22 July 2012 | Career Advice | Guest Author
So how do you go about identifying a placement that's right for you? Where do you start?
The first thing to do is think.
Think about what you'd like to do for a job or career. What are your interests? Work experience is an opportunity for you to test out ideas you have about future employment so you can make informed choices. Here are some ideas on where to start looking for a placement:
1. University careers service
All the time you're at university and even during the year after, your university careers service is an invaluable resource. It's packed with information, staffed by employment experts and above all else, it's free. So make the most of it.
Most careers services have direct links with local and national employers and receive advance notice of forthcoming placements and vacancies. These tend to be posted on the website and in listings folders at the service. Pop in or go online and you'll find details of placements that just might be right for you. They also organise talks with many of the big employers which can be a good opportunity to get seen.
2. The world wide web
Unsurprisingly, the internet is the top source of information for graduate jobs and postgraduate courses. It can be equally effective as a means to find placements.
If you know what company you'd like to work for, most company websites post information about how to apply for work experience. If you're not sure who you'd like to work for yet, web research can be an equally great place to build your list of target companies. Most industries produce league tables or directories which offer you a good overview to use as a starting point.
Your local paper can also be an effective ways of identifying potential companies within a specific area.
3. Speculative enquiries
Once you have your list of potential employers, the best way to secure work experience is by approaching them direct. Most employers are impressed by the direct approach and a timely email/letter could get you on radar just when a company is starting to think about work experience and before they've actively touted for it.
Research the company so that you know what they do, what their products are, customers, competitors etc. so that you are as well informed as you can be and are able to formulate questions to ask at interview. Prior knowledge of the company shows that you are interested in working for them, you aren't just trying to get any placement.
Be able to answer the question ‘Why do you want to work for this company?’ A short CV or resume will also give you the opportunity to put down your hobbies and interests and often interviewers will ask about these to get an impression of whether you will fit in with the existing team.
Follow up with a phone call to make sure they've received your email/letter and scope out their interest.
Talk to family and friends. Finding out what other people do can help you figure out your own direction so ask people you know about their jobs. Do they enjoy it? Why? What are the best, and worst, things about their job? How did they get their big career break?
If you already know what you want to do, the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find people doing the same thing. They will be able to give you advice and help build you a picture of the industry you're interested in, perhaps highlighting information you hadn't thought about. Crucially, they may also have contacts they can use to help you get a foot in the door.