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When it comes to taking the first steps in a digital career, work experience is a fantastic – and often vital – string to your bow.
But let’s face it, not everybody is lucky enough to be able to secure a three month internship at a multinational organisation. Not everybody figured out their career trajectory at the age of fifteen and spent the rest of their teens completing project after project. And indeed, in a world in which unpaid work experience is sadly still a reality, not everybody can afford to take lengthy time out of paid positions to make coffee for free.
But never fear. Securing the work experience you need is always possible. Here’s how.
Research, research and research some more
Remember that work experience is a means to a very specific end – you want it to help you get a job doing XYZ. By having a clear image in your mind of what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to be far more tailored in your approach. You’ll also be able to identify organisations that have structured work experience schemes in place, and those that have a more flexible outlook.
Treat applications for work experience in exactly the same way as you would a job hunt. Just as you wouldn’t send out the same blanket ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ email to 50 companies if you were asking for a job, nor should you for work experience. Explain why you want experience in precisely THIS sector, and why you want to help out at precisely THIS organisation. Yes, this is a laborious process – but it doesn’t have to be as long-winded as you think. Social media, and good old-fashioned phone calls can be a much faster way of reaching the right person quickly, and sites like LinkedIn are a fantastic way of identifying the right person to speak to.
Use your contacts
Maybe you think you don’t have any, because your parents or friends don’t work in the same industry? So get creative. Ask your university or college professors. If you’re already working, ask your colleagues. Use the internet to research industry events near your home and pop along to see who you’ll meet. You never know when someone will suggest that you visit their place of work, even just for an afternoon. Be ballsy!
A matter of timing
Don’t assume that you need months or even weeks in a particular position. Even a single day in a design agency, for example, will give you fantastic exposure to how a business like that works – and there’s no need to emphasise on your CV that it was a single day! This leads us onto…
…Highlighting your work experience on your CV
Pick out the best bits. If you were lucky enough to get stuck in to a practical project, explain what you did. If it was more observational, and all you did was make coffee – don’t worry, explain what you learned instead!