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The power of playing the numbers game

How to get Work Experience when you don't have any Work Experience

Sarah
Hytner-Marriott
Curation Manager

When Sarah finished university, she realised she needed to start thinking about her career. But with no real work experience, how do you go about convincing employers to take you on? Read her story for top tips on securing that first placement...

As I was coming to the end of my education I was looking forward to kicking back and enjoying the summer, but my mother had other ideas, and quite rightly so. She was adamant I start my job search. With no idea what I wanted to do, and next to no experience I went online and took a quiz that claimed to be able to match me with my perfect job. The verdict: Television. It felt like a fairly good match. I’ve always been a series binger, be it comedy, horror, thriller, drama - whatever! So, with the first real sense of direction, I began my search. The more I looked into it as a career, the more I wanted it. This is exceptionally important. If you’re not willing to work hard to get a job, you probably don’t want it enough to work hard when you actually get the job. You have to really want it, and you have to be prepared to think creatively and be bold to get it.  

There are hundreds of Television companies in the UK, and many are daughter companies of larger enterprises, so I started to put together a table. This table listed the name of the company, three of the shows they’d produced that I recognised (so that I could talk about them if anyone asked), and their phone number.

I managed to find a list online of the top 100 TV production companies and set about calling every single one of them - yes you read correctly! I quickly worked out that getting past the receptionist on the phone was quite a struggle, so before calling I found the name of the HR Manager on their website or on LinkedIn. When I called reception and asked to be put through to that person, or for their email, my search was considerably more fruitful. Thus, my table expanded to include the name and contact details of this person.

Once I had the details of the right person it was much easier to sell myself. I spoke to the HR manager on the phone and asked if I could email them a copy of my CV along with a covering email. I outlined that I was only looking for work experience. Off the back of doing this I was offered 11 work experiences, several of which were paid. I then worked as a freelancer for two years without a break because of all the contacts I’d built up during my work experience.

Tips:

  • Each industry is different, but there is so much power in numbers and networking; the more people you speak to, the more likely you are to get the answer you’re looking for
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative, it will make you stand out. When people asked me how I found out about their company, I told them exactly what I’d done in my search for work experience. They were impressed by my tenacity and creativity.
  • So often people underestimate the power of a phone call, but if you can call someone - do! Your employer can gauge so much more about you over the phone, and it’s the perfect opportunity to sell yourself to them.
  • At the beginning of your career, when you’re looking to build up experience doing unpaid work for a week or two might feel like you’re selling yourself short, but the amount you will learn, the contacts you will make, and the opportunity to make a great impression will be invaluable.
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