The road to finding a placement

Laptop, notebook, pens and coffee on a table

Written by Jannine Thomas, Employability Consultant (Placementsat The Careers Service

Are you feeling tired of searching and applying for placements only to be rejected or – worse still – left in a state of limbo? Whatever stage you’re at in your placement search, the Careers Service can help.

It’s not too late!

Though many large companies have stopped advertising their opportunities, there is still time to secure a placement. Having until the end of Semester 2 to confirm your placement, you may be able to take advantage of the opportunities in smaller organisations, including those in the not-for-profit and public sectors. Smaller organisations typically advertise in spring or early summer and, while you may not be as familiar with their business, in comparison to larger companies, a placement with them can be just as enriching.

As the UK starts to emerge from lockdown, it is hoped that more companies will advertise placement opportunities. We are already starting to see an increase in roles being advertised on CareerConnect, so create a profile and sign up for email alerts to make sure that you don’t miss out. Don’t forget you can also sign up for alerts on other sites including: Rate My Placement, Indeed, Gradcracker.

Keep an open mind

Though it’s likely you’ll have a list of ‘companies of interest’, it’s important to remember that large company placements are highly competitive and the chance of success can be vastly reduced. If applications to your first list of companies were unsuccessful, look for opportunities with their competitors, customers or clients.

Students regularly achieve success when broadening the scope of their placement search including:

  • Liam Carrick (BSc Mathematics with Industrial Experience, 2021) who, after applying for actuarial placements and those offered by the Big Four (Accounting) firms, “became more open minded” and undertook his placement in the Civil Service. Liam said “I’d always applied for private sector roles at large companies and I’d never considered the public sector… I absolutely loved it!”
  • Madalina Ifrim (BSc Management (Marketing) with Industrial Experience, 2021) who secured a Data Analyst placement, something she “would probably have rejected, had [she] not been open to any variances in her role”. Madalina notes that this would have been “a thing I would have regretted”.

Although Feya Mattis (BSc Fashion Marketing with Industrial Experience, 2021) was unable to secure her desired placement in fashion marketing, the placement she did undertake highlighted to her that “it doesn’t matter whether you find the exact role or not, it’s part of the learning experience”.

Evelyn Lynch (BA Archaeology with Professional Experience) highlights that placements are learning experiences, noting that “many of the skills I have learnt [on placement] are transferrable to many workplaces”. Something that’s useful if you’re considering a different sector when you graduate.

I can’t find a placement in the field or organisation I want to work in

Harry Walton (BSc Accounting with Industrial Experience, 2021) “had originally been focused on working for one of the Big Four accounting firms or other market leaders”. After widening his search, Harry “ended up doing [his] placement for a large NHS organisation – the complete polar opposite of what [he] was looking for. I didn’t even know [they] offered placements for accounting”.

Charis Whyte (Meng Mechatronic Engineering with Industrial Experience, 2021) changed focus from electronic to general engineering, allowing her to realise she “had a great like for data analytics, something I had never really looked into”. Her placement experience has also “influenced [her] 3rd year project choice and will likely influence the jobs applied for”.

While it’s good to broaden the scope of your search, don’t forget recruiters are interested in a wide range of students too. Bea Wilkinson (BA Geography with Professional Experience, 2023) will start a Wealth Management placement in Summer 2021, a role she didn’t think she’d have a chance of getting, as she assumed “they would be looking for an Economics student”.

If your placement interests are quite niche, or you really want to work for a company that doesn’t seem to be advertising an opportunity right for you, our Speculative approach to job searching web page has lots of useful hints and tips on how you can play a part in creating an opening in your chosen field.

You’re not alone

Everyone’s placement search is different but no matter how easy or hard yours may be, remember that help is always available from the Careers Service. Check out the help and advice available on the Careers Service website, contact us at  and check out any Blackboard community or other placement sites operated by your school/department.

Edward Keane (BA Geography with Professional Experience, 2023), has some great words of encouragement for those still searching, “the most important thing is not to give up. Some people can get offers early on but for me, I had to wait until I had applied for 26 placements and had at least 15 rejections to get my only offer”.

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