While there is no substitute for work experience, Salesforce offers a dazzling array of self-service learning tools. Even better, you can create a free dev org and practice what you learn. Salesforce dev orgs expire after a year, and have some performance restrictions, but they are otherwise equivalent to a production org. Tracking a personal project can be great way to practice a new skill. Salesforce CRM features can be used to track a wide variety of  efforts, such as a wedding, job search, or even a birthday party. 
A great starting point is to target certification. By studying for the exam, you expose yourself to the depth and breadth of the Salesforce platform. (See my certification blog for more.)
If you are a visual learner, YouTube is brimming with juicy Salesforce videos. Everyone might not be able to fly to SFO for DreamForce, but anyone can enjoy the presentations online, from the comfort of a local Internet connection.
For old-school learners, Salesforce.com For DummiesSalesforce.com Secrets of SuccessSalesforce Handbook, and Development with the Force.com Platform, are a fantastic foursome. And, if you’d like to keep it all on the cloud, all four are also available for the Amazon Kindle.
Today is the first day of Spring, and it could be a great day to open up to the many opportunities available on and around Salesforce CRM.