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How to Approach Companies for Work Experience

By Guest Writer

Updated April 14, 2021 Updated April 14, 2021

Guest post: Alistair Hardaker

Gaining work experience alongside your studies is a great way to make yourself more employable after graduation, as well as getting some insights into the type of company you’d like to work for. Read on for advice on how to approach companies for work experience, and how to improve your chances of acceptance.

Large companies typically have a form for you to fill in to apply for work experience, and you’ll know this if you’ve done a quick Google already.

Smaller companies don’t have these, and there will likely be no formal process for applying. This is no reason to be disheartened; you’ll just have to show a bit more initiative in whom you contact, and how, before you can officially ‘apply’. The benefit of finding work experience this way is that you’re less likely to be up against the fierce competition you tend to get at larger companies, and your application will be seen and considered in more depth.

If you find that there is no ‘work experience’ page on your favorite company’s website, use the checklist below to make sure you supply all the information necessary.

What to write when applying for work experience 
CV

When sending an email or letter to apply for work experience, you should include:

  • When you first heard about the company
  • What you hope to gain from the experience
  • Why you chose this company specifically
  • Your skills
  • Your area of academic study, and what level
  • Extracurricular activities and relevant hobbies
  • Your CV
  • Your contact details
  • Your availability – ie. what hours you can/can’t do

Make sure to tailor your application to each company. This means customizing both the application email/letter and your CV. Though this will take time, it’s a vital part of the application process, and will make a much better impression.

Who to contact when applying for work experience 

While nothing beats picking up the phone, it’s best to start with an email. Who you contact is important – a generic email address (i.e. one beginning with [email protected] or [email protected]) is not the place to send your pitch. But if you can only find a generic email address, send a message to this one politely requesting the contact details of the person who deals with work experience.

Once you have the email address of a specific contact, make sure to address the person directly and thank them for their time. An email beginning ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ is unlikely to get a response –the more personalized your email is, the better.

What to do next 

Once you have sent your email, or emails, there is nothing to do but wait. Be prepared for some companies to say no – some will be unequipped to handle work experience placements, others may be too busy. This is not uncommon and is nothing personal. It’s also common for a company simply not to reply.

Although it’s not very pleasant, getting no response is something to prepare for. You can follow up with a call after waiting a reasonable amount of time, but be ready to speak to someone at length about yourself, and be equally ready for them to tell you that they cannot take you on.

If you’ve invested lots of time in many work experience applications, be sure to record all your contact with these companies. This will save you having to wonder who you have and haven’t contacted yet, what their response was, and who you still need to follow up with. You can do this on anything from a piece of paper to an Excel spreadsheet, depending on what you prefer.

Whether you manage to secure work experience after your first email or after your twentieth, remember it’s nothing personal; it’s simply a matter of finding the right fit for your skills, plus some good timing.

Alistair Hardaker is a digital content writer for Portfolio CBR, a London-based recruitment agency specializing in placing compensation, benefit and reward employees. 

This article was originally published in November 2015 . It was last updated in April 2021

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