Whether it is for school, university or for a CV boost, most of us will have to do a work placement/internship at some point in our lives. Though the lack of pay might make it seem like a bit of a chore, it is a great way to gain experience in your chosen field. So, how do you find and secure the placement that is right for YOU?
What do you want from your placement?
This is an important question to ask yourself. Why do you want to do this placement? If you are looking for a CV boost you might want to look in to applying with the big companies in your field. For media (my field), examples would be; BBC(TV, news), Cosmo(mag, fashion) or Saatchi and Saatchi(PR/Comms). Though any of those would make a CV look good, they might not offer as much hands on experience as a smaller company, so if you are really looking to learn, consider a smaller company. Fewer employees makes you more memorable and small businesses (at least in media) are often run by people who have been through bigger companies and will help you out with contacts and networking. Bottom line, go big or go home does not apply here, decide weather experience or CV boost is more important and consider whether a placement in a smaller business could offer both.
How to apply, what to write
Choose the place you wish to work for, I found my company using Google! If you have ‘a foot in the door’ anywhere (your uncle’s friend works at The Independent) do not be afraid to ‘exploit’ that – remember that in the real world it is not WHAT you know that matters, it is WHO you know.
Once you have decided where you wish to go, either email their general email, or phone them to ask who you should contact regarding placements. In that email, you should put who you are and a quick to-the-point cover letter and a CV – remember to sell your self and also; SPELL CHECK. Remember to write when you are looking to do your placement (not exact dates, be flexible).
This one is a bit obvious, but still relevant. There are thousands of people willing to labour away for free and competition is fierce so apply for your relevant placement at least four months in advance, if not earlier. This is especially relevant if you want to work with well known businesses. If you failed to apply early, all is not lost – plenty of places need last minute help or are happy to take on interns at any time so keep trying!
Once you’ve applied, follow up with friendly emails and phone calls, a great rule of thumb is to give your employer one work week to get back to you, after that you should chase them up.
Time and time again, I have watched people my age reach for the stars only to have their dream crushed by this ‘funny little thing’ called reality. Are you doing media studies and want to go into war reporting later in life – that’s great, but for a work placement you need to choose something more suitable as you probably wont have time or money to do hostile training.
Work placements are great fun, be positive and GOOD LUCK! I know it is hard to find a good one, but keep trying. Remind yourself why you are AMAZING and use that to convince an employer.
If anyone is interested in doing media and communications related work experience in beautiful Cornwall, I would strongly recommend getting in touch with Excess Energy – they are an amazing PR and Comms company located in Newquay. Seriously, they are awesome!