Ahhhh. . . the age-old question!
You can get experience through internships or volunteering, both of which can be listed on the "experience" (notice I did not call it "work history!") section of a resume. You can also get what is known as "transferable skills" - experience in another field, and you then show, perhaps in your cover letter, how this experience relates to the position you are applying for. Let me give you an example.
A young lady I was helping wanted to work at a doggy day care facility. Her only experience was in fast food. However, carefully reading the job announcement, it made it clear that this was not a "fun " job - the emphasis was on cleaning. When you put a bunch of dogs together, the opportunity for an illness outbreak is high. So, you show the comparison: in the food industry, the concern is also on illness, contamination, etc. So, it is important to clean properly, and to mix cleaning solutions according to instructions. Fast food also does a lot of customer service - that is perhaps one of the most useful transferable skillsets you can acquire. At the daycare, she would also be assisting customers. Cashier?? same thing. Basically, with the exception of the addition of the dogs, the two jobs have a lot in common!!!
You can also take a "lesser" job in the field you want to work in. Suppose you want to do land surveying. They advertise for an administrative assistant, file clerk, etc. Hopefully you would take such a position prior to graduating. Once people graduate, they are very reluctant to take such a lesser position, feeling they are worth a better position. In my opinion, that is a mistake, because one learns so much about the company in such a position, and also demonstrates that they do not think they are "too good" for that type of work. However, I do understand why some people think that way. The thing to remember is you are always competing against experienced people, so, sometimes it is necessary to start in such a role.
If you get the chance to meet face to face with the employer, you can demonstrate ambition, which also counts for a lot. It's a matter of persistence. You eventually get where you are going, it's just that sometimes you have to take a roundabout path to get there!
Lots of employers look for "years of experience" when hiring for vacant positions, but this doesn't necessarily have to be professional experience.
As a student, you have the opportunity to intern at various companies in different roles to see what types of roles you enjoy, and these experiences definitely count. As an intern, you get real-world experience in a given role, industry, and company. You can use these experiences to show you're capable of doing the job they're hiring for, especially if you can show that the skills you've learned during your internship are transferable.
Your classwork in school can also be used as experience when applying for a job. If you're taking a class that is relevant to the job you're applying for, think about some of the projects and other work you're doing. Did the project require you to work with others? Did you have to create something from scratch? These are all experiences that set the foundation for your career.
When I applied for my current role, I didn't meet the "years of experience" requirement, but during the interview process, I was able to show that the experiences I had in my previous roles and in my formal education were applicable to the job.
Simple...Internships and volunteer work. Here's my personal example.
I'm a zoo keeper, which normally requires a bachelor's degree (which I don't have), and here's how I got this job:
I went to a career high school in their vet med pathway. During high school I:
- took 10 animal science classes
- raised animals in FFA
- volunteered 4 years at a zoo
- interned at a vet clinic for 1 year
- owned my own pet sitting business
Upon graduating high school the zoo I volunteered at offered me a job as a zoo keeper. They said the experience I gained during high school was, in their eyes, better than a college degree in animal science because I've actually proven myself with hands on experience.
As a result, I'm getting my degree in Business Management. This also sets me apart from other zoo keepers because I'm not only qualified to do animal husbandry tasks, but I'm also learning to manage people, projects, and run a business.
Other than volunteer work and internships you're looking at getting an entry level position in a company and working your way up to get the experience you need for your end goal career.