When you are looking to find work experience or your graduate role, one of your starting points will be to identify as many openings as possible (within your target area). Some estimates suggest that 60 – 70% of positions are not advertised. For some sectors like politics, arts, advertising, marketing, media, charity and non-governmental organisations, this can be even higher.
Smaller sized organisations without formal internship or graduate programmes may not even know that they want the benefits that a student / graduate can bring, unless you give them a reason to think about it. It is these small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are often the most open to speculative applications. Passively waiting for jobs to be advertised will therefore limit your opportunities. You are only tapping into a limited part of the job market and that being the one that all those other people will be competing for as well.
So, what could you do? Speculative applications
Making a speculative application means getting in touch with an organisation to ask whether they have a suitable opportunity for you, even though they have not advertised anything. Speculative approaches can be a great way of getting your foot in the door, particularly in competitive industries. Demonstrating dedication and a proactive approach can be attractive to recruiters. Making contact with recruiters can lead to:
- temporary or permanent work
- internships or work shadowing opportunities
- increased business connections.
Even if an opportunity is not available now, your positive approach may impress the employer and they may bear you in mind for future vacancies.
Good speculative applications
The power of speculative applications comes from tailoring them to your target organisation and demonstrating that your research and motivations align with them. Like any good application, you should also demonstrate how you can be part of and add value to their organisation.
Show you know what the organisation does and what you can offer them. Look at any current vacancies they have, the job or person specification and also look on the company website to find out how the organisation operates: what projects is it working on? Are there any plans for growth or expansion for example ? Follow the organisation’s social media channels to keep up to date with the company’s current events and activities. All this can help you work out the skills that they may be looking for and the different types of roles or areas of work that opportunities may be available in.
This can be important as you want to be clear on what you’re asking for. Is it an internship, or a job you are applying for? If this is your first experience within a sector you may even find it useful to ask for work shadowing experience (something that is extremely rarely advertised). Make it easy for the individual reading your speculative application to know how they could make best use of you. If you’re too vague there’s a risk they won’t know what would be most appropriate for you. Be clear on elements such as when you will be available. But don’t be overly rigid either, as you need to be open to what they may be able to offer
But ultimately remember that you need to set out what you can do for them, not just what you want from them!
Who should I send this too?
HR or the recruitment team are not always the best place to start as they will mainly focus on the opportunities that have already been identified, whereas the potential line manager or head of the unit/operational area may realise the opportunity that you offer and can advocate for the creation of a role or experience for you. In order to reach somebody with hiring authority, make sure you send your application to a named contact. First place to look for this is the company website then try searching LinkedIn or make a phone call to ask who is in charge of recruitment.
Don’t be afraid to politely follow up
Sometimes you may get an immediate response (probably not!) but if you haven’t heard in a couple of weeks then very politely follow up, asking if they’ve had time to look at your application. If you still don’t hear from them then probably move on. Do not to get too disheartened by this, remember they did not advertise anything so simply may not be hiring at this time, but you never know when they do they may remember you!
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