Feel like everyone’s got some great work experience sorted out – except you? Not got an uncle in TV or a hot-shot cousin in finance that can help out? Don't panic, there are people out there to help you! Follow our essential do's and don’ts and you’ll get yourself a placement sorted in no time – we promise.
Work experience tips and help on Plotr:
- Why work experience isn't scary - honest!
- 7 office work experience tips
- How can Jobcentre Plus help you get work experience?
- How can Barclays LifeSkills help you get work experience?
- How can volunteering help you get work experience?
You(th) voice: Your work experience stories
- Rebecca (17): "What's it really like to do work experience at BP?"
- Emma (15): "I was so nervous - but I really enjoyed it"
- Miguel (15): "My school arranged the ISS placement for me. I loved every second of being there!"
Do ask around
You might think you’ve asked everyone you know, but have you really? Like, really? Chances are there are people you’ve not thought of yet. Like your parents’ car mechanic, your local supermarket – or even your old primary school. Remember that all work experience is good experience – so try not to be too picky!
And you never know, doing a placement somewhere that wasn’t your first choice might just open your eyes to a career you hadn’t previously considered but actually really enjoy. And if it's not for you? Turn it into something positive. Focus on how you made the best of the situation and what it taught you about yourself – like what you're good at and what you need to work on. Having this kind of self-awareness, and being able to talk about it intelligently in an interview or in a covering letter is GOLD to employers who might hire you in the future.
Don’t leave it too late
Setting up a placement can take a bit of time, and the best ones get snapped up fast – so don't put it off any longer! In really popular industries like TV and fashion – and in some very big companies – you have to book a placement up to a year (sometimes longer) in advance if you want to get a spot. As soon as you know when the period is that you want to do your placement, start putting out feelers.
Do check out vInspired and the NCS
How about getting a personal endorsement from the Prime Minister on your CV? It's not as crazy as it sounds! If you’re 16 or 17 and live in England, you can apply to do the National Citizen Service – or NCS for short. It’s a two-week, once-in-a-lifetime chance to come up with and run your own project in your local community with a bunch of teammates and a mentor. And once you’ve completed the placement you’ll get a signed certificate from David Cameron. (At Plotr we think the NCS is pretty awesome – you can read more about it in our careers advice section).
If you’re not the right age for the NCS, or you’ve missed the deadline for this summer’s course, put your name down for next year and take a look at the volunteering charity vInspired. At vInspired they have hundreds of volunteering opportunities all over the UK – and volunteering can be a great way to get some brilliant work experience. We’re not just talking helping out down your local Oxfam either (though that would be a great). You could find yourself doing a placement that involves working in music, business, film or photography. To find volunteering opportunities in your area, just type your postcode into the plotr job search.
Don’t spray and pray
It’s tempting to fire off dozens of applications and then sit back and hope for the best, but this isn’t the smartest approach. The trick is to keep the quality up, contact every employer as though they’re the first and only place you’ve tried.
Copy-and-pasting a covering letter and changing person’s each time won’t cut it (sorry!). Write a tailored letter – just a couple of paragraphs is enough – and explain clearly why you’re interested in work shadowing at their company (as opposed to any other). It sounds like a pain, but employers tell us that it’s time well spent that’s what makes an application stand out. Be positive, say nice things about the company (everybody likes their ego stroked!). Finally, always get a person (preferably someone who’s good with spelling and grammar) to proof-read it before you press ‘send’. Do all this – and things will happen eventually!
Do get off Facebook
One good placement will lead to another – and you can never get too much experience. Make sure you turn up on time and look smart (if you're not sure what to wear, check beforehand. It’s bad to get this wrong!). Do everything you can to be helpful and try to remember that sometimes there may not be a lot for you to do. Ask if there is anything you can do, or whether you can sit in on any meetings. Don't grumble – and try your hardest not to look bored – even if you are! If you’re office-based, spend your time researching the company or the industry instead – don't sit on Facebook or Twitter. (In fact, try not go on any social media at all while you’re in the work environment except for at lunchtime). Never make personal calls in the office either.
If you’re in a workshop or retail environment and you don’t have much to do, offer to do some cleaning, clearing up – or make the tea (seriously, it’s a great way to get to know everyone!). Be polite, smiley and look interested at all times and people will remember you. And who knows what opportunities that could lead to…