Finding work experience

Where should I go to find work experience?

Your school might be able to offer you placements from companies and individuals they’ve worked with before, however, they might not have an exhaustive list and it’s likely that you’ll have to look for a placement yourself.

Remember, your placement should ideally be near your home or school. If you want to go for something further away, make sure you can catch a lift or travel by bus/train.

Friends and Family

If this is the case ask around. Speak to friends and family and let them know that you are looking for work experience in a particular area - they might be in the line of work you are interested in or they might just know someone who does the job you are looking for and can offer you work experience. You could ask them who the best person to approach about work experience would be and then write them a letter. Many companies will only offer work experience to employees’ families or friends.

However, if you’ve got a work experience placement through a friend or family member remember that you are not there for the ride - build your confidence by getting involved in as many activities as possible and make the effort to come out of your comfort zone and speak to the other members of staff. You’ll gain a lot more in the long run in this way.

Your School

If you don’t have this luxury, visit the Careers Office in school for names of companies that have taken students in the past, and see whether any of them closely matches your needs. These will often be in industries popular with school students and will probably be used to receiving work experience requests and therefore should have processes in place for arranging placements. If you do find somewhere that takes your fancy, write to the contact your school has and explain the situation.

Scouring the Internet

If there’s nothing that takes your fancy at school, look in the Yellow Pages or online at (or something similar) under listings for the type of business you are interested in working for nearby. This is a real chance for you to use your initiative, which is an experience in itself which you’ll need when you apply for full-time jobs in the future.

If this is the case, you may need to set up new links with a company, obtaining their contact details, but this takes time, so make sure that you start planning your work experience early.

Structured Work Experience

If you’ve still no idea, a lot of larger companies offer structured work experience placements to school students, however, competition can be tough. Additionally, as well as just sending your CV off, you’ll most probably have to complete an application form, so you’ll have to spend a bit of time perfecting this, and once again it’s better to do this as early as possible to gain the best chance of getting a place. Popular or exciting industries, such as in TV or film, can be even tougher to get into, so you’ll need to execute your CV and cover letter well to make a big impression.

Professional young woman on the phone in front of her laptop in an office

How should I ask a company for work experience?

However you’ve found your work experience contacts, you will need to speak to them.  Make a list of the companies you’d like to approach - it’s likely that you won’t hear back from many of them, so it’s best to keep your options open with a few, perhaps even more than ten, that you want to contact.

Call them

Firstly call or visit them in person to see whether they might be able to organise a work experience placement for you. If you go into seeing them in person, try to look smart as even this impression will count. They’ll say whether it would be feasible - don’t be too disheartened if they can’t accommodate you - and let you know what you need to do next.

It’s likely that they’ll ask for your CV and an accompanying cover letter explaining a bit about you and what you’d like to get out of your work experience. If you’ve not been able to call them or visit them, your next best option would be to send in your CV and cover letter via email.

Make sure that whatever way you contact them, tell them why you would like to work there in particular, as it shows you’ve done your research and would really like the opportunity. For more information about how to create the ideal CV and cover letter for work experience please see our cover letters and CV pages.

It’s also best if you can find the name of a specific person to contact within the company. Don’t send your name to the generic company email as there’s less of a chance they’ll email you back.

And call again

Unfortunately, you’ll find that lots of companies won’t have time to reply to your emails, letters and calls and make ignore them. Make a note of when you first emailed, who you spoke to on the phone or in person, or when you wrote to them and every week follow this up with another phone call or email. Although this might sound like a bit too much badgering, it will show that you are interested, positive and enthusiastic.

Return to: Work Experience


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