Let me state that I know this is a very complicated problem, and of course there's not much getting around it other than "getting a job".
I have a predicament: I work as a Windows sysadmin, and I watch over a database server. By that, I mean I make sure it's running, I make sure apps can still connect to it, and not much traffic happening.
I really like SQL Server, and want to work as a Jr. DBA. Most of the time though, no one wants to work with you until you've had some data under your stewardship - and for good reason, it's *data*!
But how do you counteract this? Run through some tutorials about data that isn't critical to you? Be inventive and use PowerShell to dump system information to a CSV, then create reports off of it (even though you still don't care about it)? Grab your last year of account transactions and import them into DB - then be criticized for such awfully stupid judgement?
I've been trying to crack into volunteer DBA work. Guess what? Yeah, you got it, they want people who already do this stuff - "not just anyone".
It's a tired problem, but one I'm hoping to hear everyone's thoughts on (and if you know of a volunteer DBA job I'll totally mail them back :hehe