Employers all want you to have had your first job before you work for them. That said, none of them want to give it to you. What can you do?
Prior work experience is critical for getting hired, and not any old job will do. If you want to work in an office setting, for example, your job experience working at McDonald's isn't going to help you too much. The solution? Volunteering.
Many think of volunteering just as a way to give back to the community, or something that you do only to fulfill your requirements for high school graduation. That said, volunteering has huge benefits for you, too. It's a great way to gain work experience to buff up your resume. Leading a project for your local food bank shows much more work-applicable leadership than being captain of the soccer team, for example. There are several ways to volunteer.
1. Volunteer in the community. See what your community needs! Whether it's tutoring children or helping out at a soup kitchen, they're all great ways to give back to your community. Having tutoring experience actually helped me land my first job teaching adult learners English. Your local United Way is a great place to look for volunteer opportunities. However, it's not as good for work experience as the next two suggestions.
2. Do Field-Related Volunteering Take the career field you're interested and look for business that does that kind of work and then ask them if they could use some help. This is a great way to make connections in the industry and get some work experience for when you apply for your 'real job' down the road. So if you're interested in something health related, volunteer at the hospital. If you want to do secretarial work, find an office to help with filing or typing. Sometimes this volunteering may turn into a real job later on. For example, I volunteered at a law firm one winter break, and they ended up offering me a paid job as a runner (courier/jack of all trades) for later in the year. Who knows what that job would have turned in later on, but all of this experience would have been great if I chose to be a paralegal, or even a secretary later on. 3. Join AmeriCorps AmeriCorps is a great way to help both yourself and your community, and is available for people of all education levels, even if you didn't complete high school. Through the program you get job training, experience working with a well-respected organization, a stipend to support you, and an education award for after completion. It's kind of the perfect package if you don't have a good or steady job already lined up, or if you're looking for a transition either to a better job or college. The education award is money towards college (although, if you'd prefer, for VISTA participants they also offer a $1200 payment), which can give you the boost you might need if you decide to get your AA or degree later on. The experience will help you in a job, and the job training will help you even further. You can learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.