Written by Jannine Thomas, Employability Consultant (Placements) at The Careers Service
Finding and managing time are amongst the most common problems students have when searching for placements. The need to find, research and apply for placements, alongside lectures, coursework, exams and the extracurricular parts of your life is difficult. Here we share some of the top tips for success from our finalists who have freshly returned from their placement years.
As with many things in life, preparation is key for your placement search. One of the easiest (and quickest) things to do is to “make sure your CV is up to date and complete” Elena Bantoft (BSc Psychology). Even if an employer doesn’t accept CVs as part of their application process, updating your CV will mean that all the details you’ll need for making an application are all current and in one place. For further help and advice on how to structure or write your CV, please visit the Careers Service’s Writing a CV webpage.
“Start looking [for placements] sooner rather than later”, Liam Carrick (BSc Mathematics), is a great way to gain an understanding of not only, what’s available but also what the application criteria and processes are. You may also find that, starting early, means you will have time to make a few ‘practice runs’ before applying for the role(s) that you really want.
As Emily Parsons (BSc International Business Finance & Economics) states “Employers aren’t just looking for tonnes of relevant work experience, if you can show your passion for the company and the work they are doing, it will go a long way”. Part of your preparation should therefore include, researching the roles and the organisations that you’re interested in applying for, helping you to be ready to inform employers what it is about them that is attractive to you. Doing your research can also help save time, as Harry Walton (BSc Accounting) can attest, “reflecting on my applications I spent a lot of time applying to jobs, doing tests and interviews for positions I wasn’t really interested in”.
Organise your placement search
A skill which is required for all placement roles, being organised, is really useful to master. As Simeon Tsvetankov (BSc Computer Science) advises, “It can get quite confusing, especially when applying to many places and having to go through multiple stages of recruitment”. To help limit the confusion, most of our finalists agree that it’s essential to, “make a simple document or spreadsheet with all the placements you are applying to, alongside noting if you have started your application, sent it off, done any online assessments, and been rejected or offered an interview” Elena. Charis Whyte (MEng Mechatronic Engineering) highlights that “a lot of [job] sites have the capability to store jobs that meet what you’re looking for”. Making use of this function, could save a lot of time in your search as it helps you to see what you’ve applied for and what you still have to do.
Whatever ‘tracking’ system you opt for, it may also serve as a repository for your company research. Harry advised that he used a separate tab in his Excel spreadsheet to capture, “research for each company which I would use to tailor my application[s] to (either on initial application forms or in interview responses)”.
Treat your placement search like an additional module
Whether you decide you want to, “put aside half a day, every 2 weeks” (Charis) or search for a placement on a weekly basis, making sure that a period of time is allotted to the task helps to provide some structure to your search and gives you designated space in which to search, research and apply for placements.
Scheduling dedicated time for your placement search may also make allowing yourself time to, “Take a breath and [not] let it stress you out” Isobel Stevenson (BSc Biomedical Sciences). A lot of our finalists agreed that it was important to allow yourself breaks when searching for placements as it can be, “draining, balancing preparing for mid-term tests [and other work] while completing what felt like an endless amount of online assessments” Emily.
Focus on placements you really want
Whilst it can often seem that every second company is advertising an exciting placement role, our finalists advise that it’s important to, “focus on the applications you have more interest in rather than [taking] a scatter gun approach” (Harry). Placements are never offered to the person who applies for the most placements, rather “you stand more chance of getting a placement if you focus on preparing really well for a few placements, rather than having average applications for lots of placements”. Sophie Gee (BSc Management).
Though our finalists stressed the importance of applying only for roles that you have a real interest in, Emily advises to not let, “factors like location decide whether you apply for a role you think you would love” or not. Many of you will have moved to come to University and so already have the skills you’ll need to source accommodation, should your dream placement not be in Manchester (or your hometown/city). Most employers have schemes in place to help connect placement students prior to their first day, to help with sourcing accommodation.
Finding a placement, “requires a lot of patience, being able to accept rejections and moving on quickly”, Simeon. It can also feel quite a lonely journey at times, particularly if your friends start receiving offers whilst you only seem to be getting rejections. As Isobel says, it’s best not to “compare your progression to your peers as there is no one way to go about searching for your placement”.
Although our finalists agree it’s likely that you’ll receive at least one rejection during your placement search, as Sophie says, “don’t feel embarrassed when you do. Even having an interview is valuable experience”, which you can use for future placement interviews, or even summer internship and graduate roles.
Every placement journey is different and if you are “resilient, it will definitely pay off”, Emily.