Is getting some work experience on your agenda for this summer? It should be, as employers are increasingly citing this as one of the most important things they look for in graduate recruits. This needn’t be a chore nor does it have to take up much of your summer, but using a variety of different approaches will really pay off. Read on for our quick and simple tips on how to go about it.
As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life and this applies when looking for work experience too (or jobs for that matter). You may have been searching for and applying to advertised opportunities already. This is definitely worthwhile, but in addition to applying for advertised roles it is also good to mix it up and use a variety of approaches in your search. So what else can you do?
1. Approach organisations directly
If you have an idea of the types of sector or career in which you’re interested (or think you may be interested in), identifying and approaching relevant companies can really pay off. It certainly did for Leeds students Alex and Zoe; find out more about them and their advice for work experience in their blog posts Alex and Zoe.
How to find relevant organisations:
Some useful ways to identify relevant organisations are to use professional bodies or associations, which often have member directories, or if you’re on LinkedIn, the company search feature and advanced people search functions are both really useful. You can find more information about professional bodies in this post and also links to relevant professional bodies in the careers resources section of our website. And of course, there is always Google or any other search engine!
How to approach organisations:
Approaching an organisation which isn’t advertising is often referred to as a ‘speculative approach’. Further information on how to do this is available here. My main advice however is to pick up the phone and call them initially. Not only is this likely to save you time, but you are much more likely to get a response rather than by simply e-mailing a random address or person who knows nothing about you.
2. Use your network
Speak to anyone and everyone you know about the type of thing you are looking for; I’m talking friends, coursemates, housemates, family, tutors, previous/current colleagues, neighbours etc. – you may be surprised who they could put you in touch with.
Facebook; your unexpected friend?
Facebook might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about professional networking but recent updates to the search functionality (aka Facebook Graph Search) can help you identify friends of friends who work in particular sectors, organisations etc. Try searching for “my friends of friends who work in/at/as [your field/ company/ job title of interest]”. Click on the ‘People’ tab in the results, et voila! Graph search is meant to be more intuitive and make it easier to search profiles on a whole range of different things, and it does, however you may find that to get the best out of it you need to try a few different versions of similar or paraphrased searches.
3. Leeds Internship Programme
Our Work Placement team work with local organisations, charities and University departments to arrange paid placement opportunities exclusively for you as Leeds students. These include summer placements as well as year-long placements. Find out more about the programme and register your interest here.
Volunteering can be a great way to develop new skills, have fun and meet new people, all whilst contributing to the community, and there are voluntary opportunities in all sorts of roles in a whole range of sectors. The Volunteer Hub at the University advertises a wide range of opportunities (mainly Leeds-based but a number of national opportunities as well). Do-it.org is another good place to look for opportunities in specific locations.
5. Be flexible
All experience is valuable; it will not only enable you to develop and demonstrate relevant skills, workplace knowledge and awareness and contacts, but can also help you decide what you do – or don’t – want to do. Be flexible and consider taking opportunities even if they are not in your desired field or don’t sound that useful. Leeds student Jasmine accepted one week’s work experience on this basis which ended up turning into a 6-month placement.
Also think flexibly in terms of time-commitment; work experience doesn’t have to take up your whole summer. If you already have other plans, you might still be able to fit in a few days or weeks here and there; every little helps!