Thinking Outside the Box: 3 Overlooked Strategies for Launching Your Career

While the economy is improving, the job market remains pretty competitive. As a result, many candidates are still struggling to jumpstart their careers. It’s a well-known fact that a large percentage of college grads are either unemployed or under-employed long after graduation. Whether you lack the necessary qualifications to achieve your career goal, are not sure what you want to do professionally, or have just experienced plain old bad luck, you should at least take comfort in knowing you are not the only one who has hit a dead end. Figuring out your career path is just difficult sometimes!

On that note, I wanted to share a few ideas for potentially kick-starting your job search. While some job seekers utilize these strategies from the beginning, many candidates fail to grasp the wealth of potential opportunities that exist in these areas. If your career is stuck in a rut, you might just want to consider one of these sometimes-overlooked industries…

Nonprofit Work

The first area that may be a great place for launching a career is the non-profit sector. Non-profit work can encompass a huge range of job functions, from social work and environmentalism to scientific research or business. If you are still in college, consider a non-profit internship as a way to build your resume and test out some of your career interests. Even job seekers who are newly graduated or re-careering may be able to gain relevant experiences through interning, volunteering or working part-time at a non-profit organization related to their field.

While non-profits may not pay as much as corporate positions, they can offer other benefits such as increased flexibility and a high degree of job satisfaction. They can also be more flexible in their hiring needs and their ability to give you meaningful experience. An entry-level employee at a local non-profit, for example, will probably have more responsibilities in budgeting, marketing, and coordinating volunteers than a new hire in a similar corporate role. Overall, the potential for autonomy, job satisfaction, and personal/professional growth makes non-profit work an attractive option for candidates who are trying to enhance their careers.

Related websites: Idealist.org contains a massive database of non-profit job postings, which you can search by functional area, location, etc. They also coordinate recruitment events (such as career fairs) that bring together non-profit organizations from throughout the country.

Government

A second area that offers some great potential is the government sector. The Federal Government is a massive employer with agencies spanning an incredible range of functional areas. Are you interested in financial or data analysis? Seeking a position in the counseling field? How about something related to law, politics, or research? If you can imagine a career, there is likely a government position that closely corresponds to that field.

There are a few drawbacks to this approach. For one, the government hiring process can be a little confusing (and a little complex) compared to the private sector, so you want to do some thorough research before you begin to submit applications. In addition, the recent budget sequester has put a damper on federal hiring in some areas. However, you should also remember that state, local, and municipal governments also frequently hire for a broad range of positions.The benefits that accompany public sector positions are often quite competitive, even if the salary is sometimes more limited than in the corporate world. For example, you may be offered a pension plan or have a schedule that offers more work/life balance than the private sector. Just remember, employees in the public sector must answer to a demanding demographic – taxpayers!

Related websites: USAJobs.gov; GoGovernment.org

USAJobs is the official job board of the federal government. You can search positions by job title, agency, or location. Check out some of the website’s resources to learn more about the federal application process or frequently asked questions.

GoGovernment is a site that provides a variety of resources on the federal job search, including tips for identifying positions that would be a good fit for you and an overview of the federal hiring process.

Freelancing

Do you have some valuable skills to offer and the ability to work well independently? Consider freelancing! Not quite as daunting as entrepreneurship, freelancing allows you the ability to enhance your portfolio and test out some of your professional interests. Candidates with technical skills, such as programming, or creative skills, such as writing, can seek out small projects in those areas to build their resumes and earn some extra cash.

Freelancing can be a little challenging in that it requires you to market yourself effectively and navigate business interactions from start to finish on your own. However, if you have confidence in your abilities and want to test the waters to see how your skills hold up in the market (possibly as a prelude to full-blown entrepreneurship), then freelancing could be a great strategy. Plus, you have complete control over your workload, your schedule, and what you will charge for your services.

Related websites: eLance.com, guru.com, freelancer.com

eLance, Guru, and Freelancer are all examples of sites that bring freelancers and employers together. How does it work? Well, typically you register an account and outline what skills you have and what type of projects you are seeking. You may also browse through projects that employers have posted and place bids on work that fits your interests. Freelance websites may require you to pay a membership fee, or they may take a small percentage of any money that you make from their platform.

Updated: 21/03/2017
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Andrew Crain
Andrew Crain is a career development consultant at The University of Georgia. He works with business students and conducts trainings on LinkedIn, Personal Branding, Prezi, and Job Search Strategies. Contact Andrew at andrewcr85 at gmail.com, connect on LinkedIn or visit his Prezi portfolio to learn more. The views represented here belong to Andrew Crain and do not represent The University of Georgia or the UGA Career Center. He wrote career advice articles for CareerThoughts.com. Check his profile here.

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