Following parts one and two of our HelloGrads guide, which explained why it’s worth doing work experience and how to impress with your application, here is part three: our top tips on where to find those opportunities. It’s never too early to make a start… good luck!
On your doorstep and a useful starting point, particularly if you are looking for a work placement related to your degree, or experience at a local company where they may have contacts.
Once you have your list of suitable companies, first check their websites and social media for advertised work experience programmes or summer internships. There may well be an online application process, or contact details for people who organise placements. If they don’t advertise such opportunities, it is still worthwhile sending a speculative application.
A direct approach is often successful, particularly with smaller organisations that don’t have the budget for a big recruitment drive. Speculative applications show initiative and enthusiasm, which is always a good start.
Call to ask if they would consider taking you on for work experience, and to whom you should send your speculative application. Email your cover letter and CV, or if they are local, deliver it in person and be sure to make a great impression!
See here for tips on writing a speculative cover letter.
As none of the companies I was interested in were advertising internships, I decided to find contact info for the company owners/directors and email them directly. I sent a cover letter and my CV. Persistence pays off in the end… I promise!
– Abbi, English graduate, now doing a PR internship
Internships are often advertised on job boards. Our readers have recommended these sites as particularly useful for students:
One of the best ways of securing work experience is to approach employers through people you know: family, friends, school/university contacts, alumni etc. Find out if anyone has suitable contacts in the industry.
Use social media for professional networking (LinkedIn and Twitter). Follow the companies that interest you, connect with people, join groups and discussions.
Attend careers fairs and networking events - talk to company representatives and ask how to apply for work experience.
‘I’ve started to contact people directly. A great way to do this is on LinkedIn. I’ve been advised to follow the companies I want to work for, read articles they publish and ask questions. Sometimes you can contact the author directly, or just comment on the article. This could be a potential way in. Really I guess it’s just about taking some initiative and making sure you are remembered.
Other than that, I have been meeting anyone and everyone I know, who has experience in the industry. I arrange to meet for a coffee, chat about how I can get my career started, and just get general advice really. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how willing people are to help.’
– Henry, a recent Leeds graduate trying to get into Asset Management
Freelancing can be a great way to prove your skills and dependability and accumulate experience. You might need to do your first few jobs for free or low pay, just to gain experience and good references, but as you build a reputation, you can start charging commercial rates. Freelancing is an attractive option for busy students, because the flexible hours mean you can fit work around your studies.
Check online for all sorts of opportunities:
IT, marketing and communications, journalism, translation, training and consultancy
Volunteering is personally rewarding and valued by employers, because it shows positive attributes about your character e.g. self-motivated, not driven just by money, keen to make a difference, and also because you will have acquired valuable skills like problem-solving and teamwork etc.
You are pretty much guaranteed to find work, as most volunteer organisations and charities are always looking for help. If possible, choose a role that is linked to your preferred career or industry.
Look close to home for opportunities: consider applying for a job in your students’ union, organising charity events, working on the university magazine or radio, a brand ambassador role, or a position of responsibility in a uni club or society.
Explore further afield - combine travel with work experience? Time abroad can develop organisation and communication skills as well as cultural awareness. It’s a popular option and there are now many companies offering organised volunteer packages; just do your research before you hop on the next flight - make sure it is a reputable company.
Check out these organisations for short or longer-term opportunities to work, volunteer or study abroad:
So…if you haven’t got any internships or work experience under your belt, it’s well worth doing before you begin your graduate job search. While you’re still at university, make the most of the long holidays, get a head start and look for opportunities. Whether it’s a placement through your degree course, a month’s internship at an accountancy firm or a week volunteering at your local hospital, the skills and experience you pick up will certainly improve your employability, produce useful contacts and could earn you a bit of cash.
And it just might lead to your dream job…
Interested in work experience at HelloGrads? We are always looking for writers, video editors and researchers. Please get in touch at [email protected], we’d love to hear from you!
for uni and beyond
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