Stalking an elusive job

Dear Joan:
I have had sufficient education in school, although I don't have a degree, to get some sort of entry-level job in bookkeeping/accounting. I know I can't expect a real high position, especially starting out, but everyone is looking for experience. It seems nobody wants to be the one to break in a new person. How does a person go about getting some experience?

I've followed up on jobs that say "experience preferred" but someone always seems to come along that is exactly what they are looking for.

I wouldn't mind doing some moonlighting part time, but part-time jobs are always during the day and I work during the day and I can't live on just part-time work.

I've read that doing volunteer work is a good way to start out. do you have any ideas where I could do some volunteer work on the side? Also, does running an ad in the work section of the newspaper ever bring positive results?

You are quickly finding out that job hunting isn't what it used to be. Other candidates are well-armed with degrees and experience (especially because of an abundance of people who have been downsized out of their jobs), which gives them the advantage when stalking jobs. It's as if they have a rifle and you only have a bow and have to be twice as skilled at sneaking up on what you want and take an excellent aim at what you want.

Let's talk about some stalking skills. A good way to practice for the hunt is to do volunteer work for non-profit organizations, small companies, or professional organizations. This can then be added to your quiver as "work experience," whether it's paid or unpaid.

There are hundreds of organizations in most areas that are likely to be in need of your skills. Professional organizations, churches, civic groups, and clubs are good places to start looking. Much of this work could be done at night.

If you do some good work for one of these groups, be sure to ask for a letter of recommendation as well as a "job reference." It's not enough to simply do a good job, however. You need to ask "Who do you know?" as soon as you start demonstrating that you have valuable skills to offer an employer.

Watch the paper for stories about entrepreneurs who may be too small to hire a staff but who might welcome some assistance in this area. You could probably negotiate a reasonable fee or you might even offer to do the work for free for a few months to prove your worth.

Sometimes these freelance experiences lead to full-time work if the business grows. At the same time, you may be able to use this experience to attract other small-business owners.

Experience is only one arrow in your quiver. You're missing another one: a degree. There is no question that not having one is going to put you at a disadvantage in any competition. You mention "sufficient education," but without a degree and some related computer experience, you will find yourself getting further away from the targets you aim for as time goes by.

Work-wanted sections of newspapers may be worth a try if you hope to snare a small-business owner looking for some help, but I think you'd be better off on the prowl yourself. Most people don't automatically think of looking in the paper for help. They tend to ask, "Who do you know?" or place an ad themselves.

There is no doubt that the spoils will go to the hunter with the degree and the experience as we approach the next century. If getting a degree is not possible for you, begin to track down creative ways to build your experience to make yourself's the best way to take aim at your future.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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