“Be nice to everyone and treat people kindly. You never know who is going to give you the next big opportunity.
For recent graduates, hopeful creatives, and those looking to get their foot in the professional door, internships can serve as a bridge between the inexperienced and the employable. Saying that, time and money constraints (or just a general lack of availability) can make it difficult to get work experience that suits your future self. So how do you land a dream job without doing an internship?
For more tips like this, browse our Life section.
Career paths aren’t always linear and it’s often the unexpected opportunities that lead us to our ideal roles. Whether you’re looking for a job in the creative industries or dream of running a software company, landing that perfect job is really all about kindness, determination and resilience. Below, fashion magazine readers tell how they landed their dream roles without an internship.
Rachel*, 27 years old, she/she
I was so upset when I wasn’t offered a graduate position at the company I wanted. After many failed interviews, I gave up and signed up for a completely different college course, thinking my chances were gone. In the end, I realized I couldn’t give up too soon and applied for a junior administrator type position in an industry organization where I wanted to work. I stayed there and acquired as much experience as possible (six months) before changing offices; the one that was more related to my studies.
I developed my knowledge in this company for a little over a year. I’ve finally been offered my absolute dream role and I’m starting next month! Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I ended up gaining a much broader experience rather than a siled or singular understanding of how the profession works. I’m ahead of some of my fellow college graduates, as I’ve gained a better understanding of the industry! Do not abandon. Sometimes the back door is the best way!
Adina*, 27 years old, she/she
Contacts, contacts, contacts! I work in politics, so networking is a must. I joined political groups in college and spent time volunteering for a local MP. When a part-time opportunity presented itself, I knew the employer and the employer knew my work, so I was a natural candidate. I tapped into those networks again when I needed a full-time job after graduating and landed a dream gig very quickly.
Being a young woman in politics comes with unique challenges, many of which have only become public in recent years. Whatever the industry, know your worth, know your rights and stand up for yourself. If your workplace doesn’t look after your interests, it’s probably the one you don’t want to be a part of.
Florence*, 30 years old, she
I started an Instagram, shared my work and created links. At the beginning of my career, I thought that it was enough to have talent, when in reality, the people you meet are the key. You can be average at what you do, but if you have the right connections, you can do anything. And I’m not talking about “hookups” in the sense of being nice to people just to build a network or take advantage of people.
I try to be nice to everyone and treat people with kindness. You never know who is going to give you the next big opportunity. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study and try to be the best at what you do. It’s a bit of both.
Micha*, 21 years old, she/she
I had just graduated with a highly regarded associate degree in the fashion industry. I did extensive research on the role I was applying for. If there were areas I felt I wasn’t confident in, I watched YouTube tutorials or read articles on the subject. I also made sure that I researched the company and knew all of their powerful words. I logged out of LinkedIn, then checked out people at the company to get an idea of who they were and where they had worked in the past (make sure to log out so they don’t see you checked their profile!). It made me feel more comfortable about the interview, because I knew what they looked like and what their “vibe” was.
I think it’s important to fill out a formal application and email the recruiter or a team member. You want to make it clear that you’ve applied, that you’re excited about the job, and would like to talk more about it and set up an interview. Doing that little extra will make them remember who you are. And pretend until you do. I believe that the confidence in my interview is what allowed me to get my job without any experience in the field. Knowledge is power when looking for a job, so do your research and be confident!
Saskia*, 23 years old, she/she
Honestly, a lot of luck helped me a lot to get my job, but also to know what employers were looking for and to trust me. I’m currently a junior art director. During college, I didn’t prioritize internships (even though I was told that). I felt they weren’t going to give me the life experience I was looking for.
Instead, I traveled a lot. I acquired personal skills that the internships could not have given me. I made that clear in interviews, and thankfully this was a company that saw travel as a huge benefit to professional well-being. I’m still at the junior level, but I don’t feel like a junior in my workplace. My salary is the only thing that reflects my entry-level position, but no one in the company has ever questioned my skills.
Zara*, 26 years old, she/she
My dream job had always been to be an artist, but I convinced myself that it wasn’t realistic and decided to study design instead. It was a disaster. I only had time on my hands (thanks, COVID). So in 2020, I started a government-funded program for small businesses (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme), which helped me pay rent during my start-up. From there, I attended monthly markets, selling my prints and merchandise. I also learned to tattoo and now do it from my art studio in Brunswick.
Since then I have been part of group shows around Melbourne, with a solo show coming up in November. While it’s not exactly what I had in mind growing up, it’s pretty darn close. Working on my own, there is no job hierarchy. But career-wise, I’m still working my way up. Entering the creative industry was tricky, especially since my practice was so varied (painting, tattooing, illustration, etc.).
For me, my career goals have been accomplishments like working in my own studio, becoming a full-time artist, earning money on a regular basis, and working on exciting projects. Looking at what I’ve achieved so far, it’s mostly thanks to my support, applying and talking to people. It’s about who you know, not what you know, especially in Melbourne. I wish I had understood this earlier. As an introvert, networking is probably the hardest part for me, but it’s something I’m starting to enjoy.
Léa*, 40 years old, she/she
I studied graphic design and was a graphic designer, but I wanted to get into digital design. As a print designer, I took an HTML/CSS short course to learn how to design websites. I mocked up a few dummy website designs for my portfolio and ended up getting a job at an e-commerce company.
In the end, I didn’t have to code because I worked alongside two developers and learned a lot from them. I then decided that I wanted to be a user experience (UX)/user interface (UI) designer and design apps, so I took a course in UX design, usability testing, and design. I had to take these courses while I was still working. From there, I managed to land a job as a UX designer at International Business Machines (IBM). I then decided to become a product designer in the Software as a Service (SAAS) industry. My role in UX design and the previous design thinking course taught me innovation design skills, so I easily landed a role in product design.
Today, I am Design Manager and I lead a team of designers. I found that as I moved up the ranks, my wants and desires changed. I pivoted several times to get where I wanted to be. The girl I was when I was studying graphic design would never have thought in her wildest dreams that today she would be responsible for the design of a software company. I’m 40, so I’m not really a recent graduate, but maybe my climbing background could inspire others to make smart moves and improve their skills through lessons. Always have a growth mindset and never stop learning.
Nicola*, 26, she/she
I was rejected from several jobs and almost reached the end of three graduate programs. I kept getting knocked down in the endgame. Then COVID made it even more difficult. I ended up applying for a job offer that was really ambiguous. I didn’t fully understand the role, but I applied because I saw that I had skills that matched the selection criteria. I got invited for the next round, met the manager and realized this was a job I really wanted to do. I wasn’t expecting a long-term role (it was for a one-time project), but after it ended, the company loved me and found other projects to keep me on board!
If I could magically change anything, it would be the volume of rejections of applications that take so long to put together. It’s really disheartening and it impacts your confidence at work even after you get the job. For me, it was important to be open to work and talk about it. This may sound awkward, but it means you open yourself up to people to help you (the job posting for my current position was sent to me by a friend, I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise!).
Béatrix*, 26, she/she
I applied for an internship and was rejected, so I went on to college. The company I applied for the internship for ended up growing so fast that they called me later to ask if I would be interested in a (paid) position on social media. I worked on all facets of the business. We were a small team and gave help where help was needed.
My advice would be to try skills in areas you wouldn’t normally explore. After raising my hand to help, I learned the whole business model. It landed me a brand manager position after nine months with the company.
For more tips on landing your dream role, head here.