How do you know what’s the “right” placement for you?

Big company or small? Local or farther afield? Broad or niche? You may be having trouble deciding where to target your application efforts and unfortunately there’s no crystal ball to say what type of placement would be the perfect fit. But there are a number of things to consider to help steer you towards success.

Grow your skills

It might be tempting to look for a placement doing something in which you feel really confident or have already gained lots of experience. This is great if you are 100% sure this is what you want to do when you graduate. But you might not be so certain or maybe even a little confused about the direction you wish to take or industry you wish to work in. If this is the case, why not use this opportunity to widen your experience or test yourself; to explore something new or develop your skill set in an area where you’re not so accomplished or confident? It will help you to grow and learn, which will ultimately benefit you in the long run.

Remember a placement does not have to be the final destination; it can be a stepping stone.

Practicality

When searching for the “right” placement be realistic about moving away from home or the commuting distance you are prepared to accept. In the beginning when you’re presented with a very exciting dream placement, an hour and a half commute to work and back every day might not seem too bad. But after time it may start to take its toll on you, physically and even financially if you are driving. Think about how much time you are prepared to commute each day, consider your mode of transport, are there trains that will get you there faster? How much will this cost? Then you can work out the radius for your search. If you are moving away to a new city or even country, ensure you do your research about the culture and customs; think about accommodation and how much financially you’ll need to live. Also, remember to think about your life outside of work too, so you have a work/life balance that suits you.

Don’t forget when thinking about finances that you can still apply for a proportion of the student loan and if you are going outside the UK, especially Europe, there is generous Erasmus funding available too.

Do something you enjoy!

You might wish to pursue a career in Marketing, but what do you enjoy outside of your studies? This might give you some ideas of what industries you might like to pursue. If you have a passion for cars and motorsports for example, maybe look into marketing placements at car manufactures or race teams. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore your future career, whilst working in an industry that interests you. Who says you can’t mix business and pleasure!

Type of placement

There are many different types of placement, with the range being as varied as the companies that offer them. Some involve you getting stuck into a project and having real responsibility where you can make your mark, some are very supported with mentors and a fixed training type experience, where others are broad and offer you the chance to spend time on many projects or in multiple departments, learning as you go. It’s worth thinking about what you want from a placement, how confident you feel and what would suit your future aspirations.

This may seem a lot to think about, but don’t let it put you off – dream big! Just remember the more you prepare and the more questions you ask yourself, the more you will know what placement is suitable for you and it will give you the confidence to take the next steps.

Happy searching!

 

My Placement by George Balshaw

sweet

Name: George Balshaw
Placement: The Sweet Emporium
Job Position: Business Development Placement

Tell us a bit about your placement and key responsibilities.

My placement has been unlike your usual placements, with a large range of jobs and responsibilities from fitting and opening a new store to creating an order form for shops.

What has been the highlight of your placement?

Due to my placement having a diverse range of roles through out the 12 months I have many highlights to choose from but ultimately I have enjoyed being involved with the process of taking an empty shop shell through to a fully operating and busy shop. A very labor-intensive job but seeing everything come together is worth it.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The Job role has required a lot of responsibility and occasions when I’ve been thrown in the deep end. Being put in these scenarios and making the odd mistake has been hard to come to terms with, but because of this I now feel confident that I’d make a better decision in the future.

What would you say to any student thinking about taking a placement year?

Taking a placement year whilst studying a Business Management degree at Staffordshire University is crucial because of the following reasons; to gain experience, knowledge, networking as well as interpret business concepts into real life scenarios. Having a degree on your CV is not enough to get you a job, you need the real life experience to back it up.

Do you have any tips to pass onto the next cohort of placement students?

Be willing to put the work in. The harder you work the more you will get out of it.

Placements Catch-up with Rachel Heath

rheath

Last summer we spoke to one of our Accounting & Finance students Rachel Heath who at the time was about to begin her placement at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. She discussed her experience of securing a placement and how she prepared. Today we catch up with her to see how it has gone, what were her highlights and does she have any advice for students who are considering embarking on this journey.

Tell us a bit about your placement and key responsibilities.

I am currently on a student placement at Stoke-on-Trent City Council working as part of the Business Growth team as the Business & Enterprise Support student. Our team works closely alongside Inward Investment, and most recently to the mix, Tourism as well as other teams.

Explaining what I do is always a difficult question to answer because my role is so varied, but some of my key responsibilities include:

  • Organising meetings
  • Assisting in the organisation and management of events
  • Assisting in pulling together news items and sending out our weekly e-newsletter
  • Researching and keeping up to date on how businesses can utilise and improve their social media, email marketing and search engine optimisation efforts with measurable results
  • Providing competitive intelligence to businesses
  • Keeping up to date on local business news
  • Supporting my colleagues with their ongoing projects

 

What has been the highlight of your placement?

Without shadow of a doubt my highlight has been researching Search Engine Optimisation and then developing a report which our team can complete and give to businesses so that they can improve their Search Engine Optimisation efforts. By following the report guidance businesses will improve their website so that it is both user friendly and ranks better in Search Engines, such as Google and Bing.

We have tested the report and the results have been proved to be impactful and effective. I am now going through the process of slowly bringing the team up to speed with gradual training. I have also created a guide for team mates to follow with step by step instructions on how to complete the report, this will ensure that when I leave the team there is a toolkit available for them should they need it.

It has been an independent project, with support and guidance from my manager and team mates. It has come with its challenges, as I have had to put myself in the shoes of the businesses that will be reading and acting on the report suggestions, as they will have differing understandings of Search Engine Optimisation, so readability and accuracy were important throughout. Also whilst I understood most of the research I came across, there were parts that were more complex and difficult to understand, so I would take my time researching and educating myself first, then I would need to write about it so it was understandable for others too.

Overall, it has been highly insightful and I have found it a very fascinating and worthwhile project. It has been interesting to learn how both search engines and users minds work when they click on to a website, and I have no doubt that the knowledge I have gained will prove a useful and useable tool throughout my career, whichever path I choose.

 

What skills have you developed and how?

During my placement year I have developed a wide range of skills, a few of those being:

  • Keeping highly organised – I always have several things going on at once which is why I keep a daily diary on my desk, it keeps me on top of things and I manage it with my laptop calendar which I use to plan when and how long to spend on different tasks. The first thing I like to do in the morning is to check my diary and calendar to see what I need to do and if there is anything I need be aware of that is happening in the next couple of weeks.
  • Working under pressure – There has been occasions when I have had to work quickly to get tasks completed within a short amount of time. I always try to think of the quickest route to get the task complete efficiently, especially if there are unpreventable barriers that will slow you down. I have found that keeping calm and confident always sees me through the tasks.
  • Written and communication skills – I have improved on my writing skills significantly since starting as I have had the opportunity to write a few reports during my placement year, this skill in particular will come in handy when I do my dissertation next year. Also my emailing skills have improved greatly as I send out multiple emails every day, allowing me to develop a personal and professional emailing style.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Personally the biggest challenge for myself has been assisting in organising events. I had no prior experience or knowledge as to how to plan and organise an event when I started my placement, so when I was given the task it seemed daunting and I didn’t know where to start, but by asking my team members for help and guidance I was given support every step of the way. I have now helped to organise a couple of events and both went very well. I can now say I feel comfortable and confident in this particular area, and will happily help out with other events should more come my way.

What would you say to any student thinking about taking a placement year?

Do it!

There are many benefits including gaining graduate level work experience, building and gaining new skills, and also getting a good head start on your chosen career path. Alongside those benefits, you will gain key skills when applying for placements which will become useful when searching for graduate jobs, as you will have experience of writing CV’s and cover letters as well as having a good understanding of the application process and experience from attending interviews.

The placement year may even open your eyes to other career opportunities.

Do you have any tips to pass onto the next cohort of placement students?

If I could give advice to students who are about to undertake a placement I would advise them to:

  1. Say ‘yes’ to every opportunity – Especially the ones that appear daunting or challenging, as they give you the chance to challenge yourself and gain new skills.
  2. Be honest throughout – Everybody makes mistakes so be prepared to own up to them, people will respect you more when you hold your hands in the air and admit your errors. Mistakes are an opportunity to improve.
  3. Enjoy the experience – The placement will soon come to an end so make sure that you make the most of the experience and enjoy every second!

Happy New Year and Welcome Back!

You’ve eaten your own weight in turkey, well and truly welcomed in 2016 and now your assessments are out of the way, so what’s next?!

If you are looking for a placement to begin in summer this year, now is the golden opportunity to get organised in your search. As a new wave of exciting opportunities hit the jobs boards, it’s time to make sure you are ‘application ready’ and have had your CV checked by the Placements team who can be found in the Careers Network (Trent Building).

Next, get searching – use different methods including our Blackboard jobs board, external job /placement finding websites, LinkedIn and your own contacts. Also, if there’s a company you are really interested in working for, but there’s no placement currently, why not contact them or let us help you to create a speculative CV and covering letter – if you never ask, you never get!

Finding a placement do’s and don’ts

Avoid tunnel vision

Don’t concentrate on just one company, set your sights wide. Ok, so you might have a dream employer and you might be lucky enough to secure your first choice of placement with them. But recognising the value of other roles and companies and how they can help you to gain the experience you need right now is invaluable and will increase your chances of securing a role.

Use this process as an opportunity to explore your chosen profession and if you don’t know where to start, why not consider a role that allows you a few months in a number of departments? It could expand your horizons and show you what career is right for you.

Make sure your application stands out for all the right reasons

It might sound obvious but always check for incorrect grammar and spelling, there’s no faster way to make it to the ‘NO’ pile than a poorly written CV, covering letter or application. Ask a friend or family member to proof read it for you. Also ensure you target each CV and covering letter, making sure you say why you would like to work for them in particular and what you believe you can offer them. Using the same standard document will not suffice.

Be passionate

You may have the grades, the skills and the opportunity, but we’ve found that students can miss out on roles simply because they failed to show that they are enthusiastic and positive about the position or company. It might be down to an untargeted application or nervous interview, but communicating that you are motivated, that you have done your research and it is something you really want, can help you go a long way.

Similarly, when you are on placement, a positive and enthusiastic attitude is vital; make eye contact, smile and be generally interested and ask questions about what other people are saying and doing. First impressions definitely matter!

Be professional

Remain professional throughout the whole process; remember you are being watched. A lot of placements have the opportunity to turn into Graduate roles after university, so use it as a chance to shine!

The Placements Team

How to secure a placement – one student’s experience and top tips

rheath

Applying for placement has often being described as a marathon not a sprint, it’s like finding any job, it can be a long process and it requires dedication and work, but nothing beats the feeling of securing your dream role. Here’s one of our Accounting and Finance students, Rachel Heath, describing her experience of applying for placement and offering tips on how to prepare and succeed.

Tell us about the placement you have secured?

I will be going on a 12 month placement working for Stoke City Council as a Business and Enterprise Supporter. This will entail working with the Economic Development Unit to work on projects that will stimulate the growth and success of businesses and enterprises within the local area.

How did you find the process of applying for placements?

The process is both rewarding and daunting with lots of obstacles to overcome for each placement that you apply for, but at the same time you are gaining valuable experience that will be useful when applying for jobs at all stages of your career.

How did you prepare yourself?

I prepared myself by looking at each part of the placement and assessing what they want from each question/CV/cover letter, I would then make a draft and go back and forth to the Careers Centre until it is to a high standard and I am satisfied with it.

What tips do you have for other students applying for placement?

Firstly, start applying as soon as you go back to University! Creating the perfect CV/cover letter/ interview question answers could be described as an art, there is a technique to applying. You will need to use the first few placements you apply for to help build confidence, your technique of applying (including CV writing and interview skills) and your overall understanding of what companies are searching for in a student.

Secondly, take advantage of the great services that are provided for you by the careers team. I was there nearly every other week to get advice, get my CV checked and prepare for interviews.

Finally, with all the hard work you have put into trying secure a placement you will at one point feel like giving up or want to take a break from applying, this is when you should immediately go back to the Careers Centre and tell them your thoughts, they will boost your confidence levels back up in seconds and get you back in the placement race!

What are you looking forward to most about going on placement?

I am very excited about starting my placement and am looking forward to gaining valuable knowledge of businesses and enterprises in the local area and being able to support the Economic Development team with their ongoing projects and help them to develop new initiatives.

What is it like working at the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner OPCC?

DSC00170In our latest blog we speak to Rebecca Dawson, BA (Hons) Business Management and hear about her placement experience.

The OPCC is a very fast-paced environment as ideas tend to change, this has been a good experience for me to become organised and to better manage my time by prioritising different tasks.

What is your role and main responsibilities?

As a Public Engagement Assistant one of my responsibilities is to read different media platforms on a daily basis and input any mentions of the Police and Crime Commissioner into a spreadsheet. From this data I then create a media monitoring report on a weekly and monthly basis and create graphs in order to look at trends. I also assist with helping to organise, set up and run numerous events. The main area that I oversee is planning visits to the places that our office has funded. I organise and assist during these visits, as well as take photos and get quotes so I can write a press release which is sent out to the media. Other day-to-day tasks include regularly updating our website and social media and editing promotional material such as posters on Photoshop and Publisher.

What skills have you developed on placement?

The main skill that I have gained since starting my placement is confidence, when I first started I was very nervous about going to events alone in case something went wrong. I now have the confidence to organise an event, find out the specific information I need and then run that event smoothly. I also have the confidence to speak to different people from police officers to the public and give them relevant information.

From setting up different visits and assisting with events it has allowed me to develop my organisation skills as I have to make sure that I have the relevant information before going to each event and have to make sure that timings fit into a specific schedule. I also had to be organised when given weekly tasks to prioritise each one and organise myself to ensure my work is done for the specific deadline.

What 3 things have you learnt from your placement?

• I have learnt how to update our website and social media which I feel it a great skill to have for the future. I also know how to schedule and monitor tweets using Tweet Deck and HootSuite
• I have gained experience of using Business Objects to create graphs and look at trends.
• The main part of my placement which I feel has been the most helpful and I have enjoyed has been writing press releases. This has helped me to gain better writing skills and to use professional language which will hopefully help me when writing assignments when I return to university.

Thinking back to your placement search, how did you find it and what are your tips when searching for a role?

I decided late on to complete a placement year and luckily I managed to get one with this well-known organisation. I would say when looking for a placement to look early to get one that is within a field you are interested in and has a thorough job description where you will learn numerous skills.

Would you recommend a placement to other students and if so, why?

I would, without hesitation, recommend any student to complete a placement year. I hope that when finishing my degree it will allow me to stand out from other graduates as I have had the chance to gain full-time work experience for a company that is very reputable. I also have learnt many new skills that I wouldn’t have developed if I hadn’t completed the placement including event organisation, website content management and gaining a lot more confidence in myself. Hopefully these skills will help me when going for interviews in the future as I will have valuable work experience to draw-upon and to back up the skills I have.

 

Give yourself the edge!

According to the 2015 report by High Flyers, employers are increasingly seeing the value of a student with a work experience placement.

The report shows that nearly half of recruiters believe that work experience is crucial in the graduate selection process and that they believe students who have no work experience are unlikely to find success when being selected for graduate programmes.

Over three-fifths of the UK’s leading graduate employers now offer paid industrial placements.  What’s more, recruiters show that work experience is often being used like a long job interview with a third of entry level roles in their organisation being filled by graduates who have already worked for them through placements and internships.

What are you waiting for?

Source: The Graduate Market in 2015 by High Fliers Research

Top Three Tips To Turbo Charge Your Placement Search

So, placement opportunities have been popping up on the Jobs Board steadily since October and if you’ve not bagged your dream placement already, you could be feeling slightly overwhelmed. It might seem that knowing exactly what you want/need is key to this search and sending copies of your CV to as many companies possible is the best course of action. In our latest blog Claire our Placements Consultant, explains this isn’t necessarily the case and offers her top three (ish) tips to success.

Tip One: Stay calm and confident

Christmas comes and goes and we find students start to worry that it’s all taking a very long time and they don’t have an offer letter in-hand. Fear not, it is a marathon not a sprint. Some of your big, household brands do advertise as early as October with deadlines in November, but there are plenty after this initial burst, with some employing as late as September. Your big name employers will have hundreds of applications to sift through so will take considerably longer when responding or making decisions, feel reassured, we get very few students “Placed” before spring. There are adverts being posted every day and if you’ve had your CV checked by us and you’re actively searching, you’ll be ready to pounce on that ideal role when it pops up.

Tip Two: More than just grades!

You’ve got the results, the skills and the jobs right up your street – so what else do you need?

Scanning through the vacancies you can see that recruiters are looking for something more – They are looking for passion! An enthusiasm, not only in your subject A passion in Marketing, A Keen Interest in Events Management etc But also in working for them.

When completing your application ensure you demonstrate your interest in your subject. Are you involved in any related societies or organisations? Do you have any related work/voluntary experience? Do you keep up-to-date with industry news and trends? If you do, highlight it!

What’s more, in your covering letter ensure you say why you wish to work for them in particular, what is it that interests you about them? Why will you be a good fit in their company? Target your CV for every application – its quality not quantity!

Finally, don’t forget to demonstrate this enthusiasm in the interview, be positive about the role, show an interest in any projects they are involved in etc. and do your research. Being informed about the company shows the recruiter that you’re proactive and mean business – their business!

Tip Three: Keep an open mind

You may know exactly the type of placement you want An Audit Placement in a Times Top 100 Employer in Birmingham and nothing else will do, but do try and keep an open mind as this will limit the opportunities you can apply for. A placement is a chance for you to be adventurous, don’t discount other related roles, or roles that are not pure Auditing but have other elements. You never know you could discover you love a job, or area of business you had never considered before. Alternatively, how about moving away, or going abroad for your placement?

You also don’t have to know exactly what you want to do when you finish at university, some placements offer students the chance to move around in the placement, trying out different departments. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be your job for life and what you gain is more than the placement itself – the benefits reach much further!

…And because there’s always room for one extra little (ish) tip, if you are feeling overwhelmed, need help with your applications or have any questions, don’t forget to use your Placement Team, we are here to help – come and visit us in the Careers Centre, Cadman Courtyard.