Applying for work experience can be a nerve-wracking experience – after all, you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without work, so it’s important to take the time to get it right so that you can land the placements you want. A lot of applications end up in the bin (or trash folder) due to basic errors which could be easily fixed. Here are my top work experience application tips and some common mistakes.
1. Send it to the right person
It can be tempting to use “Dear Sir or Madam”, but this sounds very impersonal and is less likely to reach the relevant person. Try to find out who you should address your application to – editors are constantly bombarded with emails and, unless the publication is really small, they’re unlikely to be the person in charge of work experience placements. Just call the company and ask who you should send it to. It’ll show that you’ve done some basic research.
2. Tailor applications
Don’t say: “I really want to write for your magazine because I want to be a [insert specialism here] journalist…” This kind of sentence suggests that you’ve used a template and the use of “your magazine” implies that this is a mass email you’ve sent to every magazine you could find. Tailor your emails to suit each application.
3. Show commitment
Don’t say that you want to “explore” journalism as a future career option. This suggests that you’re not really committed and just want to dip your toes in the water. Even if you are just trying it out, don’t say that – we want to hear that you’re dedicated. Feign interest or even enthusiasm, say that you really want work experience with The Cardboard and Wrapping Paper Times because you’ve been fascinated with cereal packets for years, just don’t let on that you’re really more of a jiffy bag fan.
4. Check before sending
Make sure you check your application very carefully for spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors. Get a friend to check it too, because a pair of fresh eyes will always spot the horribly embarrassing mistake that you missed.
5. Back up claims
It can be frustrating to read work experience covering letters where the applicant claims to have a skill or interest, but provides no evidence to back it up. If you say you’ve always been interested in cooking, follow it up by saying what dishes you like to make or explain how you became interested in food in the first place. This is your opportunity to add a bit of colour to your application and show your personality.
6. Include writing samples
Add any relevant cuttings to your application, but don’t go overboard – two or three will do. You could also set up a professional-looking online portfolio or blog and include a link in your covering letter.
7. Follow up
After submitting your application, wait a few days then follow up with a phone call to politely check that the relevant person has received your email. It might be that your email’s ended up in their junk mail folder or that they’ve just forgotten to reply, either way, you won’t know what’s going on unless you make contact.
(Photo by NS Newsflash)