The skill set needed to find work experience shares a lot of similarities with the skills needed to land yourself a job. So in approaching a company for work experience, you’re also gaining valuable skills that you can apply as soon as you graduate.
Work experience varies from one company to the next
Larger companies who take on lots of work experience placements are likely be better organised, but will be more regimented in their selection process and your schedule. Smaller companies meanwhile, whilst not as regimented, are typically more open to organising a bespoke experience which benefits you personally.
Work experience is not limited to the high street
The companies that you already recognise make up a tiny percentage of the complete workforce. There are thousands of companies doing great work that you’ve not yet heard of!
Work backwards in Google, finding the name of a company last by searching for what the company does first – rather than searching for ‘Work experience at Mac ’, search for ‘cosmetic company in Manchester’
The focus of your work experience is not always the focus of the company
Think outside the box when finding companies to contact.
Larger companies have entire departments for the likes of marketing, design, web development, copywriting, and advertising – all of which are hidden away in the head office.
Think outside the box when looking for organisations to contact in order to find those that aren’t receiving multiple applications per day. A graphic design student, for example, might miss a rewarding opportunity in a major supermarket’s design department if they focus solely on design agencies. A nursing student might miss a chance to work in a cruise ship’s medical department if they only contact the local hospitals.
Finding the companies you’d like to work with is step one. Making contact is the vital step two. How you do this depends on the type of person you are. You’ll need a plan and real persistence to make contact in a valuable way.
When emailing, you might want to spend time honing cover letters that are perfect for just one business at a time. Alternatively, you may prefer to spend longer on a more generic cover letter which expresses all of your interests and can be sent to more people. You’ll know from your skill set which is the best approach.
If you plan to contact lots of companies, it’s a good idea to keep a list of who you have contacted and when, so that you can follow up if you need to
However, your application is more than just a simple email. There are three stages to the securing work experience.
1 Find the decision maker
Companies of all sizes are awash with incoming emails, so you’ll need to call or request the email address of the person who’s actually going to make the decision to take you on. This could be HR or the Managing Director depending on the size of the company.
2 Make a memorable application
Only once you’ve found the right contact should you invest your time in an application. This should include your CV and a cover letter (either attached or as plain text in your email) which is specific, states when you’re free, what you’d like to get from the experience, and what you can bring to the company.
Larger companies might have a form for you to fill in, which will save you some time, but there will still be a place for you to write about yourself. Sell yourself by including your hobbies, experience, and interest. A ‘culture fit’ is just as important as your experience.
3 Chase up if necessary
Not receiving a reply does not mean it’s a ‘no’. Maybe your email got lost, or your contact just forgot to reply completely. It’s nothing personal, and a follow up call or email a week later might be the difference between securing and losing an opportunity.
Just like applying for a job, you’ll find it’s a combination of strategy, persistencend good timing that will ultimately lead to finding a perfect business and placement.
Alistair Hardaker is a content writer for Portfolio Payroll, a recruitment agency who specialise in recruiting qualified professionals into the Payroll industry.