Finding learnership opportunities can be challenging, especially when you may seek to complete more than one before you graduate from university. It can also be difficult if you are pursuing a very specific area of study, leaving limited options. But, the fact of the matter is that getting a learnership or two under your belt is a must if you want to be competitive in the job sphere.
These days, there is no such thing as an easy in. It’s true when they say that you need experience to get experience, which seems convoluted but that’s just the way it is. Thousands of people submit applications for the same positions, forcing you to call, email and wait for a response that may never come. Why chase an application when you can create your own learnership and be the ONLY candidate for the job?!
Yes, it is possible to create your own job. You just have to be creative and outgoing enough to make it happen.
Where would I even start?
Well, what are your goals?
First you need to have the idea. What are you studying? Where do you see yourself working in 10 years? What hands-on work would you like to get involved in? What do you need to learn to get to where you want to be? Who are you inspired by? These are all questions you need to ask yourself because they will help you shape your learnership, where it should be and what responsibilities you would have.
After establishing the ideal learnership in your mind, frame it. Determine how much time you are able to commit per week, when you would need it to take place, the top three things you want to learn, what kind of impact you want to make and in what realm. You may have the ultimate goal of working for a company like Nike. If that’s the case, then you know that you should look for opportunities at other sports and apparel-related companies in order to work your way up and network. If you are more focused on attaining certain skills, then your opportunities will change a bit.
Who would I ask?
Perhaps there is a company or group that you’ve always wanted to work for, or maybe a family member or friend knows someone who could use the exact kind of help you are able to offer. You may also ask a professor or career counselor to help you search out the hidden gems. The best places to look are small companies that may not think they have the resources to take on a learner. For example, if you are interested in performing arts but have a marketing concentration, you may reach out to a community theater to see if their marketing and promotions department could use some help. Here, you would have more opportunities to grow within the company and take on bigger responsibilities, since staffing for local businesses and non-profits tend to be small.
You may also think about the people you are inspired by and how they got to where they are. Many of the most successful people come from humble beginnings, having worked their way up the totem pole with lots of effort and determination. Where did they start? What types of jobs did they have and at what point in their career did their true professional self really start to take shape? You’ll often find that they found their calling while working a learnership. Take notes!
How do I prepare and how do I approach them?
Once you have determined where you want to work and what your goals are for the experience, it’s time to make phone calls and submit “applications”! You must, of course, update your CV/resume before reaching out to make your pitch. Remember, you are seeking them… not the other way around. A learnership is not on their radar so you have to sell yourself to them! Tailor your CV to the work you are looking for and the companies you are applying to.
You should also prepare a cover letter, as you would for any application, but this one is a little different in that you are presenting them with an opportunity. Rather than explaining why you are the best candidate for the role they are offering, you’re explaining why you are contacting them, how you could benefit their company and what you hope to learn from them. You may also insert a little bit of praise.
In this case, it’s OK to go a little bit over one page (which is usually frowned upon in the CV world) because you may need more space to explain why you are reaching out to them. Don’t forget to request a meeting/informal interview to discuss the potential!
It may feel a little weird to go to a company that doesn’t have any evident learnership listings and say, “Hey, I want to do a learnership with you and this is what I propose…” but it’s actually quite impressive. While they may be caught off guard, they aren’t going to look at you and say, “um, sorry but we don’t have any openings.” Otherwise they wouldn’t have given you the time of day. If anything, they may say they have to think about how it COULD work and get back to you, because it’s essentially free help. Who would turn that down? Employers are impressed by students who are proactive and know what they want. You aren’t the first person looking to secure a learnership (they’ve been there!), so in all likelihood… they’ll accept!
It’s time to get creative!