Gaining some experience before embarking on a full-time job search gives you more credibility and demonstrates your commitment to the field. It is also a great way to transition into the nonacademic world and gain some experience for your résumé. Also, getting some experience in the field or organization you want to work in is the only way to find a job from the inside.
Although most graduate students are extremely busy, there are many ways to gain experience that might be conducive to your schedule.
Part-Time Employment or Internship
An internship is probably the best way to gain experience with an organization. An internship is a short-term work experience that often occurs during the summer, but can also be done part-time during the academic year. Internships provide the intern with the opportunity to "test-drive" a particular field and simultaneously gain valuable work experience. The process used to find an internship is similar to the process involved in finding a full-time job, so this is a good opportunity to develop those skills. Any experience you can gain is valuable, so take advantage of these opportunities, learn as much as you can, and make as many contacts as possible.
If you are unable to spare the time or locate an internship, shadowing someone in the workplace can be extremely valuable. Job shadowing is similar to an extended version of an informational interview, and can range in length from a couple of hours to several days. The advantage to shadowing is that you really get to see what a typical day is like for someone in a particular field or organization, and it will provide you with topics of discussion in a potential job interview.
Volunteering for a non-profit organization can not only benefit society and be personally satisfying, it can also be an important method of networking, developing skills, and gaining experience.
International Field Experience
If you want to work for an international corporation or not-for-profit, securing international experience is useful. This may include teaching English and translating as well as Peace Corps service.
Writing Articles or Editing
Write articles for newspapers or periodicals or work as an editor, either freelance or as a subcontractor for a publisher. It is important to build your portfolio, and these experiences help you network and can launch you into a career in journalism or publishing.