How to find a work experience placement

Like it or not, work experience is one of the hurdles you have to clear when looking for a career these days. Sophie Warnes shows you how to land a placement

So, you've read about work experience placements, you've checked out the potentially unpleasant aspects, and decided it's a good idea to do one to help your job prospects. How do you go about getting one?

When to apply

Work experience placements in popular industries often book up months in advance – some even a year or two! It’s particularly important if you are looking for a placement that you know might be popular (if it’s a well-known company), to get in early and ahead of your peers. If you’re looking for a placement over the summer, find out who you need to contact and send your CV off to them in January or February. If you’re looking for extra opportunities to work over the Christmas period, then contact them over the summer. They may also give you an indication as to the best time to email or phone back if you’ve just missed out on an opportunity.

Brush up your CV

If you’ve already worked before then you’re halfway there, and you just need to spruce up your CV a bit. If you’ve not worked before, you’ll need to make a CV out of what feels like nothing. But be creative with your experiences and as long as they aren’t totally irrelevant, and they can be used to prove you’ve gained or improved skills, then you can put them on your CV. Think back – have you ever volunteered? Have you recently been a key part of any social clubs? What skills have you taught yourself? All of these things have the potential to show employers that you have the personality and skills to do well in a work environment.

Crucially, CVs also need to be tailored to the company you’re applying to. If you’re applying to different types of work experience – or for totally different placement roles - make several copies of your CV and make sure you send them the right one.

A great thing to do to show employers that you’re on the ball, is to set up a LinkedIn account. Detail all of your experience on your profile and provide a link to it in your covering letter. That way you’ve got a CV practically written for you, that employers can look at and go back to easily.

Ask friends and family

People you already know can be a really useful source of unexpected help in pursuing your chosen career, or even finding out what career path you want to take. Perhaps one of your course mates had a great placement last year, or maybe one of your family friends happens to work in a place that’s similar to one you’re interested in. Ask around for ideas of placements and you might be pleasantly surprised as what a little digging around can throw up.

Get help from your university

Your careers department should have a whole library of resources on hand to help you get an idea of what companies do good work experience schemes and how to get them. University tutors should also be of great help – they’ve been through this themselves, and no doubt with other students too, so they know how important it is for you and they’ll try to help you as best they can.

Apply online...

Some companies will have an online application form for you to fill out. If this is the case, make sure you read the questions carefully as sometimes these are designed to make you slip up. Be honest about why you want to work there, and do your research on the company and what they do. If you get an opportunity to suggest things they could do better, don’t feel like you can’t say anything, but equally don’t rip everything they do apart. Most placements want innovative, forward-thinking people on board that have great ideas and constructive criticism. Remember, if you get the work experience this could lead to a job so you want to really sell yourself.

…Or apply directly on your own

Employers and people who take on work experience love it when people show initiative. A great way of applying for work experience is to find out who organises work experience from their website, and ring them up to ask if they have any spaces left. If you can’t find who to speak to straight away, call the switchboard, introduce yourself and ask who is best to contact to organise work experience. If you call them rather than just sending off a cold-email, they’ll get a better idea of your personality (and phone manner!) and they are more likely to remember you.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Life & Style
life
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
tv
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit