A good start is deciding what kind of work experience you actually want to get! Come up with a list of the different industries you want to explore and a number of companies in those areas.
It’s also an excellent idea to look for a variety of small and large companies, as different sized companies will offer very different experiences.
You should start looking for work experience at least six months before you want to do it. More and more people are applying to do work experience now and therefore some companies have year-long (or more) waiting lists.
Expect to send out a huge number of work experience applications and only get a few responses.
Yes, but how do I get it?
Aside from the work experience organised through your school, college or university, how can you secure work experience by yourself?
First things first, you should have a look on the websites of the companies that you would like to work for, as they might already have details of the work experience programmes they offer.
If this is the case, they will probably have an application form for you to fill in or will provide contact details for the people in charge of work experience applications.
If they don’t, it’s still worth sending them a speculative letter or email asking if you can do work experience. You should tell them why you want to do work experience with their company and include your latest CV.
Try and find out the name of the person you need to contact, so you can personally address your work experience application. Trust us, it will have more chance of being read.
You should also follow up with a phone call if they don’t respond after a week.
Networking, networking, networking…
In an ideal world, getting work experience would be meritocratic, but, in reality, one of the best ways of getting work experience is through who you know. Think about all the people you know, i.e. family friends, neighbours, aunts, uncles, admirers and acquaintances, and see if anyone knows anyone working in the industry you want to work in.
Ask them to help you find work experience. Even if their own company might not offer work experience; they might be able to put you in contact with someone else.
Go to careers fairs as they are your chance to find out more about certain companies, meet their employees and get an idea of how to get work experience with them. Take advantage of professionals coming to your school or university, talk to them, get their contact details and see if you can wheedle some work experience out of them.
Finally, you should get a LinkedIn profile, join Twitter and follow the companies that interest you. You could maybe even start a blog about the industry?! That way you might get to meet industry people online.