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Making speculative applications

Writing to organisations who haven't advertised, to ask for work experience or employment can be a good way to secure a job. These "speculative" applications are particularly appropriate and successful in sectors where opportunities are rarely advertised - media, arts, social and political research, small businesses of many kinds.

Most organisations don't have structured or regular internships but may have occasional project work you can offer to help with or be open to unpaid work shadowing opportunities.

How to draft a speculative approach

Research the organisation
  • do they actually have the kind of work you want?
  • if there is a set recruitment procedure they are less likely to respond to a speculative approach.
Be realistic in what you're asking for. A small arts organisation with little funding is unlikely to create a paid work experience for you. However, they may be grateful for your voluntary assistance on a current project - just as valuable in skills and insight on your CV.
Target your CV and cover letter to the organisation and role you're hoping for. See CVs and applications 
Draft your approach thinking about it from the reader's point of view. They are busy people: what will make them stop, want to read your email and then take the time to reply?:
  • Match your tone to the organisation
  • Write to an individual, not Dear Sir/Madam/Graduate Recruiter. Phone and ask for the name of someone in the right department, or find it on their website. This shows you are motivated and makes your approach more individual
  • Be positive, concise and brief
  • Write clearly about why their organisation attracts you and what you are looking for (work experience, shadowing, paid work, project work)
  • Highlight how you could be useful to them. Don't repeat your CV or just list skills.  An offer to work on a short project can be attractive.
  • State your availability - ideal start date and duration you're hoping for.  Though indicate flexibility if possible.
  • Express flexibility within reason - e.g. would you be willing to work on a project basis initially before moving to a more permanent arrangement?
  • Indicate that you will follow up your email in a week by telephone, and then do it (this isn't pestering, its professionalism to do what you say you will).

A speculative approach is often the start of a discussion. Ask that your application be passed to another department or ask for other contacts if your initial approach is unsuccessful.