Finding work experience

Almost half of employers say that is unlikely that a graduate with no work experience would be made a job offer, according to a recent High Fliers survey. It is also estimated that leading employers will fill one third of their graduate positions with those they have already employed through internships, vacation work or industrial placements.

There are two main ways to find work experience: applying for advertised placements, or seeking out hidden opportunities by networking and applying speculatively.

student and employer working together on a projectIn this section:

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Programmes for Newcastle University students and graduates

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UK based work experience


General - all work experience

Take-away resources available in the Careers Service

First year students

Many large companies target their internship and placement schemes at second or penultimate year students, but they can also offer insight programmes for first year students. If they don’t specify which year groups can apply for their opportunities, it could be worth contacting them to clarify whether you are eligible, or just apply anyway.

To find opportunities, in addition to using the links listed under general, you could try the following:

  • Student Ladder – work placements for first year students in a range of sectors.
  • Rate My Placement – insight programmes for first year students, mostly in finance and law
  • Manchester University Careers Service – list spring internships for first year students.
  • Consider work shadowing as a way to gain a practical insight into your area of interest.
  • See speculative applications below for information on applying to companies directly, particularly useful for small to medium sized companies
  • Making contacts – building up your network can allow you to explore industry contacts.
  • ncl+ – opportunities to develop skills on campus
  • External events – can include insight days and events aimed at first year students.

Most work experience schemes are aimed at current students, but there are also opportunities for graduates interested in gaining experience rather than a permanent job.  If a company doesn’t explicitly state that they only recruit students, it could be worth contacting them to clarify whether or not you are eligible, or just apply anyway.

To find opportunities, in addition to using the links listed under general, you could try the following:

Sector specific

Finding work experience in a specific sector is often arranged through speculative applications, however, you can also find resources targeting specific industries.

To find opportunities, in addition to using the links listed under general, you could try the following:

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Global work experience resources


From Newcastle University
  • Vacancies Online – search for summer internships and industrial placements. Log-in to sign up for personalised email alerts.
  • Work experience in the USA – Newcastle University Careers Service guide to temporary employment routes in the USA (PDF: 241.69KB).
  • Working outside the UK– information about working overseas and resources for finding opportunities.
  • Taking time out – gap year opportunities.
  • Student Exchange Programmes – some degree programmes allow for an ERASMUS work-based placement in Europe. You would be responsible for finding your own placement.
Placement opportunities
Specific programmes

Many organisations offer to arrange paid, unpaid and voluntary placements for students and graduates around the world in all different sectors. Some are charities or non-profit organisations who charge fees only to cover the cost of running the programme. However, many placement providers are businesses aiming to make a profit and charge a significant amount of money for their services.

When choosing a provider, it’s important to research them carefully. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money, as they do not all offer the same services. For example:

  • will they help you arrange a visa?
  • does the offer include accommodation, food and flights?
  • will they place you in a job, or simply give you access to a database of opportunities?
  • do they offer support when you start the placement or will you be on your own?

It’s also important to check that they are a legitimate organisation. Research beyond their website: look for external reviews, testimonials and any social media accounts that they have set up.

The placement schemes listed below are legitimate, non-profit organisations which are either government funded or backed, or have an established relationship with Newcastle University.

  • AIESEC – student organisation offering paid and voluntary international placements, ranging from 6 weeks to 18 months, in 110 countries. Includes an application fee to view available placements.
  • British Council – offer a wide range of paid and voluntary placement programmes, or funding for projects, across the world.
  • IAESTE – work placements for UK resident engineering, science and architecture students.
  • Vulcanus in Japan – an EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Co-operation placement programme for engineering or science students.
  • RISE – summer internship program for undergraduate science or engineering students to research in Germany.

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Speculative applications

Not all jobs are advertised! In fact, many people create work experience opportunities through networking and making contacts or by developing their own business ideas.

Once you have identified a company you would like to work for you should approach them about possible opportunities. Send them a tailored CV and covering letter, expressing your enthusiasm for the sector and showing that you have researched the company.

Where possible, identify a contact name to address your covering letter to – telephone to find out who is responsible for recruitment within the organisation or a key contact in the department you want to work in.

It’s useful to follow up a speculative application with a phone call a few days afterwards to show you are serious and motivated.

TARGETjobs have a useful guide to making a speculative application, although it is aimed at graduate jobs, the advice also applies to work experience.


Resources to help you find companies:

  • North East Graduate Directory – database of local organisations who offer work experience or accept speculative applications.
  • Researching employers – contains sources of company profiles and a list of business directories and databases.
  • Exploring occupations – find employer directories for your chosen sector in the ‘vacancy and employer sources’ section.
  • LinkedIn – an online networking tool allowing users to connect with professionals across all industries. For advice on creating or improving your profile, visit the Careers Service.

Visit our Making applications for hints and tips on presenting yourself successfully to employers and watch Finding the hidden jobs video for inspiration.

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Unpaid work experience

Some competitive occupational areas can be difficult to break into without first gaining experience through working on an unpaid basis. Such areas include media, politics, journalism, and the creative arts.

If you are considering working on an unpaid basis, then you may have questions about your employment or payment rights. The following websites give information about unpaid work experience:

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Need more help?

  • Types of work experience – specific advice and information on how to apply for different types of experience.
  • Exploring occupations – resources to find sector specific work experience, scholarship opportunities or competitions.
  • Finding vacancies – see the part-time/seasonal vacancies section.
  • Volunteering – volunteering opportunities and benefits.
  • ncl+ – competitions, funding for projects and opportunities to develop skills on campus.
  • Events – employers regularly visit the University, attend recruitment fairs and host external events to promote their work experience opportunities.

If you need more help finding work experience come in and talk to us - no appointment needed.

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