Smart Ways To Get Valuable Work Experience Without A Job

By: Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin


“If you need a job, get experience first. If you need experience, get a job first. Which way out?”

It is not uncommon to find announcements of job openings requiring applicants to have a number of years of work experience. This is a towering stumbling block for most job seekers, especially fresh graduates in Nigeria who often enter the labour market too ill prepared in terms of critical skills acquisition and workplace know-how. Hence, they grow despondent and join the growing league of unemployed or out rightly unemployable Nigerians.

Experience has shown that the above isn’t mere hypothesis…it’s the imbroglio staring many Nigerians in the face. Sometimes ago when I posted the above quotation of mine on my Facebook wall, the responses I received were quite dumbfounding. The quotation proved very perplexing to many friends some of whom said “I’m lost o,” “such employers are cruel,” “it’s crazy to ask fresh graduates for experience,” etc.

This is obviously avoidable. Generally, employers look out for your employability – demonstrated by your knowledge, skills, experiences and work habits. Employers aren’t asking for experience simply to intimidate the newbies, they ask for it because that’s what demonstrate your understanding of the work in context, your good judgment, responsibility and track record of excellence.

Internship, volunteerism, industrial training, chamber attachment, placement with a multinational company, long-term projects, students’ extracurricular activities, etc. are all veritable ways of gathering valuable experiences before ever getting a job. Your experiences in managing people, planning, executing and evaluating an event, presiding over meetings, raising funds, etc. as a president or financial secretary of a students’ association or a committee member should all be leveraged in proving to employers that you have work experiences.

If you’re a Law student, your experiences during chambers attachment as a student could prove decisive for you. If you study Engineering, your industrial training constitutes valuable work experience. Volunteerism with organizations focusing on your field of study shows employers you’re responsible, selfless and of course experienced. And the good thing is how easy it is to find a volunteer position that fits your interests and potentials.

My own life is punctuated with practical instances of bringing work experiences gathered from extracurricular activities to the fore. Many years ago while I was still a mere SSCE holder, I audaciously applied for a teaching job in a ‘big’ primary school in Lagos which minimum qualification was NCE and 3 years working experience – both of which I lacked. I thought I wasn’t eligible and would most probably not get the job, but trying out doesn’t harm anyone. The headmistress said she invited me for the interview in admiration of my audacity.

The interview – written, classroom and oral – lasted 3 long hours. Although my papers said I wasn’t the right man, I was able to demonstrate my mettle with experiences I’ve gathered from helping my teachers copy lesson notes, consistently tutoring my classmates, organizing the morning assembly and daily supervising colleagues as a prefect. Also, as an undergraduate, I landed a freelance writing job with a reputable international media outfit using my work experience consisting of blogging, writing for notice boards on campus, entering and winning essay contests, assisting my lecturers with specific researches and volunteering as a campus reporter for some dailies.

So it is not true that getting a job must precede gathering work experience. It only depends on the school schedule you maintain and how well you can speak about and demonstrate the valuable work skills you’ve acquired without ever having a job. Triangular students whose call points are class, library and hostel would do well to take part in extracurricular activities from which they could acquire critical life-improving skills. Membership and active participation in programmes of associations, committees and study groups as well as personal entrepreneurial pursuits, religious engagements and whatnot on and off campus are exercises a student with a proper understanding of the mechanics of the 21st century workplace would not neglect.

In a job application or interview, if you can speak clearly about these seemingly fringe experiences and show their nexus with the job you’re discussing, you’ll make your case.

So when next you need to convince a prospective employer that you actually have the work experiences he needs, remember the cultural movie you made with your friends as a sophomore, the campus mapping you partook in as a volunteer, how you combined your printing work with campus journalism, essay competitions and religious activities and still had good academic grades.

And the good thing is that all these can go into your CV. You see now that work experience can be independent of holding jobs in the past.

*Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin is a professional freelance writer and the CEO of Naija Writers’ Coach. He posts essay contests and teaches how to write right at You may follow him on Twitter @Oxygenmat


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  2. I do need a job,not for the pay but acquisition of experience . Am presently on holiday.i would rather spend it putting mu skills to test in anyway which would atleast contribute to the positive growth and substantiable development .

  3. Nice write up. But some people have to be a triangular student to get a good because not everyone can cope with the pressure of leadership positions and a tasking academic condition. These days recruiters consider ones grade first before any other qualification. Most adverts are meant for 2.1. I personally handle a leadership position as a president and it affected my performance academically and in the end i came out with 2.2. I’ve been at home 1 year plus without a job and as the day goes by my chances of getting a job decreases due to age and more 2.1 graduates added to the labour market continuosly, May God help us in this nation.

  4. Its a very good write up that inspired and geer me up in putting one or two things together as a job seeker. Nevertheless, I don’t think it can work in this country but will give it a trial.

  5. Nice write up..cognitive experience the way to go..only glitch is most companies specifically ask for post nysc experience. Sadly!!!

  6. This is a very gud advice to every one, for me am stil seeking for job and i have my own working experience so if they can employ me with my experience i wil be gland for that .

  7. I must commend the writer because what he said was how i got my first job in ONE MIGHTY COMPANY called KRISORAL GROUP OF COMPANIES. I had no work exprience, no degree then, but i got one skill called COMPUTER SKILL. These was what i used to earn hug amount of money from the company.
    Listen, if u’re seeking 4 job,
    1. u must be a computer litrate,
    2. U must hav courage and faith to get the job,
    3. As a fresh graduate, u might have little experience of the kind of job u’re seeking, then draft and plan how to convice ur employer that u have 5 Years experience of the job, claim that u have been in this field when u were in university and they pay u well. Because i knew that every company in the world has their ways and parterns of working which is true. And Thats why BANKS go for either 6months or less Training to educate their new intakes even though u have FIRST CLASS UPPER IN ACCOUNTING, u must attent their training. Unless u didnt know what u did in school.
    *Remember that u must be a computer Litrate. If u are not, rush Now to EJEAGWU LINK COMPUTER COLLEGE and get What it takes to be the person u wanna be.
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  8. Hi. U really are a good writer with a good command of the English language. I did actually learn a few new words. Thanks. I happen to be a 300l level physics student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University,Awka who happens to b in a dire need of a place for I.T afore the First of April which is d official date for the commencement of the training.I would truely be glad if You could help me out with that so as i can add it to my list of “work experiences”. Thank You!

  9. Wow, i as a person, am pleased in going through ur qoutes dis morin, well thats great discovery impact, unfolding de poteintial wit-in n makin u makin-wise use of de important duty durin schoolin n more awareness n devote to extra-curriculum activities, may-b @ grammar school higher institution, i mean its vvry gud n helpful cause is goin 2b benefit 2d sacrificer of it. many students 2day see it as crab, isnt easy 2play a geniue leadership roll, but its beneficiary. ma Quote #1″Limp 4d pain, Help is d gain” #2 “when others are busy sleepin dont b a lazy restin” #3″ decide b4 suicide b4 consiquence” #4″ dont down-grade, ever appreciate so as 2 associate b4 u gats 2 depreciate” bkroys “P” de rhymics quotes. see u more on fbk… i nd a nice job aswell OR a fund 2 establish me, am into: satellite engineering n a telephony device engineering also a computer literate both in editing. love u NIGERIANS, GOD BLESS NIGERIA SHALLOM PEACE. 0808 988 3158, 0810 005 9903.

  10. It takes courage & God’s favour 2 be employed in dis country, it doesn’t really matter whether ur a graduate or a computer literate, I’ve seen a lot employed without these qualifications in big organisations.

  11. It’s a nice write up, we should not neglect skills/experiences. We should get them no matter our age.

  12. Good nd tactical instinct.But you need to know abt adaptive work experience which is actually the focus here.As HR expert this is d bottle neck point.We equip people along these lines.Call:08169271179,08124250551

  13. nice write up!but the point is ,most organizations does not need a short personal experience rather they demand 4 long term experience.Pls am interested on d exportation of goods frm Nigeria 2 other countries ,but am nt in Lagos!ow do i get the details.thanks.

  14. Nice one, it baffles me at times to hear some Nigerians say they cannot do voluntary work that gives them no pay. Most of them do not understand that employers value experience more than qualification. Qualification is to show the level at which you can critically reason reason, analyse and solve problem but you need real experience to work in your chosen jobs.

    Since most employees ask for a minimum of one year working experience, the best way for fresh graduates to achieve this is to do some placements/internship or voluntary jobs to get this basic experience.

  15. I need a job That was a wonderful n very inspiring write up, keep it up. I am a professional Secretary with more than 5 yrs exp. i can type with high speed and accuracy, i can edit write ups voluntarily to start with. pls call: 08064682582.


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