Wendi Mclean, Branch Manager at Office Angels Lincoln, explains the benefits of work experience
Work experience placements and internships are about as good as it gets when it comes to gaining visibility in the industry of your choice, and learning first hand what it takes to make it in your dream job. With heightened competition for graduate and entry-level roles over recent years, work experience has become an increasingly well established — and well respected — stepping-stone to employment.
If you’re questioning whether or not it’s for you, you’re not alone. But whilst the idea of working for ‘free’ may not fill you with enthusiasm, the thought of gaining valuable experience and exposure amongst employers most certainly should.
An unpaid placement is a fantastic way of putting into practice the skills you’ve learned at school, college or university. It also gives you a very real taste of different company cultures, and of the industry you’re interested in becoming a part of; which ultimately, will help to inform your future career and educational choices.
You could even bag yourself a job as a result.
Work experience and internships are also an opportunity for employers: they get to test your potential, see what you are capable of, and evaluate how well you’ll fit into the fabric of their organisation. So, with every chance that your placement could result in a job offer, or at the very least, a large dose of real world experience, it’s win-win all round.
Getting a foot in the door
Whilst any experience you land in the world of work will equip you with a very handy set of skills to strengthen future job applications, it’s important to think about the type of role you want to end up in, or even the roles that you’re just interested in trying out for size.
Your next step is to send your CV, along with a whizzy covering letter, to all of the companies that you think might be able to offer you some experience in your chosen area. Remember that not all companies will be able to accommodate you, but even if they can’t offer you a placement there and then, they may admire your proactive approach enough to keep you on file for future opportunities.
After all, you’ll never know unless you try.
But be aware that competition can be high — particularly in industries such as advertising and PR — so it really is crucial to stand out from the crowd. Do your homework on the company, have back up evidence of your skills, and apply well in advance.
Wendi has seen first hand the doors that work experience can open
When you’ve worked hard for your education, have bags of potential, and (if you’re really lucky), know exactly what you want to do, it can be really frustrating when no one is prepared to give you a chance. That’s what makes work experience so valuable: it gives you the sort of experience that employers look for when hiring.
So, if you can’t get a job because you haven’t got any experience, and you can’t get any experience because you haven’t got a job, a voluntary placement could be for you.
Unpaid work experience can be a wonderful way of opening up myriad career opportunities — opportunities that you might struggle to get your hands on if you followed a traditional application route. It’s perfect for both testing the water and for trying out something new. These days, more and more employers are recognising that you may have chosen the wrong subjects at school or college, and are happy to offer you an opportunity to change tack.
Through work experience, you have the potential to explore different industries; and even if you don’t go down that particular route, you will have developed loads of useful new skills. You may even discover an industry you hadn’t previously considered.
Make work experience work for you
The main thing to get right when it comes to work experience is your attitude and approach. With new research to suggest that today’s employers rank attitude and personality ahead of qualifications in their new recruits, it couldn’t be more important.
Approach companies that you find interesting, and focus on how rewarding the experience that they are offering you will be for your long-term future. Avoid seeing it as an opportunity for the company to take advantage of ‘free’ labour: it takes a lot of time to train new people, so it will be costing them, even if you don’t get paid.
The experience will be as rewarding as you make it, and even if you don’t get a salary at the end, you will have gained:
- Invaluable practical experience
- Knowledge of correct office etiquette
- An understanding of the importance of team work
- First hand experience of how to dress and behave
- Essential skills, such as timekeeping and organisation
If you want to learn more about the benefits of work experience or internships, or if you need help with knowing where to start, why not give us a call? Find a branch near you or contact me or any of our friendly consultants in our Lincoln branch:
I hope you find your dream work experience role, good luck.
Wendi Mclean, Manager
Office Angels, Lincoln