More and more, employers are asking prospective employees for prior experience as well as qualifications. The catch 22 is that we often can’t get the experience until we get a job. This leaves us in a sticky situation.
One way around this is to consider undertaking work experience, which is also known as an internship. Work experience involves working for an employer in order to gain skills and experience, which serve to make you more employable. It is usually unpaid, but this varies from place to place. Some employers will contribute towards travel and food expenses and others will pay wages. The wonderful thing about work experience is it's ideal to organise during the holidays, so your A Levels exams or BTEC HND coursework are out of the way and you can concentrate on what you want to do in the future.
How long does a work experience program last?
This depends, work experience as part of the national curriculum is usually limited to a week or two. Other work experience roles can last several weeks, or even months.
So, if I’m not getting paid, what do I get from it?
You get valuable experience, which can prove priceless when it comes to raising yourself above the other applicants for that job you’ve been after. You also get a chance to get hands on experience, which is hugely useful in itself. Depending on how long your work experience is, you may be able to learn new develop practical skills, or further develop existing skills.
Sounds good, so how do I apply?
There are a range of services and websites that exist to find you work placements, but you may find that the best way of obtaining the converted placement is to make your own application. There is fierce competition for work placements, so you need to be prepared to be turned down.
To improve your chances, you need to be able to demonstrate to the company why you’re worth taking on as an intern. Make sure you apply in plenty of time and provide a well written C.V along with a cover letter. The letter should explain what makes you a good fit for the job, what you hope to learn and what you think it will do for you.
But where do I apply?
You need to consider what sort of experience you want to gain. For example. If you want to go into management, then you need to find a company that will allow you to experience that facet of the company. Alternatively if you want to learn about broadcasting or media, then you should look at BBC internships.
But I can’t find anything?
Don’t worry. Keep applying to every suitable placement. Even if you can’t find a suitable placement, you can try approaching companies directly – a little proactivity now can make a good impression on companies. Try starting small. Ok, so you can’t get the BBC placement. But have you tried local radio or TV stations? If you’re a full time student, try student radio stations. Use some lateral thinking. Perhaps you want to be a photographer; in this case you can try to contact smaller photography studios or local newspapers.
I got it! What now?
Now you’re at the placement it’s important to make the most of the experience. Keep track of what you’re doing day to day and make sure you are prepared for each days events. Log what you’re learning for future reference (and C.V buffing). Remember to ask lots of questions. Ask more. Then some more. You are there to learn, so make the most of it and absorb as much as you can.
Doing a bit of career planning? Check out our pick of the best companies to work for.