How To Get Work Experience When You Don't Have Work Experience

Why must life be so difficult for students and graduates?

​We expected that you'd need work experience to get a graduate job, but nobody warned us that you needed work experience to get work experience! This seemingly inescapable Catch 22 is the bane of students and graduates' lives up and down the country. So what can you do about it?

Well, we recommend the multi-pronged approach - using several of the avenues suggested below to get work experience will be far more effective than just one. So, without further ado, here is the GradTouch guide on how to get work experience when you don't have any...

1. Have a 'Master Plan'

If you need work experience to get work experience you'll have to start from the bottom, which means that, for your own sanity as much as anything, it’s handy to have a view of the bigger picture. So how do you make a Master Plan?!

We've only gone and done it for you! Find out how it works and how it will help by downloading yours, for free, HERE.

Building on each placement to get more work experience means you will steadily progress towards your goal. It might sound long winded but you'll find that once you start the ball rolling, you'll reach that top tier much sooner than expected.

2. Get on it

If you are still at university, make sure you use your long holidays to get work experience, this will put you ahead of the game.

If you’ve graduated, don’t panic! There is still time. Just make sure you start looking for work experience placements a good few months before you want to do them.

3. Look for quality

Make sure you choose something that you are really benefiting from. Don’t just go for any old thing; your time is precious and you need to use it wisely. This is particularly important now that the vast majority of work experience is unpaid. Look at the list of skills you are hoping to achieve and choose work experience accordingly. ALWAYS ask your potential employer what work experience with them will involve and always keep in mind your Master Plan.

4. Ask friends and family

Don’t be too proud to use your connections. Perhaps one of your course mates had a great placement last year and they could speak to their ex-manager for you? Maybe one of your family friends works in an industry that you are interested in? Ask around and you might be pleasantly surprised at what turns up!

5. Don’t be shy; showcase your skills

If you're struggling to get work experience, it could be because you’re applying for something that you don’t yet have the skills or experience for. Or maybe you do have the skills but just aren't showing them off enough!

If you've already worked before then you’re halfway there. A job is a job. Whether you are setting your sights on law, engineering, accountancy, medicine or the media; the knowledge, experience and transferable skills that you will gain by having a job in a café, a clothes shop or one off catering jobs are valuable. Make sure you showcase all of these skills when applying for work experience.

If you haven't worked before, you may feel like you have nothing to show. But be creative with your experiences. Think back – have you ever volunteered? Have you recently been a part of any societies? What skills have you taught yourself? All of these things show skills that you will need to do well in a work environment.

Rack your brain. Ask your family or friends if they can think of anything else you have done which should be included. Make sure you squeeze out every last drop of experience you have had and put them on your CV.

6. Go for the underdog

It’s tempting to apply for the most well-known internships at the biggest companies but if you're thinking that, there is a good chance everyone else is too! Why not apply to smaller companies in which the competition will be less fierce and you’ll stand more chance of being successful. You’ll get all sorts of other perks of working at a small company such as more flexibility and responsibility. See our article Size Doesn't Matter for more info!

7. Speculate to accumulate

​Sending out speculative covering letters and CVs to companies you are interested in can be very effective, particularly with smaller companies that may not advertise their opportunities. Here are a few tips on how to go about this:

 Calling and emailing are the two main ways to initiate a speculative application. Either is fine. If you think you have a good phone manner, go for an initial call - it gives you a chance to show off your communication skills. If not go for an email, but you’ll need to follow it up in a few days, unfortunately emails are far too easy to ignore! Expect some rebuffs, and don’t take it personally.

● Find a named contact at the company. Whether you are emailing or calling, it’s much better to have a name than go in blind. You can do this by searching the Internet or ringing the HR department (for larger companies) or the general office number and ask who would be the best person to contact regarding work experience.

● Tailor it to within an inch of its life! This is more important than ever when applying speculatively. Adjust both your cover letter and your CV to reflect the company you are applying to. Click on these links to find out more about how to write a great cover letter and a cracking CV

8. Register at GradTouch

We're not all about grad schemes and permanent positions here at GradTouch. In fact, we advertise a whole host of internships and work experiences that you can do out and about AND remotely from the comfort of your own home! Simply sign up HERE to access them all!

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