It’s the classic Catch 22 situation: all jobs at the best companies need experience, but you can’t get experience without first having been in a job. So how do you get that foot in the door to get some experience?
Everyone goes through it; so don’t worry. It’s not easy, but there are ways to get work experience to then get a job. If you’re looking for your first job and want to get some (yes some - don’t expect the job offers to come rolling in after just one stint) work experience then here is what you have to do.
Use your network
Everyone’s heard the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Well, although this isn’t necessarily true having a contact in a position of authority in an organisation who knows you – say, a close friend or a member of your extended family – will certainly help in terms of getting a work placement. At the end of the day, a recommendation from a trusted source speaks more than an unsolicited contact.
Clean online presence and PR
It’s a fact that employers use the internet to find out more information about prospective employees – so it’s important to make sure that you don’t have anything out there on the world wide web that could jeopardise your future online. Once you’ve done that you could think about some self-promotion. Build an online presence full of achievements – for instance, have you done something for charity? Did you tell your local paper about it? Do you have a blog are you particularly active (i.e. have lots of followers) on social media? All of these virtual achievements are likely to stand you in good stead for a work experience role in today’s digital workplace.
First impressions count, so think about how best to make it – through social media, in person, via the telephone or email? Don’t send out non-specific emails. Each approach to each organisation or prospective work experience offer must be catered to that business. Do your research, use the right language, find out what their recruitment process is, who you should be talking to and what they want from their team members.
Arrogance doesn’t win out
Confidence is one thing but no one wants someone who’s arrogant. Make sure you appear open, willing, humble and keen. At this point in your career you are not really qualified to do anything, so any experience is better than no experience. If the experience you’re getting is having a negative effect on you then give notice with respect. Never burn bridges in your career, as you never know when paths might cross in the future and it’s always good to have people to call on for advice if needed.
Think around your perfect job
Whatever role you’re aiming for, there will be skills that are useful to have and also are transferable to lots of different jobs. If, for example, you want to become a lawyer or journalist skills like typing, shorthand, computer literacy, an A Level in Law or a qualification in journalism would all be a bonus on your CV. If you can’t get experience in exactly the same field then take a job which is related and where you can build on skills that are transferable.
There’s help out there
Use existing organisations that help young people find the right career and the right path to it. Have a look at these sites to give you an idea of the help and guidance that’s available: Gothinkbig.co.uk and Ratemyplacement.co.uk.
Like our tips on how to get work experience? See our pick of a few of the best work experience placements.