It’s the ultimate catch-22: you are trying to secure a placement to gain some work experience, but it’s proving impossible as companies choose candidates who already have familiarity within the workplace. It can be frustrating, but you have to remember that employment is risky business and there is a lot of pressure to get it right, so unfortunately an employer will always be inclined to choose a candidate who has put their skills into practice in the work field over someone who hasn’t. Most recently I was one of nine thousand who applied for one position in a graduate scheme, and with fierce competition like this one thing has become clear in my career journey so far; if you want that experience, at first you will probably have to work for free to get it. This is probably not the case if you have a degree related to the job that you are aiming for, but if like me all your experience is unrelated work experience is at least a potential opportunity to increase your chances. I received some fantastic advice from the director of Cosmic Communications who reiterated the importance of work experience to secure a graduate placement, even if it’s just a few weeks, as these candidates were put forward to the top of the pile to be interviewed. She also suggested that you should try to intern at companies which are really reputable in your chosen field as opposed to working for smaller less known companies, even if it means traveling further or having to sacrifice more time.
Work experience is a lot easier to secure, because there is very little obligation or financial risk for the company, and if you’re competent you will help the make the company run more efficiently, so they are likely to accept your offer. Initially you may feel downhearted at the prospect of working for free, but there are so many benefits to work experience which vastly outweigh the negatives. Firstly, you can see whether the job role and company is something that you want to pursue long-term, which is a lot more preferable than beginning a whole graduate placement only to quit after a few weeks when you realise you have made a massive mistake. It’s also your chance to make any mistakes now whilst you get to grips with the role, and you will also improve your skills which will give you that extra edge when you apply for paid roles in the future. If you do well and the company is impressed, you could use them as a reference, or if you apply at the same company for a paying job in the future, you will have that added advantage of having already made a great impression. Armed with this information, I am on a one woman mission to secure a work experience whilst I apply for internships, wish me luck!