Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers, that anyone can become a professional in any field after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. In Geoff Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated, deliberate practice is defined as:
“Deliberate practice is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.”
What have you already done for 10,000 hours? Or 5,000 hours? Or 2,000 hours? Here are ways to build experience:
- Work. Try jobs you think you’ll enjoy. Always start part-time. Learn about the field in one or two companies (regardless of the salary), then approach a full-time employer with more knowledge and confidence about the industry (and a higher salary).
- Volunteer: all volunteering work is rewarding. This includes working for free in companies you find interesting; see below.
- Gap-year experiences (including travel) give you time and independence to find fields of work you never knew existed (in cultures you never knew existed).
- Do Internships: the job market is much bigger if you don’t ask for a salary. Rather than aiming for specific companies, approach smaller companies in your field of interest. Ask them (via a personalised, hand-written or printed letter delivered to the HR manager, including your résumé) for an internship in one or more relevant sectors. Ask for a “small stipend, to cover [lunch/travel] costs”, or state that you’re willing to work unpaid. Smaller companies tend to allow you to try/observe more aspects of their operations than companies.
- Attend classes at your local university. Some of them are free.
- Read. Then write about what you read.
- Listen to free classes on iTunes U. Most of them are free.