Ask Vicki: How can you get a job when you have never had a job?

In this answer on Quora, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi describes how to handle the catch-22 of starting off your career.

Ask Vicki: How can you get a job when you have never had a job?

Vicki Salemi

Each week, Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi—a former recruiter who utilizes 15-plus years of experience in recruiting and human resources to empower job seekers—answers user questions on Quora. We’ll be republishing the answers here. If you have a question for Vicki, send it to

Vicki Salemi

Q. How can you get a job when you have never had a job?

A. It’s definitely a catch-22. To break the cycle, you need to gain some work experience. And the easiest way to get it is probably going to be unpaid at first.

Start volunteering and working with local organizations whether it’s your soup kitchen, local hospital, Habitat for Humanity or another organization and build your skill set. That’s on-the-job experience that you can use to build a skill set to bolster your resume and parlay into a real job maybe even just a few months down the road.

For instance, as you pursue jobs at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway, you can allude to your role as a soup kitchen volunteer serving food to the needy and making correlations to your “customers.”

Also, make sure to impress your boss at the volunteer project, since that person will become a reference on your employment applications.

Next, start networking with anyone and everyone you know. If you volunteer for a local soup kitchen, tell the organizer you’re specifically looking for a job at the places you mentioned—and ask whether they know of anyone who works or has worked there.

Once you make a connection at an organization you’d like to work for, schedule time on the phone or in person to talk about your new skills. Although you may not have technically had a paying job yet, the volunteering roles can connect the dots and provide examples to demonstrate your work ethic, reliability, and history of success.

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Read Vicki Salemi's answer to "How can you get a job when you have never had a job?" on Quora.