How to… Get work experience

Whether it’s your mum breathing down your neck, a requirement for school or you just think the time has come, looking for work experience can be a mission and a half.

If you’re not lucky enough to have some pre-arranged placements fired your way by teachers or tutors, or the industry you want to work in doesn’t make an appearance on the list, where do you start?

Let us talk you through the process…

Identify the companies you want to work for

Come up with a dream list. Think about what you want to do, who does it and then figure out who’s close by for you to go work with. Be sensible – most work experience placements are unpaid, so unless you have pots of savings, maybe steer clear of anywhere that’ll require sorting out accommodation.

Make contact

Some companies will have a dedicated work experience section on their website, complete with a contact. If they don’t, be bold, give them a call and ask who the best person would be for you to speak to. Having the initiative to make a phone call really will make you stand out.

Spruce up your CV

Never ever fire an email off asking, “Can I come do work experience with you?” You could be anyone. So attach a copy of your CV – even if you think you don’t have much to say, there’s plenty you can be shouting about. Extracurricular stuff. Coming top in your maths prelim. Boys Brigade. Take the time to make your CV shine.

And go all-out with that cover letter

Again, a two-line email asking for work experience isn’t enough. Introduce yourself. Say what you want to do in your career. Tell them why you want to come do work experience with them. If you’ve taken the time to think about applying, they’ll take the time to think about it.

Be prepared

Some companies will ask you to come by for an informal chat or an interview before giving you a placement – a bit scary, but it’s fantastic experience. If they do this, our top tip is to be prepared. Treat it like a real job interview. Dress the part, do your homework on what they do, and go in with ideas for what you think you could do on placement, be able to tell them what you could bring to their company (even if it’s just your tea making abilities) and have it clear in your mind why you want to do this as a job and why you want to do it with them.

Don’t give up

For a variety of reasons, not all companies offer work experience – they’re too busy, they don’t have enough space, there’s no one willing to supervise work experience candidates – so you will get a few knock backs along the way. So don’t just apply for one company at a time. Keep firing off emails (and always double check to make sure you’ve got the right company name and relevant details before you hit send), keeping picking up that phone and don’t give up. Someone will be able to help eventually – and it could be the first step towards a very successful career.

Good luck!

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