Top Tips on how to secure the right placement
So why choose to do a placement year?
According to The Independent, “40 per cent of graduates are looking for work 6 months after graduation and a quarter are still unemployed after a year”. Although individuals in higher education are more likely to be employed than those individuals without a degree, the huge increase in graduates has meant that students must now find new ways to stand out from the crowd. Completing an industrial placement is one way to move from the bottom to the top of the pile, with research showing that, “without work experience, 52% of graduate employers rate your chances of receiving a job offer as ‘not very likely'”.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that many students are choosing to carry out a placement, even if their course does not offer this option. Although this shows initiative, there is a danger of students choosing to do a placement ‘for the sake of it,’ just because they feel ‘they have to,’ or because ‘all of their friends are doing one’. For anyone in this position, I would advise you to think carefully about your decision, as spending a year working in a position you have no interest in could be very tedious and you may not gain any relevant skills for your future career path.
Choosing where to do your placement
By the end of November I had not yet found a placement and to be honest I was starting to feel slightly nervous about the prospect of not finding one, especially considering that many of my friends had already secured theirs. However, I was determined not to settle for anything less than what I had in mind as my ideal placement. Luckily, I didn’t have much longer to wait, as I soon found out about Lane4 during a conversation with my academic tutor who, thought that it would suit me and my interests. After looking at the company website and speaking to a previous intern at Lane4, I knew that this was the placement I’d been waiting for.
Choosing the right placement can be somewhat challenging and many students are told to apply for as many as 20 positions in order to increase their chances of success. This is a piece of advice I chose not to follow, applying to only one placement. When I told my friends this, most of them responded saying “but what if you don’t get it, what will you do then?” and “surely there are other placements that you like the look of?” The answer to the latter was no, there weren’t any other placements I had come across where I could see myself working and I wasn’t going to apply to them for the sake of it.
Applying for a placement
The prospect of going through an application process is enough to put many students off applying for a placement. I was most apprehensive about being asked to do an online arithmetic test, due to maths not being my most competent area and witnessing many of my friends fail to pass them. The thought of falling at the first hurdle was disheartening and for a lot of students, including myself, it discouraged me from applying to those placements involving these tests. Luckily for me, at Lane 4, as with many other organisations, this was not a necessity.
My application started with the mandatory submission of a CV and covering letter and was shortly followed by a telephone interview. Despite feeling slightly anxious beforehand, a few minutes into the phone call I realised the friendly nature of my interviewer and immediately began to relax. It soon became clear that they were looking for a well-rounded individual, with potential and the capacity to develop rather than just someone who had high grades and could easily pass competency tests.
Within a week of having the phone interview, I was told that I had been short listed for a face to face interview. In preparation for the interview, I brushed up on my knowledge of the company by looking at the Lane4 website and trying to get a sense of the company, its values and approach. Feeling fairly confident that I had a clear understanding of Lane 4, I went into my interview expecting to be quizzed; what happened was far from this.
From the moment I walked in the front door, I was made to feel welcome and could straight away sense the friendly atmosphere in the office. Whilst waiting to be interviewed, I soon joined in with the topic of conversation in the office that morning: ‘the weather’, a discussion I’m sure many people in the country were having. Immediately, I began to relax and for a moment I had forgotten I was there to be interviewed. My name was soon called and I was brought back down to earth, forgetting all about the weather and remembering the reason I was there. My interviewer soon engaged me in an informal conversation about how my journey had been and her friendly demeanour made me feel comfortable straight away. It was clear from the questions I was asked, that Lane4 were looking for individuals with life skills and the right attitude, rather than someone who simply looked good on paper. I came out of the interview feeling pleased with how it went and I told myself that whatever happens, the experience in itself had been extremely valuable. Under the surface though, I now wanted more than ever to be a part of this uplifting, innovative company.
The following week, I nervously anticipated the phone call to tell me if I had been successful or not, checking my phone at every opportunity. The phone call finally came at the end of the week as I was walking home from a lecture and after what felt like a lifetime, I was told that I had been successful. I felt both excitement and relief and immediately phoned my dad to tell him the great news.
Key Points to consider:
• Experience is key to future employment – placements are an excellent way to gain this.
• The skills developed during a placement year are invaluable and highly rated by potential employers.
• It’s crucial that you have an interest in the company and what it does when applying for a placement year – this is a valuable experience and shouldn’t be wasted doing something you ultimately don’t want to.
• Students should apply for placements they feel suit their personality and not just their skill set.
• Preparation plays an important role in the process of securing a placement – make sure you research the company and understand what they are looking for.