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Work experience while job hunting

Finished uni and struggling to find work? Why not undertake some more work experience placements while you job hunt. Not only will they increase the experience and skills on your CV, they may also lead to a full time job.

Job classifieds Job hunting is getting more and more competitive and the majority of people aren't lucky enough to walk straight into a job as soon as they finish their education. One way to raise your prospects and gain more experience is to try and get more work experience while you search for permanent positions.

"When you are looking for a job, employers won't necessarily place so much value on who you've worked with, but rather on what you can do with your skills and how quickly you pick new things up. Work experience allows you to apply your skills to real life work situations, and hopefully to build up a portfolio," notes Cary Curtis, MD and founder of Give A Grad A Go.

Work experience may lead to a permanent role

Not only this, working for a company - even temporarily - will give potential employers the chance to see you in action and may lead to a permanent role if the opportunity arises.

"(Work experience) starts to build networks from which you may find a job," says Mott MacDonald's learning and development manager Carole Teacher. "It gives the employer a much better look at you than an interview does and they may hire you if they like you and you've shown interest and initiative."

"Work experience placements help you build up your CV and make valuable contacts in an industry where you want to work. Having internships on your CV demonstrates that you're eager to learn and self-motivated, which are in-demand qualities in junior employees," adds Sachin Shah, director of International at simplyhired.co.uk.

Why work experience is a good idea

You may feel that when you're searching for jobs you should dedicate all your time to searching and applying for positions, but there are benefits to continuing to gain work experience after you've completed your education and are looking for full time work.

"It would help you adapt to the world of work and develop good traits and habits, i.e. getting up early, getting in on time, and understanding the working culture as it's an entirely different routine with different expectations to that at college or university," explains Graeme Parkins, quality, process and training director at Tharsus.

It also gives you something to talk about at subsequent interviews and perhaps confirm why you want to pursue a particular career.

"As well as enhancing employability, it can also lead to a permanent job offer, improve your knowledge of yourself and build confidence as well as help with future contacts who could act as referees, give you careers advice or alert you to vacancies. In addition, every interview you go to for some kind of work experience will improve your technique for job interviews later on," notes Sarah Kite, work experience business manager at Graduate Prospects.

The best placements to take

"Look for something that is suitable for your chosen career path, or if you are unsure of a niche path go for a more generic engineering placement as this might lead on to something you didn't know about initially," Parkins continues. "It's always worth getting experience - even if all it does is confirm in your mind that it is not what you want to do."

"Do not believe that you have time and choice - the longer you are idle or unemployed the worse your CV looks," continues CEO of international recruitment organisation Skills Provision Chris Slay. "Don't be too proud. Getting your foot on the bottom rung of the ladder is better than nothing at all. Where possible, obviously pick the placements that you believe will be of long-term help but remember a lot of skills/knowledge once gained are transferable. A placement is as much about what you make of it as the placement itself, so get involved."

Make the most of opportunities

There are many ways that work experience placements can make you more employable. Make sure you learn from those around you by listening and watching others who are in the roles you aspire to.

Also if you find certain employees supportive, why not ask for their help?

"If they're willing as someone to help you with your CV and interview skills," recommend Teacher.

Want to stay there permanently?

If you really enjoy working for a specific company when on placement be sure to let employees know that'd you'd love to work there full-time if the opportunity arose.

"You can ask a junior member of staff if they know of any openings. Often, if you make a great impression on a company they will at least extend your placement or try to find a job opening for you," notes Shah.

"Most companies will have an internal vacancy system and regular methods of keeping staff up to date such as an intranet or staff newsletter. These are all goods places to find job opportunities as well as through word of mouth," adds Kite.

Also be sure to make yourself indispensable!

"Get your head down and work exceptionally hard - if you get a project finished ask your manager for the next one. Ask who is busy and who needs help, and get involved in as many different projects as you can," advises Curtis.