Think about who you know – friends, family, tutors – that might help you get in touch with someone in the organisation or sector of interest.
At Oxford you also have access to alumni contacts that can be very helpful in this regard. For example, you can contact people through the university and/or your college alumni office and LinkedIn. For more ideas about how to develop your network and find contacts, see our webpage on Networking.
Some sectors and organisations may have different recruitment timelines from the traditional “milkround” (which is typically from September – December), so ensure that you do some research on the ideal time to apply. eg: contact the organisation or try to find out which time of year is best to submit your application.
If you are looking for work experience or internships, it might also be worth contacting the recruiting or HR team of the company you are interested in to find out whether they offer this.
Match the tone of the letter to the organisation. For example, a media company may appreciate a less formal approach than perhaps a law firm, which is more likely to appreciate a more traditional approach.
Careful targeting is far more likely to lead to success than sending out numerous near-identical applications.
Research the role, organisation and sector and demonstrate your understanding in your letter. Allow your motivation and interest to come through and you will stand out as a knowledgeable applicant.
Clearly and quickly establish what you want and why. If your goal is work experience, try to be open to the type of work experience (work shadowing, internship, visiting the organisation) you are willing to do. Be clear about what you would be interested in, but don’t close any doors!
Make it clear what you have to offer them. You are making a business proposition, and must prepare your case carefully and research the organisation.
Follow our standard advice for writing CVs and Cover Letters. For example, tailor each speculative application to the organisation, and demonstrate how your experience and achievements are relevant.
The more research you do about the person you are sending the email or letter to, about the organisation and their competitors and the sector overall, the better you will tailor the cv and cover letter into their language and to resonate with their values and traditions. To understand how much research is possible, please watch Edward Druce’s TED Talk: “How to land your dream job with one email”
You may wish to follow up with a phone call (1-2 weeks after you have sent it) to check that it was received and if there is any feedback.