Finding work experience in competitive sectors

Some professions are seen as ‘competitive’, even taking into account the current financial climate. This may be because of the many thousands of graduates who beat a well trodden path to those jobs. Or it might because there simply aren’t many jobs to be had in that sector, but they are seen as interesting, desirable, or perhaps well paid. So how do you beat the queues and the competition?

Read the job spec properly

  • Understand what they are looking for. Check their corporate website, not just the recruitment pages. Try and understand the culture of the organisation. Does that sound like you? Why? Try and articulate this in your application. For example, if a company prides itself on its client relations, show that you are an outgoing person who can develop rapport with people, and where you have done this before.
  • Take the time to emphasise the transferable skills you have which are relevant to the role. If you haven’t seen our previous post, read that first.

Research the sector

  • Really research it. Look for websites, magazines, forums, people who know anything about it. Try and develop your understanding over several months at least, so that you can show you know what the sector is all about.
  • Organisations in competitive areas won’t be impressed if you just checked out the story of the day but can’t tell them what kinds of clients they work for or who their competitors are.

Start early

  • Recruiters often tell us that those applicants who apply as soon as possible after an advert show motivation, and on a practical level there may be more jobs to choose from if you apply early.
  • Even if an organisation has an ‘open’ closing date, there will be candidates being selected and interviewed during this time so the later you leave it the less chance you have.
  • You could ask companies in advance when their internship/work experience positions will be advertised, so you could get some forewarning.

Be proactive

  • If you don’t see vacancy adverts for your sector, approach organisations through speculative application, sending a targeted covering letter outlining your genuine interest in their organisation, and more importantly what skills you feel you can offer them.
  • As well as using the careers service information and graduate career directories, you can find lists of companies through the internet so easily these days, you just have to think laterally.  See the ‘career detective’ post on the postgrad careers blog to give you an idea.
  • Another idea is to search for companies on If you can’t find the company website listed on the directory then just google it. Hey presto.
  • There may be companies out there who don’t have any paid positions but may be amenable to some short term unpaid work experience or work shadowing. Once you have this on your CV, not only do you have contacts but your chances of finding paid work experience or an internship may improve considerably.

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