Applying for work experience can be a daunting prospect. Often, you’ll have to apply to a huge number of companies before you receive an offer. Some companies receive truckloads of work experience applications every month and many have yearlong waiting lists.
So the real question is: what should you be putting in your work experience application and how can you make yourself stand out from the crowd?
Where & when should I apply for work experience?
First of all, start applying for work experience at least six months before you plan to do it, preferably even earlier. Draw up a long list of companies that you want to work for. Most companies don’t advertise work experience opportunities, so the majority of your applications will be speculative.
It’s worth giving the company a quick call to find out who you should send your work experience application to; addressing your application to a named person always makes a difference.
What do I put in my work experience application?
Whether you’re applying speculatively or you’re sending off an application for an established work experience programme, you’ll most likely have to apply via email. You should always send a covering email and your CV unless stated otherwise. Your covering email should be relatively brief, just three short paragraphs and no longer than a page.
Wait a second though! Before you even start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you need to do your research. You want to tailor your application to each company you’re applying to, so gather as much information about the organisation and their work experience opportunities as possible.
Find out exactly what the company does and try to find out what they are looking for in a work experience candidate. Think about how you best fit that bill. By researching the company, you can tell them exactly why you want to work for them in your covering email and make them feel just that little bit special.
You shouldn’t just research the company either. Dig deep and identify your own skills and strengths. What is it that makes you an excellent work experience candidate? How will you be an asset to the company? Some general qualities that employers might be looking for are: enthusiasm, diligence and the ability to work well without too much direction.
Put all this research into your covering email. Identify what made you want to seek work experience at their company in particular, followed by what skills and experience you can offer them and why they should take you on.
Throughout your application you should be thinking less about how the work experience will be benefit you, rather what you can do for them. Taking on work experience students uses up company resources and valuable time, so you’ll really have to show them why you’ll be worth the effort.
Other forms of work experience application…
If it’s a speculative application, then let the organisation know what areas of work you are specifically interested in and what dates you are available to do work experience (if they haven’t specified a date). Follow up your application with a phone call, but don’t pester them.
Some companies will have work experience application forms. Make sure you read these through carefully. You should get a sense of the skills and attributes the organisation is looking for from the questions, so make sure you adapt your answers accordingly.
Always keep your answers clear and concise, making sure you answer the questions fully. The size of the space under the questions should be an indication of how long your answers should be, but, as a general rule, most people won’t want to read huge long essays.
No matter what form your application takes, you should always draft it in a Word document first. That way, you can check your spelling and grammar. Don’t rely on your own proofreading skills; get a fresh pair of eyes to check your application. You never know what schoolboy errors you might have made.