How to get work experience
28 July 2021
Starting a new career in financial services means studying for qualifications or possibly enrolling on a financial services apprenticeship. But work experience can also play an important role in the process.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how work experience works and how to find work experience placements.
How does work experience work?
Work experience means spending time in a workplace learning about the role, company and industry. It lets you make sure that the career you’ve chosen is right for you, and it’s also a great way to build confidence and experience and impress future employers. And it’s particularly useful for people who are looking to get back into work after a long period of time.
Work experience is usually a placement with an employer lasting between a week and 12 months. They’re often taken as an integral part of a course, whereas an internship is usually undertaken either in the summer break or after graduation from college or university.
The work you’ll carry out will vary depending on the workplace and the duration of the placement. Initially you’ll probably spend time observing or ‘shadowing’ someone, as well as assisting with everyday duties and tasks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to organise traditional work experience, and so many are now looking for online or virtual work experience ideas. As long as you have access to a laptop and the internet, you’ll be able to complete a virtual work experience placement from home. Remote work experience also opens up the possibility of working with organisations from further afield than if you have to travel to the office.
How to look for work experience
If you have enrolled on a course which includes work experience, the placement may be organised for you. If not, you’ll have to arrange your own work experience placement. The organisation running your course may have a database of local companies who are willing to offer placements, or you may have access to a careers adviser who can help.
Your next option is to speak to family, friends and colleagues to see if they know anyone who may be able to help. A personal introduction like this can be very helpful. You could also try searching online for phrases like “work experience near me”, or searching for employers through LinkedIn or Twitter. This will let you keep up to date with the company and potentially approach them about a placement. Make sure that you do this in a professional manner and that your online profile reflects the image that you’d want a potential employer to see.
Small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are often good places to do work experience. Big companies tend to have more formal processes for advertising internships and work placements, whereas SMEs are generally more flexible and open to speculative applications.
And if you’re struggling to arrange a work experience placement due to the pandemic, it’s worth looking into virtual work experience as well.
How to ask for work experience
Finding work experience is a similar process to finding a job, and a lot of the same principles apply.
It’s better to address your request to a named person rather than sending out a generic application, to show that you have a real interest in the company. So phone or email the company to get the contact details of the best person to approach, often it will be someone in HR or recruitment.
Once you have the correct contact details, send over your up-to-date CV with a cover letter. Try to tailor your CV for work experience so that it reflects what the company does, and you should try to demonstrate that you have some relevant skills and experience.
Your email or letter should introduce yourself briefly, explain what work experience you require and why, and thank them for their time and consideration.
It’s important to be clear about the sort of work experience you’re seeking, but be prepared to be flexible. If you’re sending in a speculative letter for work experience, you may need to convince the organisation that it will benefit them to create an opportunity for you.
Always use a professional tone and check carefully for spelling and grammar errors.
If you haven’t heard anything from the company within two weeks, follow up with an email or phone call. Be professional and polite, and don’t take it personally if you don’t get the answer you were hoping for. Use it as a learning experience to help you improve your next application.
Finding work experience isn’t always easy, but with perseverance you should be able to find a work experience placement to help you progress towards your career goals.