Internships and other work experiences
Internships and other work experiences

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Internships and other work experiences

2 Finding hidden vacancies

Advertised vacancies are one way to find work experience. The other way to find work experience of relevance to your needs is to take a pro-active approach and look for it yourself. This process is also referred to as making a speculative application.

Some employers will be more receptive to this than others and you may find a speculative approach more successful with smaller businesses because larger ones are more likely to run their own formal internships programmes with online application processes.

The key to successfully accessing the hidden job market is building and using your network of contacts.

Go back to Activity 3 in Week 3 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] where you analysed what you want to gain from work experience. What types of employer/role could offer you what you are looking for?

There are several useful steps you could take, listed below.

  • Research companies or organisations that sound interesting and have the potential to meet your needs, and create a shortlist based on your priorities (e.g. location).
  • Try to have a conversation with someone who works there. This could be online, through a social media platform such as LinkedIn, over the phone or even in person at a relevant event. Don’t start by asking for some work experience, instead take the time to learn more about them and what they do.
  • Find out who is the head of the department that interests you in each organisation. Company websites sometimes list staff names and roles to help you as a starting point or you could try phoning the main switchboard and asking who you need to contact.
  • Find out as much as you can about the priorities of your target organisation by looking at their website, following them on social media and looking at any job vacancies you can find. What are they proud of? What are the issues they are currently working on or grappling with?

Speculative applications are always more effective if you can make a personal connection with someone before applying. Think about who you know already and whether they could make a suitable introduction. Be aware that people aren’t always comfortable with doing this but the more they understand about your motives, career plans and thinking so far, the more likely they are to agree. The next activity will help you to set out your personal and professional networks.

Activity 2 Who do I know?

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes for this activity

In this exercise, you’re going to focus on personal and professional networks that could help you to move forward with your plans.

First you need to think about what you want to gain from your network, and the conversations you might have with people. For example,

  • if you have a specific sector in mind, you could ask them if they or anyone they know has any connections in that sector. If they know someone, would they be happy to introduce you?
  • if you don’t have a specific plan, you could ask them what they do and see where the conversation takes you. If they have a role that interests you, you could ask them some more focused questions and find out about work experience opportunities.

Next, think about who will be in the different networks you approach. Your list could include:

  • people you know well, e.g. family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, people you’ve met through hobbies or other life experiences
  • people you are friendly with but don’t know well, e.g. friends of friends, colleagues from previous or current employment or people who live on your street
  • people you are virtually connected to, e.g. follow on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Depending on your preference, you could use the table below, draw a spider diagram or write a list of people you’d like to talk to.

Table 1 Contacts from your personal and professional networks

Work life Personal life Distant connections Virtual connections
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Discussion

Did you come up with a long list of possible conversations to have? Who are you going to talk to first?

If your list is short or you don’t find any relevant connections amongst those you speak to, you can take various steps to build new ones.

  • Look at your LinkedIn or Facebook contacts to see who they know or the groups they are members of – did you find anything interesting? (Or maybe your first step is to set up a LinkedIn account – you will find out more about that in the next section.)
  • Investigate bloggers, trainers, successful individuals etc. in the areas that you want to focus on and follow them on social media.
  • Scan key organisations’ websites and try to identify who is working in the roles or areas you are interested in. Could you email and ask to meet them to learn more about their role and what they do? Or are the organisations that you’re interested in running any workshops or events you could attend? This is a good way of meeting new people and building connections in the industry that you are targeting.

You’ll find out more about using your networking skills to access the hidden job market in Week 5.

Now you’ve thought about who you are going to target, whether in response to a vacancy or speculatively, you can start to look at how to promote yourself effectively.

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