Top tips for getting work experience

October 24, 2022

With holidays just weeks away, now is a good time to start thinking about getting in some work experience in your field.

The problem is that there is actually very little information out there to help you get that critical foot in the door that could help you secure a job straight out of university. Given the unemployment situation in South Africa it can, however, be important to give yourself this critical step up in the search for work. Here are a few tips for finding work experience.

How to get in contact

If you don’t have any direct contacts in corporate that you can approach for help, you are going to have to do some cold calling of your own. Step one should be writing emails. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding people who work for the companies you like, and in some instances will offer you their addresses as well. Look for those in HR, or in the departments you hope to work in and try your luck. Failing this, head to the company website and reach out on their contact forms.

The content

When you apply for jobs, you are looking for a mutually beneficial arrangement in which you are paid for your time. With work experience your hope is to make contacts in your industry, get an idea of what it would be like to work there and make a good impression.

As a result, your emails and any other contacts you may have with people at the company, should focus on selling your enthusiasm, willingness to help out and whatever experience you have that might help. Your communication should definitely not be generic as in order to stand out and make these personnel go out of their way for you, you will need to convince them that time at their company would be something that is deeply meaningful to you.

In order to show that your mail is personalised and not a mass mailer you should address the person by their name directly, explain why you have chosen their company, explain what you hope to gain from the experience and explain exactly what you believe you can already help with and how much time you have each week to dedicate to their company.

Follow up

Often an email will not be enough. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call, like it’s the 1800s and we all live in caves. Believe it or not, corporates are pretty traditional when it comes to communication and there are some things that can be accomplished with a voice that cannot be done by mail. 

Keep a record of whoever you speak to at the company and write a few notes on whatever they told you so you can reference them later when you speak to the right people.

If there is a company you really want to work at and the offices are convenient for you, it can’t hurt to stop by. Even if the receptionist won’t let you see anyone, or everyone is too busy to come down to actually see you, leave a CV and ask that it be given to HR. This is a clear sign that you are interested, and the receptionist will now be able to vouch for the fact that you are real and aren’t likely to be a chancer.

Don’t expect too much

It’s vitally important at this early stage that if you are offered the chance to take the job you immediately lower your expectations. Don’t be disappointed if they only want you for a week or two. Take the job gratefully, knowing that a lot can change in that time provided you live up to your promises. Remember, this is all about getting a foot in the door and giving yourself that step ahead of all of your classmates.

The Fields is equipped with always on WiFi and, being near all major public transport such as the Gautrain and A Re Yeng bus service is also perfect for getting around Pretoria and to the companies you may want to meet with. Having other students around can also be a great way to make contacts, network and perhaps get an edge into getting a placement at a company you like. Contact us with any queries you may have. Or even better, fill in the application form to join our community.

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