Create your own opportunity

Being proactive and reaching out to employers can make useful contacts and may secure you some work experience or other opportunity

In some sectors such as marketing, journalism, film and TV, charities and the environment, it’s common practice for companies not to advertise opportunities. It can also be a time-consuming task for smaller companies to advertise but don’t dismay… gaining work experience without seeing a job being advertised can happen if you take the initiative and make a speculative application.  

What is a speculative application? 

It’s being proactive by directly contacting an employer to see whether they have a suitable opportunity although there isn’t an advertised role. It involves sending your CV and cover letter.  

How to improve your chances of success 

  • Do your research. Draw up a list of employers to target and find out whether they are open to speculative applications. 

       Find out about jobs and employers

  • Track down the appropriate person to contact. Call the employer and ask for a named contact; it’s unlikely to catch someone’s eye in a busy inbox by sending an email to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Remember, note down the correct spelling of their name.  Or, look beyond a company’s website and use the LinkedIn alumni tool or  Platform One to identify contacts. 

       Platform One

  • Highlight what you’re looking for; is it work experience or a few days’ work shadowing? Outline this in the introductory paragraph of your cover letter. Or start by asking for the chance to ask them some questions about their work and, if they agree to this (an informational interview), aim to build on it. 

Informational interviews

  • Tell them why their organisation interests you and why you want to work for them. 

  • Showcase what you can offer - give them evidence of your key strengths and skills. Don’t overlook anything you’ve done - part-time jobs, volunteering and societies can all demonstrate valuable skills. 

  • Sit tight. It’s tempting to reach out quickly but it’s better to wait about two weeks before following up via email or telephone to ask if they’ve had time to consider your application.  

  • Persevere – setbacks are normal and all part of the process. An element of luck is involved – you never know, a position could open up soon! 


You can find out more about how to network in our Become Professional section:

Develop your network and build your profile