So you've just left uni and you're looking for a job. Join the club! This could be the first time you've been in the market for full-time work (or maybe any work at all) and that can feel daunting – especially with so many entry-level job adverts asking for industry experience.
So now you're trapped in the great paradox of the modern age: you need experience to get a job, but you can't get a job without experience. The good news is that everyone breaks the cycle at some point and there are plenty of ways to help yourself along.
And don't worry – we're not even going to mention unpaid internships because, a) they're illegal, and b) let's face it, how many graduates can afford to work for free?
Having your heart set on a specific industry or position can make job hunting trickier – especially if it's a particularly competitive sector. As a graduate, you have your entire career ahead of you, so there's no need to panic if you're struggling to land your dream job straight out of uni; there's nothing wrong with taking the scenic route.
For example, if you're struggling to get into journalism, consider applying for positions in another media-centric industry where there are jobs more readily available to graduates – like social media or PR.
There are mixed opinions about "settling" for something other than your perfect job, but if you can't afford to not work (from a financial standpoint or for the sake of your sanity) something is probably better than nothing.
You'll start gaining relevant skills and building your network, and it's also much easier to get a job from another job. Plus, you never know – you might find that you enjoy your "gateway job" much more than you expected.
This might sound a bit too close to an unpaid internship for your liking, but if you've got the time and means to do it, volunteer work is an great way to give yourself a CV-worthy example of your positive attitude.
You don't have to jet off to Thailand for six weeks to build a school in order to be a volunteer (though you can if you like). One evening a week or a half-day a weekend is all it takes. Animal shelters, charity shops, local events, community magazines, soup kitchens, nature conservation groups, care homes – they're always looking for extra pairs of hands.
And if improving your job prospects isn't a good enough reason to volunteer, it's also a great way to meet new people (good if you're in a post-uni slump) and just generally a rewarding way to spend your down-time.
When an employer says they want candidates with 2 years' experience, take it with a pinch of salt. It's pretty unlikely that they'll throw out your CV immediately if you don't have the full 2 years under your belt, just like they probably won't instantly hire you even if you have 5 years' experience.
When you don't have a long work history, it's easy to convince yourself that you probably won't get the job so there's no point even trying for it. But really, what's the worst-case scenario when you apply for a job you're not qualified for? You might not get asked back for an interview – but you also might get asked back. Unless you apply, you'll never know.
And besides, if an employer is looking for a graduate or advertising for an entry-level position, they shouldn't be expecting their candidates to jump straight into a job without much training.
Experience doesn't always have to be work experience. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there's nothing you can't learn with a bit of Googling.
Improving your computer-literacy is always a good bet and you can decide which bits to focus on based on the job you're after. For example, Excel skills are very valuable in admin and HR jobs, and a basic knowledge of webpage creation tools such as Wordpress can go a long way in social media and marketing.
You can also broaden your knowledge of the industry you're trying to break into (impressive stuff in interviews) or get to work on some projects of your own. Start up a blog, get involved in online communities or even get in touch with your entrepreneurial side. Social media is a great platform for small businesses so if you've got a great idea, put it out there. Even if it doesn't take off, it's definitely something to talk about in job applications.
Don't get disheartened
Every employed adult you've ever met has been stuck in this same loop at some point – you'll get there!
Jen Anderson writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate marketing jobs are currently available, as well as their graduate jobs Manchester page for further opportunities.
Image Credit: Kyle Ellefson