Studying geography opens up a wide range of careers. Find out more about the types of jobs and career paths that geographers can enjoy.
Work experience is an excellent way to find out what careers you are interested in and improve your employment prospects. The Society has a popular work experience programme for enthusiastic undergraduate geographers.
What do you want to get out of the experience? For example, if you want some experience working in an office, a placement that is not related to your degree or the sector you want to go into afterwards may still be useful.
How much time are you able to commit to a work experience placement – a few days, a few weeks or longer? Longer placements may only be available during vacation periods.
Many placements will be unpaid – can you afford expenses such as travel? If not then you may want to restrict your search to short placements, nearby businesses, or companies which pay interns.
Your university may already have a list of employers who are able to take interns (this may be the first option if you are meant to do a placement as part of your degree) – check with your department or university careers service.
A number of websites compile work experience placements which you can search, for example the graduate site Prospects.
Many employers will run placement schemes not on these websites, so it is worth looking for adverts on company pages, if you think they will offer the type of experience you want.
Some companies will not run a scheme but may offer one-off placements, depending on how you approach them.
When you apply for work experience you should read the application instructions carefully, as well as the details provided about the placement.
Before applying, you can ask for more information on what a placement will involve, although some employers won’t be able to provide much more. You should take a critical approach and decide whether the placement will give you the experience you need.
Most placements ask you to apply for the position by sending a CV and a cover letter - you should see this as good practice for applying for jobs in the future. See the section on applications and interviews for more guidance on making formal applications.
If you are making a speculative approach to a company, include a CV and a cover letter outlining why you want work experience with the company and what you can offer them. Remember to do this formally and with the care you would apply for a job.
While you are doing your work experience, use this an opportunity to find out more about career paths – ask the people you are working with how long they have been working at the company, and how they got into the sector.
Once the placement has ended, you should write and thank those you were working with for the opportunity. This is important to do if you want to ask for a reference in the future. Equally, try and respond promptly if anything else is requested from you afterwards, for example a report of your experience.
Update your CV with the experience and include what you have learnt and what skills and knowledge you have developed.
Assess the placement and decide what your next steps are – do you want to get some more experience in that sector, try something else, or develop your skills in another area?
University careers services and jobs websites have some useful information on finding experience and developing your skills during this time, including:
Prospects.ac.uk – Guide to virtual work experience
Nottingham - How can I find experience during COVID-19?
Dundee - Careers During Covid, with advice on building employability
Edge Hill - a collection of links about virtual work experience
Additional options include insidesherpa (suggested on this KCL careers blog), or volunteering –here are some ideas from the University of Lincoln. You can find more volunteering advice and links on the NCVO website and Gov.uk.
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