Finding Work Experience Placements During Your Gap Year

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In the current economic climate where even top professionals are having trouble finding jobs, the workplace continues to become more competitive as thousands of young people graduate every year.

I you have a clear idea of what you want to do in life (or at least what field/industry you want to work in) and you plan on taking a gap year, it’s a good idea to build in some kind of work placement to your gap year as it will gain you valuable experience that will not only help you in your college/university course (providing you’re not taking your gap year after college/university) but also with finding related jobs in the future.

Obviously certain fields are more suited to work experience and will benefit you more than others, but all work experience looks good on your résumé.

The bottom line is that these days, it’s very hard to get a job in specific fields unless you have work experience. Having work experience in your chosen field, especially if you worked abroad and experienced a foreign working environment is a valuable asset in any meaningful job hunt.

Work Experience AbroadMany large companies (particularly international ones) want their potential employees to show them that they’re adaptable and open-minded. A great way to demonstrate this is to complete a work experience program abroad, as in doing so you will have to be both open-minded to other cultures and adaptable to your environment. For bonus points, take a work experience placement where you’re required to learn/use a foreign language.

To an employer, you’re a lot more attractive if you have a degree of work experience behind you. It’s not as risky to hire someone who has already worked in your field, as they’ll already have a decent idea of what’s expected, how things work and they probably won’t need as much training as someone with no experience whatsoever.

Getting Your Foot in the Door
I have had many friends who, after having done a year’s work experience during their ‘sandwich year’ (i.e. between their 2nd and 3rd year of college/university) were invited to come back and work full-time for that company once they’d graduated.

Work experience placements are a great way of ‘getting your foot in the door’ and working your way into a particular company.

Some fields (such as media and publishing) are ridiculously competitive, but by doing work experience for companies in your chosen field you’re establishing yourself and building up your reputation. Such competitive fields may only offer voluntary work experience placements (meaning you won’t get paid), but if that’s the field you want to go into than it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

How to Find a Work Placement

Being persistent and confident is the best way to go about things, and you’ll be surprised how far you can get if you ask to ‘help out’ at your chosen workplace unpaid.

Lots of large companies have developed their own gap year programs and openly recruit members. These are great, and you can usually expect a job in the company afterwards, but getting into such a program is extremely difficult due to the fierce competition. The selection process will see you undergoing all sorts of rigorous tests and answering difficult questions. These gap year programs are designed by companies to attract the top end of graduates and to get them working at their company before they’re offered a job somewhere else.

If you have aspirations of working for specific (possibly local) companies, writing them a letter directly asking for a placement and enclosing your resume is worth a try, although the success rate of such a venture is extremely low.

Lastly, if you have contacts (i.e. friends and family) in your chosen field, don’t be afraid to use them by asking them to help you get a work placement at their company.

Finding Work Experience Abroad

Finding work placements abroad is a bit trickier, as you’re unlikely to have any real contact with the places you’ll be working in.

A good way of finding work experience placements abroad is to Google local jobs/internships in the areas you want to work in abroad. Looking for jobs at smaller, more local companies can also yield success, as most people simply target the larger companies and forget about the rest.

The USA and UK both have several organizations dedicated to helping students find work placements abroad or at home. Your colleges/universities should also be able to help you find a work experience placement, whether it’s for your sandwich year or for after you’ve graduated, so don’t be afraid to ask at the relevant area.


Related posts:

  1. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Gap Year
  2. The Pros and Cons of Gap Year Organizations
  3. Gap Year Conservation Programs
  4. Gap Year Expeditions
  5. When’s the Best Time to Take a Gap Year?




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