Five Steps to … Finding Work Experience

Work experience is always stressed as one of the most important things you need to get to be able to secure your dream job after graduation … so why does it seem so hard!? Following work experience week this blog post will hopefully help you think further about how to gain a work experience placement. Work experience is useful for a number of different reasons; it shows that you have a knowledge of the industry you want to break into, it helps you decide if your career choice is the right one for you and it shows future employers that you are proactive and actively seeking to gain skills in the field. The only problem is that it can be very difficult to get, with so many students competing for it … so here is some help!

Where to start?

Sometimes employers will actively seek out interns and advertise any placements they offer. Often large companies will do this in functions such as finance, sales and marketing. This sort of work experience is great to get as often there will be the opportunity for high performers to join a graduate scheme of some sort offered by the company. However, it can be very difficult to obtain these sorts of internships with no prior experience and the application process is often very demanding meaning that other work experience and lots of extra-curricular activities are necessary. These placements often have thousands of applicants for just a handful of places with lengthy recruitment processes.

Another way of enquiring about work experience is through speculative applications. This is where you send off a cover letter and CV via email or post or call up potential employers. This may not always be very successful because if the company is not advertising internships it may be that they do not offer them. However, it is worth trying on the off chance that they are. Try to be bold and do not worry about rejection, the worst thing that can happen is that you are turned down but there is the chance that they will invite you for an interview and this is when you can really sell yourself in person!

Contacts can be very important, and a great way to get your foot into the door with work experience. Try to think if you know anyone who works in an area you are interested in to see if they are able to talk to anyone about work experience for you – this is often one of the best ways to get work experience.

The University has a great careers service that helps with work experience so take a look at Careers Connect and come along to Careers Club which is held every week, these are great starting points for finding work experience so take a look at these handy links:

Careers Connect:

Careers Club:

Branch out!

Don’t think that you have to pursue a career that is similar to your degree discipline. Although you have an obvious advantage if you have lots of knowledge in the area of work you want to go into it is not imperative. Part time jobs, work experience, internships and voluntary work can all help you break into a new area of interest.

Timing is key …

When it comes to asking for work experience, there is no time like the present! Make sure you don’t leave it too late – if it is a speculative application and they are interested in taking an intern, someone else could get in there before you and you could be left with nothing. If you are applying to places that have deadlines, still make sure you send in any applications as early as possible to avoid disappointment as sometimes they will fill up places before the deadline comes along, especially if the recruitment process is ongoing.

Chat, chat, chat!

Being able to talk comfortably with new people is an invaluable skill as it will enable you to network and effectively gain contacts that may be useful to you. Take advantage of careers fairs to talk to potential employers – it will be great practice for talking to strangers and make you feel more comfortable if you have to do this in a future work experience placement.

Also, when it comes to networking don’t forget to use LinkedIn. Before you begin a placement make sure your account looks good and is up to date. A work experience placement is the ideal setting to gain professional contacts and make sure you link with colleagues on LinkedIn to build up your professional network. Making sure you keep up to date with adding qualifications and experience can really help when you come to search for jobs!

Finish on a high …

If you are lucky enough to gain an internship, when you finish make sure you are grateful and thank the employer for the opportunity and comment on what you gained from it. It is always good to write a thank you letter and this also gives you the opportunity to keep in touch. If you keep in touch with a company after completing work experience, they may keep you in mind for jobs in the future – if you have done well you will have already proved yourself a good fit for the company and this could be very beneficial for your employment prospects!

Don’t let a lack of funds limit you

When looking at work experience opportunities, if money is a concern be aware that the University offers a bursary scheme where candidates who apply have the opportunity to gain funds to help with costs. If the placement is a low paid or unpaid opportunity there are a number of bursaries available such as a research experience bursary, and international work experience bursary and a UK professional work experience bursary. Take a look here for more details on the requirements and application process:

Hopefully this blog post will help you get started with finding some work experience! Here are some useful links to aid you in your search:

Internships and Work Experience webpages:

Stages of Study:

by Alice Kennedy

About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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