How to: Get work experience

Need to get experience without any experience?

Getting some hands-on experience in the working world can be the best way to decide on your dream career (not to mention become practiced enough to actually pursue it). But finding a suitable placement isn’t always easy.

We’ve already covered what you need to know about work experience, but to help guide you further, here are four top tips to ensure your work experience hunt brings the best results:


Decide what you really want to do

Deciding on the right role for you can be tough – but having a sense of direction is crucial if you’re looking to make the most out of your placement.

If you’re stuck on what to choose, consider your hobbies and current skillset, and list the potential careers that could allow you to indulge them on a daily basis.

If you’re at University or have just graduated, your career goals could be clearer. In this case, use what you’ve learnt from your degree to ascertain the best career path for you.

By no means feel like you’re limited to work experience solely based on your area of study. But having a clear idea on where you want to end up in your career will definitely help you decide where to start.


Make sure your CV is up to the job

Regardless of whether the position is temporary or full-time, you still need to sell yourself.

Competition can be strong (especially for summer placements), and the last thing you want is to miss out on your dream work experience location just because your CV didn’t really stand out.

Instead, make sure your application places precedence on your hard-working nature, enthusiasm, and ability to learn on-the-job – and refer to concrete examples (wherever possible) to back yourself up.

Resist the temptation to ‘pad it out’ to overcompensate for a lack of direct experience at this point. Whether you’re still at school, or you’re looking for a pre or post-uni placement, employers hiring for these kinds of roles aren’t going to expect candidates with a full two pages worth of experience.

Lead with your transferrable skills and interest in the field, and you’re much more likely to impress your prospective employer.


Cover all the bases

Figuring out how to get work experience isn’t always as straightforward as doing a job search – mainly because vacancies aren’t always advertised in the same way.

Firstly, ask your friends and family if they know of any relevant placements going in your local area. You could also try asking your tutor (if you’re still at school) to see if they have any connections which might help you get started.

If you’re at University, consider getting in touch with your University careers service, who should be able to recommend suitable companies using their own database of contacts.

Searching online for your dream work placement can still be a great way to find the experience you really want, but don’t be discouraged if there aren’t any work experience vacancies advertised. You could always take a speculative approach – getting in touch and explaining the skills you could offer an organisation could work in your favour.

Remember: If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.


Dig for more information

Whether you’re a school student in the process of asking around for work experience, or you’re at the interview stage for a work placement opportunity, asking questions about what the role will entail is a perfect way to show your interest and figure out what you’ll actually be doing if you got it.

After all, it could be that some placements aren’t exactly what you expect, and finding out more about each one will help to decide on which is the most suitable.

Things you should ask could include: ‘what kind of tasks will I be doing’, ‘will my expenses be paid?’, ‘how much training will there be?’, and ‘is there an opportunity to progress to a full-time (or part-time) position?’

Remember: not all opportunities will be the right fit for you. If you take on the first work experience placement you find without asking about it, you could just end up wasting your time – and the employer’s.