How to find and make the most of your work experience

How to find and make the most of your work experience

Author: Holly Welham

Plant on a windowsill

Finding work experience and internships can be tricky so making the most of opportunities is vital. Holly Welham rounds up practical tips on getting a placement and using the experience to your advantage.

How to find a placement

Remember that it can be very expensive for companies to advertise roles on newspaper websites and job boards. Many only advertise on their own website and it’s a good idea to carry out a search on Google, Twitter and LinkedIn for companies within the sector you’re looking at. A lot of places rely on recruitment agencies to fulfill their human resources function, so you should also consider signing up with a relevant agency. I’d recommend a mix of looking on job boards, approaching companies directly and signing up with graduate recruitment agencies.

Think carefully about how your application targets the specific role you’re going for

Do your best to make yourself stand out by tailoring your application to each role and consider recording a video CV to add a splash of personality. You must think about how you can add value to a company – what is it in particular that you can offer them that means they should take you on?

Alex Townley, marketing manager at Inspiring Interns

Find out about the sector you want to get into

Even though your end goal might be working in IT, for example, don’t rule out the idea of working (or interning) within a technology recruitment company in the first instance. You will get fantastic exposure to the IT sector as a whole and will come into contact with a huge range of candidates who are looking for work (against who you can benchmark your own skills and experience). You’ll also gain a great insight into organisations who recruit IT staff and the type of skills they seek. In addition to all of that, you will learn approaches to writing CVs, interview techniques and whole host of other transferable skills.

Be proactive

Don’t hang back and wait to be asked to do things. Instead, look for opportunities where you can help out and seize them. Even if the tasks aren’t set out in your job description or in the outline of your work programme, if you can see a chance to showcase your skills and add value to the organisation then let them know.

Julie Bowen, member services manager at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo)

Make a record of what skills you acquire from your placement

Keeping a detailed log of what you do during your internship – not to satisfy any placement coursework that you may have to complete, but to build up a bank of evidence – is a great way to seriously upgrade your CV, LinkedIn profile and applications when you leave.

Don’t wait until you’re about to graduate to access university careers advice

Get the edge on other applicants and get your CV in good order as soon as possible, so you can get your CV reviewed by the placement officer at your university early on. They will have more availability for appointments at the beginning of the year – you won’t have to be competing with your classmates for their time.

Hannah Wrightson, marketing assistant at RateMyPlacement

Make the most of the connections you make

My top tip is to make as many connections as possible at all levels of the organisation and keep in touch once your placement ends. LinkedIn is a powerful and convenient tool to do this and as they say it’s often who you know, not what you know, that leads to success.

Simon Gray, qualified chartered accountant and managing director of Career Codex Limited

Thanks to The Guardian for allowing to republish this article. You can view the original version on the Guardian website.

Published: 13th May 2015