Work experience is a great way to add value to your CV, build your professional skills and get your career rolling. You’ll expand your knowledge, as well as get to know more about the working world and decide what career path you want to follow.
So, now that you know you want to find a placement, you need to find out how to go about securing one. And, luckily, we’ve devised an easy, step-by-step plan to follow so you can get valuable work experience that is right for both you and your future career.
Here is your eight-step strategy for gaining work experience.
1. Decide What Job You Would Like to Try
As a school leaver, it’s probably hard to figure out what exactly it is that you want to do for the rest of your life. You might decide to study a specific subject and end up in an entirely different industry altogether – like half of all UK graduates.
By completing a work placement in a job you’re interested in doing in the future, you’ll be able to identify whether it really is the kind of career you want to pursue. For example, if you’re interested in art, you could volunteer to work at an art gallery. Or if you aspire to become a journalist, consider working for your local newspaper.
If you ultimately realise that it’s not the route you want to follow, the good news is that you’ll be better equipped with making more informed decisions about higher education.
2. Prepare a résumé and Cover Letter
Now that you’ve discovered what kind of work experience you would like to gain, it’s time to start preparing your résumé and cover letter to send to the organisation you’d like to work at.
Meanwhile, if you’re worried you don’t have any relevant experience to put on your résumé, don’t be: you can simply add details about any social clubs you were a part of or any voluntary work you completed. Do remember, however, to tailor your résumé to the industry you’re looking to gain experience in, and make sure you have a captivating cover letter to go with it – especially if you’re targeting a large company that receives hundreds of applications.
Be sure to share your passion for the industry and to highlight the soft skills that would be of interest to the employer. You can use real-life experiences to showcase these and your most relevant professional skills through your letter.
3. Find Out When Is the Best Time to Apply
There’s no set right time for applying for an internship or work experience and will vary depending on the particular situation. For example, if there’s a deadline for applications, then it’s best to submit yours as soon as possible.
However, if there’s a specific time that you’d like to gain experience – for example, during the summer holidays when you’re not studying – then it’s best to apply at least six months in advance. By doing so, it ensures that you have enough time to find another placement if you’re not successful in your first choice. It also gives employers enough time to pencil you in and change their schedule around if necessary.
If you’re still unsure about when to apply, don’t be shy to pick up the phone and speak to someone at your target company. You can explain what you’re interested in doing, and you might even get a direct answer on the phone. If the latter is the case, make sure you to follow up afterwards with an email to confirm everything you discussed.
4. Ask for Help from Family and Friends
It can often be quite tricky to get a foot in the door of the company you’re targeting, even if it’s just for a few weeks of experience. And this is where a useful source could come in – somebody that works at the company or knows someone that works there who can put in a good word for you.
Be sure to speak to your family and friends and ask them if they know someone that could help you. You’ll be surprised what opportunities can arise once you start talking -it’s all about growing a network and finding key contacts that you can keep for a lifetime!
5. Source Your Own Contacts
If you’ve been unsuccessful in the referral department, it’s time to devise opportunities for yourself. You can begin by handing out your résumé around town at places that you would like to work.
Alternatively, you can look at online job boards and company websites to find the contact details of the person that you would like to address your email to. This is also where that well-prepared résumé and cover letter of yours come in handy. Just be sure to contact personal email addresses, not departmental ones (such as [email protected]).
6. Send Your Application
Now that you’ve sourced your own contacts and completed all the groundwork, it’s time to press the ‘Send’ button and wait to see if you are successful. But before doing so, make sure that you triple-check all the information for any typos or grammatical errors – remember: you want to come across as professional as possible!
Alternatively, some companies will have their own online application form that you must complete. Make sure you carefully answer all the questions. You should always be honest in your answers, giving a clear indication of who you are, where you’re at in your life and why you want to complete a placement with the relevant company.
7. Be Proactive
Now that you’ve sent your first application, don’t just sit around and wait for the magic to happen! Be sure to keep the search going and to look and apply for other opportunities just in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Plus, if you happen to bag a few weeks at different companies, it will make your résumé stand out even more!
You could also look into building a professional online presence and getting rid of or hiding any information that you wouldn’t want an employer to see – like a selfie of you sticking your middle finger up to the camera!
If you don’t hear back from the organisation in a few weeks, meanwhile, don’t be hesitant to pick up the phone and follow up! This will effectively show your initiative.
8. Get Interview-Ready
You may be invited in to the company for a casual interview or even have a scheduled telephone conversation where you’ll be asked all sorts of common interview questions. If you do, make sure that you’ve equipped yourself with responses that show how your studies relate to the questions you’re being asked, effectively impressing the interviewer in the process.
And be sure to dress professionally! Even if it is just a telephone interview, get out of your pyjamas and into something that you would wear to a career fair or an opening day. When you look the part, you feel the part – as a result, you’ll feel more confident and in control of the situation.
Applying for work experience or an internship can be tricky, so if you happen to get rejected, don’t lose heart! Rejection is part of any application process, and it can often be a learning curve.
By following our step-by-step guide, you’ll get the placement you want and deserve in next to no time, and you can begin working towards a successful career.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding work experience? Join the conversation down below and let us know.