Experience: The DIY guide

How many times have you found a perfect job advertisement, only to find the two dreaded words at the bottom:

Experience Needed.

Urgh.

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Everyone has gone through this stage and I have only just left the soul crushing no job, no experience circle within the past few months. Due to personal circumstances, I essentially took 18 months out and carried on my waitressing job after my masters degree. I felt helpless and retreated into the internet. I read entire blogs in one sitting, watched hours of Youtube and had endless scrolls down Tumblr and deviantArt. I came to realise that the online personalities that gave me comfort were or started out as people like me. The internet became a place where I could create my own experiences, build networks and new friendships.

So here are a few tips I picked up along the way from both myself and other people I have met on my cyber journeys:

1. Be digitally creative (in your own way)

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From coding to comics; blogs to how-tos; mods to novellas – on the internet you can find a platform to showcase whatever your talent is. Not only can you improve your skills with the possibility of receiving critical feedback, but you are creating a portfolio of work that can be shown to potential employers. It is also a fantastic way to grow your network as your work could be picked up by industry professionals and shared within their personal social medias.

If you fancy blogging or helping out with a website, have a look around smaller fan-run websites. Many are asking for editors and a simple Google search and a dive into page three or four of a search engine will show these websites. It doesn’t matter how many people read what you have written, just that you are active online.

2. Make yourself visible online

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Once you have decided what you want to showcase, set up social media accounts to run alongside your endeavors. For myself, I am a cosplayer and gamer so set up a twitter and instagram to show builds of my costumes or thoughts on a recent industry news. Try not to worry about being niche, a lot of what I get involved with online involves the Tomb Raider community. However this means that networks can run deep and I have had the joy of talking with Crystal Dynamic’s community manager, Meagan Marie as well as Tomb Raider’s art director Brian Horton among others. Being niche means you can perfect what you are interested in. Getting involved with social media and, to a degree, creating an online brand, helps so much when it comes to jobs such as marketing, PR and community management. Even if you don’t want to go into those fields, creating complimentary social streams helps you to share your work and create connections. Just make sure you don’t turn it into your personal account!

3. Be an active, not a passive tourist

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Are you finding some amazing art on the internet? Or a mod that has completely changed a game for you? Share it! Or like/reblog/favourite etc. While this feeds into social media, it also refers to spaces online such as forums where you can engage in active discussion of topics that you feel comfortable in. Visit regularly and post interesting content so that you become a respected member. Therefore when positions open such as moderators or site admin, you are more likely to gain the position because you are an active member. You generally won’t get paid for these roles, but they are important to the overall running of a website and look fantastic on a CV to show responsibility and management skills.

4. If you can make it; sell it (or trade it)

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The internet has made the world into a global marketplace. What may not be profitable in a traditional business model can be turned into successful ventures by knowledgeable internet citizens! My Etsy store, which sells Tomb Raider cosplay pieces based off my own designs, started as just a way to get rid of some excess materials. I found a gap in the market, which was Tomb Raider specific costumes located in the EU. A lot of Etsy stores are based in the US so have high postage charges. From my own store I could offer items that overall were cheaper due to their lower postage costs. My costume pieces have now been worn all over the world and the experience of running this little venture helped to fill in many experience gaps during interviews.

Selling your work isn’t just tied to intrinsically artistic items. Try selling or promoting your website designs to local startups or if your social media skills are flying high, try freelancing. It may not work longterm, or as a fulltime role, but they are experiences that you are in control of. You never know, it may just end up as a business of your own.

Perhaps selling just isn’t an option in a competitive marketplace due to you not having as much of a portfolio to show clients. In this situation, try reaching out to friends and forums to see if you can can offer your skills in return for something else. This could mean you provide coding services for someone’s game while they help out with social media outreach for your own Kickstarter project. You are never quite sure what connections you will make doing a trade and it may lead to a job somewhere down the line.

These are just a few tips that may help you gain experience from just your own talent, a laptop and a wi-fi connection. It is important to make a little space on the internet as your own; take control and be proud of what you have achieved. If you have any questions I’ll happily answer them in comments below or tweet me @Lady_Scion (my cosplay alias if you wondering!)

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