In our recently published Digital Marketing and E-commerce Guide For Students and Graduates, we received advice from leaders at six companies that recruit graduates. From their feedback on how students and graduates can prepare themselves for the job market, one point came up time and time again – students and graduates who demonstrate initiative and have work experience stand way out above the others.

For those looking to get into digital, the question they then ask is “Where can I get the skills and experience?”

The great news is as long as you are proactive, getting digital experience is not difficult. With all the tools being online, and many of them free or very cheap, the opportunities are easy to reach. Below are seven places where you can go looking for work experience to boost your chances.

Internships

The area where many students and graduates might think of first is by doing an internship. Whilst competition can be tough, many students and graduates end up with a job at the end of the internship, or acquire skills and experience which they can add to their CV. In the digital industry, InspiringInterns.com offer many internships in the UK and can assist you with the application process.

Small businesses

Have you ever noticed a small business near you could do better online? Perhaps your favourite local restaurant doesn’t have a website or Facebook page, or doesn’t update it regularly. Perhaps they aren’t even listed on Google Maps. Approach a few local businesses and offer to solve their problems.

Start-ups

As well as established businesses, start-ups are a good place to look with offering help and support. With limited budgets and people trying to do many different things at once, many start-ups are keen to have a helping hand. The website enternships.com offers to match students willing to learn with start-ups looking for help, whilst the British Library Business and IP Centre offers a place to meet those starting up businesses (and learn more about starting your own).

Societies and clubs

Being at university, it is likely you are a member of a few clubs and societies. Do all of them have their digital presence sorted? Even if they do, is the person managing it graduating soon or reducing their responsibilities to focus on exams? Volunteer yourself and get stuck in.

Charities

With limited budgets, charities are keen to get volunteers helping out. Whilst some of the bigger charities might already have paid staff, smaller charities are often run by people with full time jobs and other responsibilities. Volunteer your services in return for experience.

Alternatively, think how you can use digital technology to raise money for charity. Run an event, set up Facebook groups and social media channels to build awareness and gain sponsors, and collect the donations online through a service such as JustGiving.com. Being able to prove you are comfortable in using such technology will help you stand out.

Also, for those with a specific interest in web analytics, the Analysis Exchange links those wanting to improve their level of experience with not-for-profit groups that need help with their web analytics.

Crowdsourcing websites

Gain work from anywhere in the world through crowdsourcing websites such as Elance.com. On crowdsourcing websites, clients post projects and jobs that need solving, and providers can make bids on these projects. Whilst the global nature of crowdsourcing websites means that competition is high and earnings relatively low, they can be a good place to get stuck in and start gaining practical experience online.

By trying it yourself

Even if you cannot find somewhere or somebody willing to provide you with an opportunity to use your digital skills, you can start off yourself. Consider setting up a website to showcase an interest, blog about the digital industry, or try to make some money through affiliate marketing.

What’s your story?

Have you been successful in getting digital work experience? Has that experience landed you a full-time job? Or are you an employer with ideas for how those keen on getting in the industry can get a foot in the door? Leave your comments below and share your tips.

For further information, download our free digital marketing and e-commerce careers guide (registration required) or find out more about the other free reports offered by Econsultancy.