teammates on sports teams you might have been a part of or classmates who worked with you on projects—anyone who can speak well of you and isn’t directly related to you.
If you are still coming up short, find a mentor, volunteer position, open source project or something else you can work on for a length of time. Pick something interesting, like Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at a local Better Business Bureau. Over time, you will find someone who can speak as a reference, whether it’s a fellow volunteer or the coordinator or even the recipient of the volunteer work.
Having no work experience wasn’t always this scary, but the economy that we’re facing at the moment is rife with peril for new entrants. My advice? Do as much networking as you can. Get involved on Meetup with a professional organization, do an Ignite speech—hell, start up an Ignite group if your town doesn’t have one.
Do anything and everything you can. Claw for every inch. Collaborate, connect and dream—but, most importantly, DO SOMETHING.