How to gain work experience
Decide what you are looking for
Without a clear direction, securing work experience will prove difficult. Firstly, what skills and experience does a job in your dream industry or sector require? Your future placement is all about introducing yourself to these, learning the tricks of the trade and gradually shaping yourself into well-rounded candidate. Not sure where to start? Prospects offer a comprehensive guide to job sectors and could help you locate your work experience direction.
When to apply
The companies in which you are looking to gain experience will often times affect your approach to and time scales for your applications. Some organisations – particularly for structured internship programmes – will require applications a year or more in advance with an application form to complete; whereas other, smaller companies may have a more relaxed approach for work experience and only require a week or two notice. Pinpoint ten to fifteen target companies, make notes of when their deadlines are, and if they don’t have deadlines, ring up to find out their waiting times. This will act as your starting point.
Prepare your CV
Applying for work experience in many ways is a trial run for job applications; not that it shouldn’t be treated equally as seriously, but it makes a brilliant opportunity to get your CV in gear. Chances are, if you’re applying for work experience you may not have a host of accolades and experience to grace your CV, so it’s a case of using the skills and achievements you do have to demonstrate to a potential placement provider that you’re conscientious, driven and keen to work for their company (all of which, of course, are essential for a permanent job application).
It is unlikely there is a vaster source of placements and internships at your door step than the web. With many websites dedicated to work experience alone, there’s manifold pockets of information and vacancies to peruse and then, hopefully, apply for. It’s not only about websites however: make sure you’re maximising your online presence on social media – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – by promoting your services and making it known you’re on the hunt for work experience…
Friend in need
Don’t overlook the traditional mode of word of mouth either. A study by Aldi Graduate Recruitment in 2011, discovered that one in three Brits have landed a job through a friend or family member, highlighting how crucial contacts can be when searching for full-time employment and work experience for that matter. Ask around: because you never know, Sue’s aunt’s sister may be looking for someone to help out around the office for a week or two!
As with all job-hunting (work-experience-hunting is often a parallel situation), determination is essential. Just because you may be only be looking for a week or month’s worth of work experience, it doesn’t mean the company will make their decisions any more light-heartedly. Placements can be as competitive as graduate schemes and entry-level roles, so be sure to maintain your confidence, keep up with the applications and rest assured, it will all serve as brilliant practice for round two…