Applying for a work placement
A year-in-industry student’s perspective.
Owen and Izzy, who are currently taking their year in industry with Liquid, discuss the journey of applying for a placement and share their tips for the application stages.
Whilst a placement year is being offered with many university courses, a few students are still struggling to see why they should adopt the additional workload of applying for a year in industry. The application process can be perceived as time-consuming and filled with multiple stages, along with the occasional horror story about assessment centres, but this shouldn’t discourage potential applicants.
A year in industry can offer a fantastic way to develop the skills needed, in both a graduate role and in an academic format. Additionally, networking and lining up a future job role are also great benefits of undertaking a placement year.
The importance of placements and networking is highlighted by the success rate of graduates securing roles, with 59% of those hired by Prospects’ Top Undergraduate Employers having previously held a placement or internship. Furthermore, in industries such as banking and finance, the retention levels of placement students are incredibly high, at around 83%.
However, gaining a year in industry isn’t the be-all and end-all; the application process itself can help to develop vital skills needed in graduate roles. Learning how to interview well, performing at assessment centres, and writing differentiating cover letters are important capabilities to attain when exploring possible future career paths.
Wondering whether applying is worth it? Even if you’re not 100% sure that the job is right for you, it’s always worth submitting that extra application. You never know how you might feel when you meet someone from the company, or how your perceptions might change when you are shown around the office, there is always the opportunity to withdraw the application later on.
How to prepare at university.
Universities understand how challenging the application process for a placement can be and provide students with training to help prepare them. As well as preparation modules run by the universities, it is also important for students to look at where there may be extra support to help them through the application process.
Initially, there may be a Careers Hub at the university. These are usually operations that employ students who have already been on a placement or university graduates who are trained in helping people find jobs. This could be through providing advice on different industries, helping with a CV, or chatting about their experiences. Ultimately, they are there to support you, and seeking their advice will help to make your application stand out.
Expanding your skill set outside of university modules is also critical to enhancing your application. Not only can gaining a committee role in a society be fun, it can also provide the opportunity to develop competencies in public speaking, event organising, social media management and many other areas. Furthermore, being a part of a society provides an opportunity to explore interests and provide a useful talking point during interviews.
Join a society that you are interested in regardless of its relation to what you might want to do professionally. Being able to passionately talk about any kind of responsibility in an interview is great – it shows you went out of your way to do more than just study during your time in higher education.
Application forms, interviews and assessment centres.
Perhaps the most daunting task within the application process are interviews and assessment centres, but with the right preparation, there is the opportunity to have a great day and secure the placement you want.
Although there’s a lot of academic preparation for the application process, it’s also important to focus on personal preparation. First impressions with the employer are vital, whether that’s through your CV and cover letter or at an interview. Learning to present yourself in a professional and courteous manner is crucial to securing a job.
Make sure you have proofread your CV and always take a copy to an interview. If it’s not needed then you can just put it in your bag, but if someone asks you to talk through it or if they have forgotten a copy, it’s great to be the most prepared in the room.
Assessment centres and interviews are a great opportunity to gain real insight as to how your day-to-day would be in that job. It is important to remember that it is just as much an opportunity for you to explore and find out about the company, as it is for them to find out about you. Make sure you know the company inside out before you go in, read about their latest appearances in the news, memorise a few of their products/services and their social media styles. Showing a genuine interest in a company will help you stand out as an applicant.
Learn from every interview, application form and assessment centre – there is no such thing as a pointless interview! Even if you feel like the meeting went terribly, look back over what happened, see where you can improve and if you want feedback, email the interviewer. A polite note to ask how you can improve may result in gaining some useful tips moving forward.