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Gaining experience

Recruitment and HR

Competition for jobs in this sector is high and work experience could be the deciding factor to securing a graduate job. Undertaking work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and the all-important transferable skills, which will help you demonstrate your motivation and commitment to this area of work.

However, finding experience will take time and effort; employers receive many CVs every week so you will have to work hard to stand out from the crowd. You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV in our complete CV guide.

The key to success is to prepare thoroughly, do your research and organise your experience in good time. Think about small and medium size companies as well as large organisations.


Types of Opportunities

Below are some examples of the different types of opportunities to gain experience while you study.

Placements will give you a long-term look at an organisation, and help you to build contacts and experience.

On some degrees, work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Should you choose to undertake either your first point of contact is your placement office in your Faculty.

Learn more about taking a placement


You can also choose to take a Self-Employed Placement. This allows you to work for yourself during your placement year and receive support from the University's Student Startup Team. You will have access to funding opportunities, networking events and workshops.

Learn more about Self-Employed Placements

Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.

Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.

Volunteer to get practical experience

Approaching local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills is one way of gaining that all-important experience. The competencies developed will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make.

The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.

Examples of Recruitment and HR related support roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for include:

  • Trainee Generalist Adviser Volunteer with Citizens Advice – interviewing clients, negotiating, drafting or writing letters, completing clear and accurate case records, acting where necessary, on behalf of the client.
  • Volunteer Coordinator with Citizens Advice Portsmouth – managing volunteers, agreeing work roles, individual duties and working arrangements with each volunteer. Coordinating the induction programme and training.
  • Reception Volunteer with Age UK Portsmouth – delivering excellent customer service to effectively support service users through providing general guidance and signposting individuals to relevant services and products.
  • Administration Volunteer with The Roberts Centre – assisting with a variety of administrative tasks, including data inputting, statistics collection and inputting and dealing with enquiries over the telephone.

Learn more about our Volunteering Team

Internships are usually for a fixed period and give you more hands-on experience. Many employers will treat interns in the same way as full-time employees, so when future job roles ask for 'at least one year's experience' you can include an internship in this type of experience.

Think about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who may well not advertise formal work experience placements, and it is worth considering a speculative approach to enquire about possible opportunities to gain experience.

Be proactive and try to gather inspiration and ideas from the world around you: join industry clusters and attend networking events. This is a great way to meet people working in the creative industries and will help you with your networking skills. LinkedIn is a useful platform to network with sector employers.

Visit our LinkedIn Guide

You can also speak to your tutors about potential contacts and opportunities for work experience over the Easter period or summer vacation. 

If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the voluntary work experience section of our website.

How to approach employers directly

When you approach an employer directly, you send them a speculative application. Speculative applications involve sending a CV and cover letter to an employer to ask if they can offer any work experience, even if the company is not currently advertising placements or internships.

Submitting a speculative application shows your interest in a specific company and your willingness to go above and beyond to develop your skills and understanding of the industry. 

Learn how to send a speculative application

Placement Students Photos - Alan Johann Mayer

Tips to build experience

  • Get involved in relevant university societies or external groups where you can practice and develop the transferable skills relevant to a recruitment or HR role or take on HR-related tasks.
  • Research opportunities to mentor as a volunteer, this is excellent experience and will provide great examples of skills that are required for roles in the sector.
  • Be proactive and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively; send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our Networking with Social Media section for further guidance.
  • If you wish to instigate voluntary work experience during the vacation periods please refer to the 'External sites' on the voluntary work experience section of our website.

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