Work experience ideas can be challenging to come up with, especially for those who don’t already have a clear idea of what they want to do in the future, just coming up with where you want to apply is a big job. You may not even know where to start looking. After you sit down and take a breath, though, there’s a process you can go through to find work experience ideas and go through the process of applying.
One step you might want to take from the beginning is to join LinkedIn and start following companies that might interest you on Twitter. This online course on using Twitter professionally can help you get started.
Coming Up With Ideas
If you’re truly at a loss, start by writing down some of the things you like to do in a more general sense. Do you want to be outside? Do you like working with your hands? Do you prefer working with numbers, or with words? Do you want to do something creative, and would you be interested in something more routine as long as it was in a field connected something artistic? These are all questions that will point you toward career areas you might be well suited for.
Your family and close friends will likely also be willing to help suggest work placement ideas if you admit that you’re having trouble. Of course, you may want to consider advice from others even if you have a few ideas of your own. They may also be able to help you find a work experience position through their contacts.
Searching for Employment
Once you’ve thought of some industries to apply in, you’re starting to get to the point where Google searches might actually be helpful. You’ll want to start looking for companies where you might be able to work. It’s a good idea to focus on a limited number of applications, so that you can spend more time tailoring your application to each rather than sending out a boilerplate CV to several places. Along with making sure your CV and covering letter are appropriate for each company you want to apply to, you need to allow time to fill out online forms if necessary.
So, what sort of company do you want to look for? In many industries, larger companies will have well established work experienced and internship programs that will provide you with good experience and an inside view of their industry. Having work experience with a big name firm can also be an impressive entry on your CV for the future. However, you should remember that there will be strong competition for such positions, making it all the more important to have your application look professional and sparkling, and also to make sure that you don’t limit your options too much at this stage.
Many smaller companies will likely also have work experience opportunities available. The programs there may be less formally structured, but there will likely still be great learning opportunities there, and there may be less competition if you can find that gem that everyone else misses.
You can find information, including contact information, for these places in local and national business directories, or online. Even if their website doesn’t discuss any particular work experience opportunities, don’t be afraid to contact them and ask nicely if they might consider taking you on. This is the point where you compose very polite covering letters describing how highly you think of their company, and why you think you would be a good match for them and would be able to learn from them in your work experience.
It may be a good idea to phone, especially for smaller companies, and ask for the best person to send a speculative application. You also may want to use the company’s contacts on social media as a way to network at an early stage in the process.
Where to Look for Work Experience
Of course, depending on what kind of work experience you’re after, working at a business isn’t the only option. In the sciences in particular, you may be able to help out in the laboratory of a research institute or university. There are other types of opportunities to be found in other areas of a university, at a cultural institute or trust, or even in volunteering for a local or national charity.
Any of these can also help you acquire valuable skills, learn about the field you’re working in, and get a start on networking just as much as working at a business. As with businesses, if you find a likely place to apply online, you can simply call them and ask about what opportunities they might have for you.
Doing work experience in a natural history museum can be a good idea for anyone interested in the social sciences, such as archaeology or anthropology. However, working in an art museum can also be beneficial if you’re interested in the arts, whether as an artist yourself—in which case you may want the insight into how museums work if you hope to work toward exhibiting in one—or if you simply want work experience ideas in an art-related field.
You can also get work experience toward becoming an archivist or librarian in any type of museum. In the letter with your application, you’ll want to say which department you’re looking to get experience in. Museums may have limited opportunities for placement, but they will still likely be looking for someone driven and talented.
For those interested in performing arts, work experience placements can also be extremely valuable for finding contacts for future work. Performing arts companies, such as ballet or opera, can offer experience in behind-the-scenes departments, including marketing, management and a variety of technical fields such as lighting and wardrobe (although for wardrobe in particular, you will likely need to already be able to sew.)
There may even be opportunities to work for the choreography department. Whether your interest is in being onstage, in working on one of the technical crews, or in administration, a work experience with the company will give you a better sense of how production works and will help you get the networking contacts that are so important to working in the arts.
If you’re interested in magazine publishing, doing work experience in the field is a good way to get a leg up in going on to get a full-time job in a highly competitive field. Getting a work experience position is also highly competitive, so you’ll want to apply at several different places, and you’ll want to make sure to get your application materials in early. Different magazines will have different requirements for the application, so be careful in putting together your paperwork and give yourself plenty of time to work on it and get it in.
Another interesting option for work experience ideas is law enforcement. You will need to apply through your school’s work experience coordinator, and if you’re accepted, the Work Experience Placement Agreement they send will need to be completed and signed by you, your parent or guardian and principal. However, in spite of the additional formalities involved, work placement with police or with the Defense department can offer a variety of relevant administrative experience and also can offer access to more specialized fields such as forensics, communications, or research and strategic planning.
Many law firms also offer brief work placements to students at many levels of education. As in other fields, this can be a good way to get hired as a trainee if you make a good impression. One thing you can do to help show up prepared is to take this online course on becoming a legal assistant.
If you’re considering a trade apprenticeship or a cadetship in retail or hospitality, a work experience placement can give you a more preliminary structured look at what an apprenticeship would be like, and can help you get access to a full apprenticeship or cadetship later on. Work experience openings in trades can be found online; you can also apply with tradesmen advertising in your local paper.
If you’re interested in working in the health care field, community hospitals will offer work experience in a variety of departments, from nursing to pharmacy to different forms of therapy. In your letter, you will want to highlight any laboratory work, as candidates who have already shown strong scientific inclination will be likely to get preference.
Scientifically inclined students can also find work experience ideas at a university, whether helping research academics with their work or doing support such as IT. Getting an inside view of the academic world in this way can be especially helpful for those preparing for university study. If you intend to stay in the IT field, you may also want to get further advice by taking this online course on IT freelancing.
Banking and finance, while still a competitive field, offers a wide variety of firms willing to take on students for work experience. Major firms will have different forms of structured work experience programs as well as more casual shadowing programs that you can try if you’re not ready to commit to a longer stint. However, it’s important to note that in fields like investment banking, interns fill a large number of vacancies. Students interested in finance may also be able to find opportunities in finance or bookkeeping in companies in many other fields.
Gaining Work Experience Abroad
Along with those work experience ideas, you may want to keep in mind the opportunity to do a longer-term work experience abroad in the overseas office of a local company, or through an international organization such as the European Union. There are some agencies that can help arrange work experience abroad, although you’ll want to be careful to make sure that they’re reputable before doing business with anyone.
This can be a good opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and language (though you’ll need a high level of proficiency in order to work in a non-English speaking office), and can also provide unique opportunities in fields and specialties you wouldn’t be able to find at home. One of the first things to take care of here is checking on what visa paperwork you might need, and making sure you can get everything in order.
Things to Keep in Mind
As you learn more about the companies you decide to apply for and personalize your application and your approach to each of them, you will still want to get your application in several months before you plan to do your work experience, especially if you’re applying to a place where you anticipate a high level of competition. Besides hopefully increasing the odds of getting the placement you want, getting started early will definitely help reduce the stress that comes from trying to arrange things at the last minute.
You’ll need to be prepared to have some companies say no to you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong; after all, not all of your work experience ideas will be ideally suited to you. This is, however, a good opportunity to learn from things you may be able to do better in future applications. You also might not be able to get a work placement in the field you were looking for. As disappointing as this is when it happens, as long as you can find a work placement even in a less ideal area or industry, you will still have the opportunity to gain work skills as long as you concentrate on asking the people around you as many questions as possible in order to learn about what they do. You might also benefit from getting exposure to a field that you hadn’t thought much about before.
Remember that, even though getting a work placement is an important start in your working life, it’s not the end, and it’s not permanent. As long as you start your search with good work experience ideas and you’re eager to roll your sleeves up and ask questions, the people working with you will be willing to help you, and you’ll be able to gain valuable skills and knowledge beyond just adding to your CV. If, after all this advice, you’re still not sure about work placement ideas, or you’re just struggling to find someone to take you on, this online course can give you some more job hunting tips.