Whether you’re a student preparing for the future or a recent grad eager to land your first job, experience is essential to your success.

While good grades reveal you have the discipline to study and understand the subjects relevant to your field, experience reveals you know how to apply that knowledge in the real world. Employers want to hire someone that exemplifies the right qualities and work ethic to succeed in their organization—and past performance is the best predictor of future success.

There are many ways to get experience—from temping and interning, to volunteering and seasonal work. The goal is to find something that will help you acquire the on-the-job training and industry experience that a prospective employer wants to see.

Identify the skills and experience you need.

Research entry-level job listings that complement your major and appeal to you personally. Note the skills and qualifications listed and target opportunities that will help you gain experience in those unique areas.

Weigh the opportunities before you.

If you’re in school, talk to someone in the student career center about potential internships or part-time jobs that will give you experience in the career you’re pursuing. But don’t limit your options. Contact local staffing companies and inquire about temporary jobs that target specific skills or even a particular company. Another option is to create your own opportunity by offering to volunteer your time and energy at a specific organization in exchange for experience. Seasonal jobs can also be a great way to bolster your experience and build your resume.

Most importantly, be intentional about gaining experience—it’s the key that unlocks great career opportunities!