March 12, 2021, by Rosie Pinder
8 Tips for Speculative Work Experience Applications
By Rosie Pinder, BA English second year
Finding work experience or an internship is a task on most students’ minds. This is especially true at the moment when opportunities are restricted by the need for the majority of work to be online. However, in many fields, it is possible to secure a placement even when one is not advertised. This is where speculative applications come in.
Of course, some companies are advertising opportunities. So, it is well worth doing some research into online work experience opportunities listed on sites like Bright Network, Forage, and even the University of Nottingham’s Spring and Summer Internship scheme. For these, there tends to be information about the role which you can use to shape your application.
However, I want to focus on how to approach speculative applications. This is much more daunting because there is no role description to base your application on. Instead, you are basically pitching yourself in an email or via a message on LinkedIn.
In simple terms, view your email as a cover letter and attach a copy of your CV. For more ideas, read my eight tips below for boosting your chances of success. I have picked these tips up from various talks and through contacting working journalists for advice, so the examples are journalism-based. However, the advice applies to speculative applications within any sector.
1. Acknowledge the pandemic
Show that you understand the difficulties and make it clear that you would be very happy with online experience.
2. Find small companies
For journalism, this might involve reaching out to local publications, specialists, or start-up magazines and blogs. These places won’t be bombarded with applications like the larger, national companies and are more likely to read and reply to your email. This is the same for all sectors; smaller companies, while more restricted in terms of resources, are more likely to respond and will tend to let you do more if you are successful.
3. Personalise your message
Show that you have done some research into the company – why do you want to work with them?
4. Be clear
What are you asking for and when is your availability? Consider changing this up based on the company. A small company will likely not be able to offer a six-month paid internship but they might be able to organise a shadow shift or the opportunity for collaboration on an article or small project, all of which would be great experience!
5. Include evidence
What skills do you have and what work have you done? For journalism, this might be links to a couple of your most recent articles. For any sector, it is important to show that you have a passion and some existing experience or transferrable skills.
6. Be concise
Keep the whole cover letter to two or three paragraphs and have a clear email subject line.
7. Be professional
Finish your email with “yours sincerely” if you have applied to a named individual. This is preferable, so try ringing the organisation’s reception and ask who to address your email to if you don’t already know. If you have had to refer to them unnamed, sign off with “yours faithfully”.
8. Be (politely) persistent
If you don’t receive a response, send a follow-up message. If there are no opportunities at that time, try contacting them again a few months later. This will show that you are dedicated and prepared to put the work in.
Even if the organisation isn’t able to offer you a placement, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who can. Getting your name out there and making contact with people in your chosen field can never be a bad thing. Ultimately, what you don’t ask for you don’t get. It is always worth a try!
Get your CV, cover letter, or application reviewed by booking an appointment with your Careers team. Take a look at our example speculative covering letter. Read our advice on networking, including how to make the most of LinkedIn. Browse our webpages on work experience for guidance and suggested resources.
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