Work Experience Ideas
Finding work experience can be a tricky business. Short of typing “find me work experience” into Google, where can you look for that elusive work experience placement? Don’t despair just yet! We’ve got a whole range of nifty ideas for students who are short of work experience inspiration. You can also find work experience opportunities and internships right here.
Not only do you need to think about which industry you want to get work experience in, you also need to look for work experience that will help you to develop a set of desirable skills. That might means getting a little bit imaginative. So where can you look?
Established internship & work experience programmes…
Let’s start with the obvious option, shall we? Many large companies now run established and structured work experience and internship programmes. These schemes are great ways of learning more about your industry and picking up relevant work-based skills. You can find a list of internship opportunities here. Work experience with the big players in your industry will look impressive on your CV and may even lead to a graduate job at the company.
You can use our employer A-Z to find out about the large companies in different industries, such as law, banking and business. However, competition for internships and work experience at these companies is tough. A quick, lazy application won’t cut the mustard; you need to treat it like you’re applying for a proper job. That means tailoring your covering letter and CV and allowing yourself plenty of time to fill out any online application forms.
Small & medium-sized companies…
As well as applying for work experience at larger companies, it’s well worth seeking out opportunities at small or medium-sized companies. There is often less competition for places, although work experience opportunities might be less structured than at larger firms.
So how can you find them? The best thing to do is draw up a list of the companies in your area that you’d be interested in working for. You can do this by searching local and national business directories.
Armed with a list of companies, check their websites to see if they offer any work experience opportunities. If they don’t mention anything on their website, then it’s well worth trying a speculative application. Give them a call (don’t be shy!) and ask if they would consider taking someone on for work experience. Find out the name and email address of the person to whom you should send your speculative application. Send it. Simple.
Institutes, trusts & universities…
Work experience is not only something to put on your CV; it’s a unique chance to explore your chosen industry or career interests. Consequently, there’s no harm in looking further afield. It’s not all about working for commercial companies; you might want to think about looking for work experience with institutes, associations, trusts or universities.
This might involve helping out in the laboratory of a research institute, working in the press office of a cultural institute or trust, or completing work experience in the admin office of a university.
Many universities also run work experience programmes in conjunction with others, such as the RISE programme and the Amgen Scholarships programme. Other institutes offer bursaries to help you gain insights into certain careers, such as the Nuffield Undergraduate Research Bursaries.
Another great way for you to gain work experience is through volunteering. You could take part in an international development project, you could volunteer for a national charity, or you could even get involved with a local charity right on your doorstep. If you’re volunteering as a way of gaining experience, it’s important that you go for roles that will help you to develop desirable skills and volunteer for a cause which is in some way related to your career aims.
For example, if you want a career in marketing, then it makes sense to volunteer in the marketing department of a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. If you are looking for a career in law, then what about volunteering for the Citizens Advice Bureau or your local law centre? Further afield, you could volunteer for organisations like Refugee Action, the Innocent Network or StreetLaw. There are plenty of arts, media and business-related charities too.
You could even work on international development or environmental conservation projects. Always be wary when looking for volunteering opportunities abroad; if you choose to volunteer through an organisation, make sure it is a well-respected and established organisation, such as Global Vision International, Cam Vol or Operation Wallacea. Be wary of scams. Some organisations care more about wheedling money out of you, than benefiting a particular cause.
Work experience abroad…
Work experience abroad is another great avenue to explore. Businesses are increasingly international, so work experience abroad is certainly valuable. Some of the employers on our A-Z list offer work experience in their overseas offices, so that could be a great place to start your search. There are various ‘middle man’ companies that can help you to organise work experience and internships abroad. Although, make sure you always check that they are reputable and are known for providing good quality opportunities.
You could even look for work experience with the European Union, the British Council, the World Bank or other similar international organisations. You could also search business directories for the country where you want to do work experience and contact businesses directly.
There truly are endless opportunities for work experience out there, you just have to be proactive and find them!