Need more work experience?
Whether you're looking to add some placements to your CV, or you want to try a few more things before you decide what you want for your career ultimately, it can be tricky to know where to start.
Of course, companies - especially larger ones - advertise official internship programmes each year and these are worth looking into. But they also tend to be very competitive and are by no means your only option.
You can reach out to any company with a speculative email, or a LinkedIn message. This is what Emma Rosen, Founder of 25before25, did after she graduated - to the extreme. She set out to try 25 different careers via work experience placements in one year, before she turned 25, to work out what she really wanted to do.
Landing 25 work experience placements in one year certainly isn't an easy task, but Emma has provided us with an email template and top tips for getting the response you want, to make things that bit easier.
Emma's work experience request template
Paragraph 1 - Motivation
In Emma's case, this involved explaining the purpose of the 25before25 project and her aim "to promote career fulfilment and advocate for more diverse career education for young people".
She also told each individual her reasons for wanting to gain experience at their company in particular. If you want to get a 'yes' to your request, Emma says "research, personalisation and motivation are all crucial" when writing it - this means being clear about what you're asking for from your very first email.
Paragraph 2 - Relevant formal experience and/or qualifications
Briefly outline any related experience you have, your degree subject and grade. You don't need to spend too long going into all of your educational and employment history, just include the highlights in a sentence or two.
Paragraph 3 - Why you and what you have to offer
Whether it's transferable skills from that project you did at university, or your deep understanding of using social media to engage an audience, be sure to show what you can bring to the table in the time you're with the company.
Emma concluded her messages by specifying how long she would like to shadow someone at the organisation for, usually just one week, and then:
"Please find my CV attached and let me know if this is something you'd be interested in."
How long should your message be?
Remember, it's an email request - not a cover letter. From Emma's experience, she advises keeping it "as short as possible... at most, half a page or 300 words - if it's too long, you risk losing the attention of the reader".
Who should you send it to?
When we asked Emma how she found her work experience opportunities, she said: "I don't think I applied for a single advertised vacancy".
"Short-term work experience is usually unpaid or expenses-only, and often only lasts a week," she adds, "most companies won’t advertise opportunities at all – it is up to you to take the initiative and make a good case for yourself."
Generally, Emma found most success targeting startups and SMEs in the industries she was curious about - reaching out to the most senior person she could find, who she then hoped would pass her enquiry on to the right individual to progress it further.
When approaching larger organisations, Emma took a different approach - researching people with job titles that seemed most relevant to the experience she was looking for, and messaging them directly.
How many people should you contact?
Emma was able to fulfil a handful of her 25 placements using existing personal and professional contacts, but when it comes to reaching out to people you don't know, she says "it's a massive numbers game".
"For some industries, I was offered work experience after sending five emails or less and for others I sent upwards of 50 before someone agreed. The key is resilience and perseverance - essential employability skills in themselves," she explains.
What if you have absolutely no idea what you want to do?
If you feel you'd benefit from having more experience behind you, but aren't sure what field to get that experience in, Emma advises simply choosing five different industries you've always wondered about. Work experience is the perfect way to narrow down your interests from there.
"Don't worry if you don't have a related academic background or previous experience," Emma says, "go and try them all!"
"Yes, it may only be 2 or 3 days for each placement, but it will help you make an informed decision about your future, rather than one based on assumption."
How do you get the most out of a short-term work experience placement?
Finally, once you get that 'yes' and a work experience opportunity at a company, here's Emma's advice for maximising your time there:
"Work experience is designed to give you a foot in the door and some insight into what an industry is like. Hopefully, you'll be able to speak to as many people as possible who work there to get a good overview. If you show yourself to be a reliable, sensible, competent person and you enjoy the work - ask if you can extend the work experience, or if there is any possibility of it becoming an internship, or even a job.
"If not, network - ask if anyone knows someone else at another organisation that might be willing to take you on. If nothing else, you will now have some experience on your CV, a reference, and a better understanding of what you're getting yourself into."
You can read more of Emma's insights and find out about 25before25 via her blog.