Career changers often face the same catch-22 as new college grads. They can’t get hired without experience, and they can’t get experience without a job!

If you’re interested in testing out a career change without quitting your day job or investing in big-time tuition money, take your cue from college grads who gain experience through unpaid or low-paying internships to gain experience.

Unlike college internships which have a specified start and stop date, internships for adults are really just informal opportunities carved out creatively to test the waters – by reaching out to others willing to give you a chance at no cost to them.

While this approach won’t work for all career changes (i.e. you can’t become a doctor without going back to med school), it will work for many. Here are 3 examples:

  • Thinking about becoming an event planner? Offer to help coordinate a 5K for a local charity.
  • Interested in becoming a graphic designer? Ask friends if they need help creating holiday cards, or seek out local small business owners in need of website updates or new business logos.
  • Are you an IT Developer looking to make a move to IT Leadership? Offer to your boss to lead a special project (promising, of course, to not let it impact your day-to-day performance).

I speak from experience . . . this approach worked for me! I got my start in resume writing by offering to write for friends and colleagues applying for internal postings and external roles.

It was a win-win. My friends walked away with improved resumes, and I walked away with some experience and concrete samples I could use back when I began knocking on doors in search of a paid resume writing gig.

In my view, offering free labor in exchange for experience sure beats the alternative – never knowing for sure if you would have ever succeeded, going into debt by quitting your day job, or going back to school to discover the new career isn’t very dreamy.

Why not test out this lower-cost alternative to overcome the classic career catch-22? You have nothing to lose except your time, and everything to gain!