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Applying for work experience

Where to find a work placement or internship

If you are studying a planning degree then your university is an excellent starting point as they will offer you support in securing a placement.  

In your university

Your department may have a dedicated Placements Officer who sources and advertises work experience vacancies. Vacancies may be advertised online so don't forget to find out if there is an online notice-board for work experience. You could talk to your lecturers, your university careers department or even your fellow students to see if they know of any vacancies. Don't forget, if you know students studying planning on a part time basis they may be aware of opportunities in their organisation.

Online advertisements

Large planning organisations may offer organised work placements over the summer or Easter vacations. These are normally offered on a competitive basis - so you would need to apply by set deadlines and compete against other applicants. As a good starting point look at the RTPI Learning Partners for a list of employers to consider.

Many organisations will use LinkedIn to advertise vacancies and some also use Twitter so consider having a look at those platforms when starting your research into available placements. Create a LinkedIn account and consider how you want to present yourself professionally.

Work experience opportunities within the public sector, for example in local authorities or councils, may not be advertised on their website if they do not have an annual scheme so you may need to make a speculative application or query. We would advise contacting your local council directly and ask if you can get any experience in their planning department. You might be able to help out in the validation or householder development teams. Information on councils in the UK can be found here.

Networking and events

Another way of getting work experience is to meet people working in planning. Our members are supported by a series of events throughout the the UK and Ireland and attending them is an excellent way to meet people working in the planning industry. The 'Local RTPI for students' document will help you find your local RTPI.  RTPI student members can attend these events at a reduced cost - or sometimes for free.

Don't forget to join the RTPI LinkedIn group as this will allow you to network online as well as provide you with additional contacts that you could consider approaching when seeking experience.

Consider attending careers fairs organised by your university or the national careers guidance fairs that take place, for example the 'Skills London' event or the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition fairs held in London and Birmingham. These would give you a chance to meet representatives from employers who may be interested in what you study. 

Speculative applications

Employers appreciate initiative so if there is an organisation where you are interested in gaining experience then why not make a speculative application.

Here are some suggestions of things that you should do before making the application:

  • Do check their website to see if there is a process of making a speculative application. If there is - follow it!
  • Put together a well written CV and covering letter or email. Ensure you mention why you are contacting them, what you are looking for and what value or experience you can offer.  
  • Follow standard application and letter writing etiquette and make sure you address your application to someone. It could be the HR Business Partner who looks after the graduate intake or the Head of Planner who leads the department.
  • Proof read any applications or speculative emails before sending.

Making an application and securing the role

This can vary from a formal online application which includes an application form with competency based questions, sending in a CV and covering letter to making a video application. Work experience at some organisations can be very competitive and involve multiple stages; application, psychometric testing, phone interview, assessment center, final interview and offer. This can be preparation for comparible graduate applications or could lead to a provisional job offer following completion of your course if you perform well.  

University career departments should offer skills training for this process as well as preparing for interview so make sure you make the most of the resources available at your institution.

Remember, getting good grades and performing well on your course will be important to secure a role after graduation so look at the RTPI resources page for tips to make the most of the RTPI during your studies.