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Beating the System

We've all heard it: "You can't get a job if you don't have experience, but how do you get experience if no-one will give you a job?". Doesn't seem fair, does it?

Some kids are lucky. They've got an uncle or brother or cousin who can pull a few strings for them. Once they're in, they can say they've got that magical stuff called "job experience" that every boss looks for.

Some kids are so smart. You know the type. They skip grades in school and all the colleges are begging for them. They're too busy being smart to be cool. They really make an impression on potential bosses, and they get hired.

Then there are the kids who find underhanded ways to make money. They don't want a real job. They usually look pretty cool driving around in big fancy cars flashing wads of money. They don't look so cool years later sitting in a jail cell.

And finally, there's the rest of us. We walk into one personnel office after another, filling out job applications. By the time you're finished, you've memorized your Social Security number for life. They all say the same thing: "We'll let you know."

Only they don't. You never hear from them again.

There is a way to beat the system. It's a pretty ingenious solution, too! But you've got to want it. What I wanted was to be a bartender, but my idea will work for almost any job.

It started when I signed up for a bartending school. The contract gave me three days to change my mind and cancel. In those three days, I went around to different bars and asked the managers if they'd hire someone who'd gone to this school. They all said no, not if the person didn't have any real-life job experience.

So going to this school wasn't going to get me a bartending job. I cancelled the contract and went back to square one. (That's a good way to find out about any trade school, by the way. Ask the guys who do the hiring if they'd hire someone from there.)

Job experience

They all wanted job experience. So I went back to all the managers I'd talked to about the bartending school, and asked them if they'd train me - for free. I offered a proposition: "I'll come in on my own time. You don't have to pay me. I will train for free. Train me, and if you like my work, then you can hire me with pay."

For them, it was a win-win situation. They didn't lose any money by giving me a chance. And if I did real well and showed an aptitude for the job, they could then hire me and we'd both make out. (HELPFUL HINT: Smaller companies are the most likely to go for a deal like this.)

I found one man willing to take me up on my deal.

It was a small Italian restaurant with a tiny bar. He let his best bartender train me. She told me the drink ingredients, I wrote them down and took them home to memorize. She'd quiz me, and let me make drinks. After about three weeks, he put me on the payroll. I was a bartender!

It didn't take long for me to find out why he was so anxious to train me for free. It was such an awful place to work that everybody kept quitting on him. They had a complete staff turnover about once a month. He was desperate for employees. But that didn't matter. I got what I wanted - job training and job experience. Even if it was a crummy place to work. Sometimes you have to start out that way. I don't regret it, and I'll tell you why.

I worked there until I couldn't stand it anymore, which was longer than most of his employees stayed.

Remember, I needed that job experience, no matter how crummy it was to work there. After working there a few months, I went to several nicer bars, and told them I had job experience (which I did!) One of them hired me. It turned out to be one of the best jobs I ever had.

Everybody there was super nice. His staff didn't play head games on each other the way some do. The boss really cared about his employees. He did have to fine-tune my bartending, as I needed more training than I'd gotten at the Italian restaurant. But when he saw how willing I was to learn, and how eager I was to do the best job I possibly could, he took me under his wing and taught me everything he could. I repaid him by becoming one of his best bartenders.

This can work for just about any job you want to go for: office work, sales, factory, carpentry - you name it. If you really want it, you can do it. Sometimes things are worth doing for free now, for the payoffs you'll get later on. Be eager, be willing, swallow your pride and go for the JOB EXPERIENCE.

One final word: I don't bartend anymore. I'm a bookkeeper, accountant, writer and carpenter (skills also learned "on the job"). But the job experience I've gained from all the different jobs still pay off. I know that no matter what happens, I will ALWAYS be able to find work, because I'm skilled in more than one field. That's not the important thing, however. What's important is how I came to be skilled in so many fields.

You get that by being:

  • A good worker who's willing and eager to learn and has a lot
  • of enthusiasm for the job.
  • Be willing to do more than you are being paid to do. Help
  • others in higher positions with their job, and you'll learn how to do their job. This is a great way to boost your experience.
  • A reliable employee who they can count on to be there every
  • day and ON TIME.
  • An employee who gets along with his co-workers.
  • An honest employee who doesn't steal or lie to his employer.
  • An employee who knows that the customers of the business are
  • where your paycheck really comes from and making sure to treat them with respect and enthusiasm.
  • And always try to leave a company on good terms, so that you can use them as a reference


Treat the business as if it were your own, as if you had stock in the company, and you'll get the job experience and job skills you want. Potential employers can see that enthusiasm in you. They really can. So GO FOR IT, and good luck!

by Shari Coxford

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