Having work experience on your CV is a big plus for employers. It shows that you have had an opportunity to learn about the area you want to work in, that you enjoyed it and that you have developed some of the key transferable skills required to succeed in your career.
Finding work experience placements however, like finding a job, can feel like a huge task. Where do you even begin to look for work experience? Do many employers offer it? How should you approach them? Looking for work experience can feel like a minefield, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may think.
What do you want to get work experience in?
Before you get started with how to find work experience, you need to have made some decisions about your career and what kind of work you want to do. If you know what type of career you are interested in then that’s great! Now, you need to look for some work experience that is related to your chosen career or the industry you want to enter into.
If you’re still a little stumped about your career choice, then firstly you’ll need to get some help with choosing your career. Taking a career personality test may help you to start narrowing down your options.
What you choose at this stage doesn’t have to be your final career choice forever. Gaining work experience is a good idea because it will help you to decide whether it’s the right option for you as it will give you a good insight into the real world of work.
Who can help you?
Your biggest asset when looking for work experience is actually the people you know. Family, friends and university careers advisors may well be able to give you a hand with getting a work experience placement.
Ask around to see if anyone knows someone who works in the industry you want to get work experience with. They may be able to provide you with contact details for the person who can help you to get your foot in the door at their company.
How to find work experience
So, it’s time to find some companies that you can approach about work experience. Here are a few key steps that will help you:
- Do any of your family members work in the sector or industry you are interested in? If so, ask them if they can inquire with the HR department and see if they can put you in touch with someone to discuss work experience.
- Speak to family friends, neighbours or anyone else you know who might be able to get you relevant work experience at their workplaces.
- Find contact details online for any companies that you think you would be interested in completing work experience with.
- Look for other employers in your local area who you can get in touch with
- Consider how far you are willing to travel as this could open up your opportunities
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How to ask for work experience
Using the steps above you should now have a shortlist of companies that you can start approaching. For large companies, you will probably need to send a CV and cover letter for them to consider you for work experience. Before you do this, however, you should give their office a call and inquire about whether they offer work experience and who would be the best person to get in touch with. If you can manage to speak with this person over the phone, you’ll already be ahead of your competition and they will remember you when you send your CV.
For smaller companies in your local area, it may be worth you dropping in and seeing who you can speak to. Again, this makes you much more memorable than blindly emailing them your CV.
Making phone calls
Picking up the phone and speaking to employers directly can feel daunting for a lot of young people. However, it will definitely improve your chances of securing a work placement and after a couple of calls, you’ll start to see that you have nothing to worry about.
To help you feel more confident about making phone calls, you should:
- Plan what you want to say before you pick up the phone
- Make some notes on a piece of paper
- Have a pen and paper ready to take notes whilst you’re on the phone
- Take some steps to calm your nerves before picking up the phone
- Introduce yourself and explain that you are looking for work experience
- Speak clearly and not too quickly
- Be prepared to talk about why you are particularly interested in that company
- Don’t worry if they say no
Some employers simply don’t offer work experience, so if you get a few no’s over the phone, don’t take it personally and keep calling other employers.
Preparing your CV
The final part of securing your work experience is having a great CV to send to employers. Discover how to make your CV stand out from the crowd here. This will also come in handy when it comes to your job applications later!
Bringing it all together
Gaining work experience is rarely easy and it requires dedication, time and effort. Remember to ask for help where you can and to keep contacting employers until you get somewhere. Good luck!