A placement year during university brings many benefits but the road to getting that placement can be a tricky one. Not only is there lots of competition, but the process can be very lengthy and time consuming. Never the less, a placement can be an amazing experience as you will be able to gain valuable skills and meet lots of new people. Building your connections is very important in the world of work and can be a huge help in the future when you are looking for a graduate job. To make the process a little bit easier I have come up with 10 of the best tips that will help you through the placement process.
1. Work closely with your university employability team
Every university will run slightly differently but you will have some sort of help and support during your time of searching for a placement. Some universities offer a platform where they announce all of the placements they have found that you can apply to.
Some companies also work closely with specific universities and only offer placements to those students that attend said university.
The most important thing is that you make use of what’s provided by the university. Whether that be the jobs they have found, CV help, assessment centre prep or just general meetings where you can ask any questions about the placement search and how it works.
2. Use Rate my Placement
One of the most used sites to find placements is Rate My Placement. You are able to filter the location and the job-type to see the placements that are most suited to you. You can also see the deadlines for when you need to apply by so that you can plan when you need to do your application.
3. Use Bright Network
Another website that is great for finding placement’s is Bright Network. Not only do they show which companies are offering placements, but they also offer a tonne of resources.
4. Improve your CV
Your CV is the first thing that employers look at. This is what decided whether they want to talk to you more to decide if you are the right person for the role. This means your CV needs to be top notch. It needs to make you stand out from the others. So, spend a bit of time working on your CV and making sure you have noted everything that you think is important.
If you are struggling to put things down on your CV then try and come up with a couple of things you can do which will add value to your CV. This could be something like volunteering, part-time jobs, or work experience in the industry you want to go into.
Employers love to see how you have demonstrated the skills needed to work that job so in your skills section give brief examples. For example, you could show how you demonstrated excel skills through your work experiences, or your customer service skills through your part-time job.
Reach out to your employability team at your university and see if they can set you up with a meeting to go through your CV and improve it if you are struggling.
5. Build a LinkedIn account
LinkedIn is key to helping you with your placement search. You can either use the job search function, or generally browse your feed to see if anyone mentions placements that are going.
Not only can you just wait to see what shows up, but you can reach out to people and companies. LinkedIn also helps you see if companies are impressed by a certain type of student application. For example, some recruiters might talk about how impressed they were with someone’s CV which can help you alter yours in a way that would impress this certain recruiter.
When you get passed the CV stage, the next stage may contain a group of online tests. These tests range in topic, they can be knowledge based, numerical, psychometric or something else. When you first start doing these types of tests they can be extremely difficult. There are lots of practise questions online so make sure you give these a go to get used to the format and the types of questions asked.
7. Start preparing for assessment centres
Usually after checking your CV, taking some tests and possible phone call interviews, you will be invited to an assessment centre. These assessment centres are usually in person which gives you a chance to visit the offices you would be working in. However, during COVID these assessment centres were moved online making things slightly different.
8. Reach out via email
The companies that advertise their placements on websites like Rate my placement are usually the bigger companies. Meaning lots of small companies will be happy to take on students looking for experience, but you just don’t see it being advertised.
A great trick is to google search all of the companies that work in your desired industry and look in the area you want to work in. For example, if I wanted to get a placement in an accounting firm in Birmingham I would google search this and bring up the map. This allows you to check out every website of the companies in this area.
Firstly, check their website especially the job vacancies section to see if they are advertising any placements on there. If you cannot find anything then email them to see what their position is and if you could have a chat with them to discuss a potential placement.
The great thing with smaller companies is that there is less competition as everyone is applying to the big placement schemes. It also means you won’t have to go through such a vigorous application process.
9. Attend your career fair
Most universities will offer a careers fair where various companies come to your university, set up a stand and have recent graduates and recruiters available to talk to students. Most people think these fairs are tailored to graduate jobs, but it is well worth it to chat to these recruiters if you are only looking for a placement. Not only can you get a bit more information on the company, but you can also try to make a good first impression and make yourself memorable if you apply for a placement.
If they are not offering placements at the fair then make sure to ask if they offer placements in general and how you can go about getting a chat to see if you can get one.
10. Use your connections
Another great way to find placement opportunities is through friends and family Get talking to your friends and see if their parents are in a position where they can offer you some help. Even if it is for a simple chat on the phone at a potential company. You never know, one of your university friends might have a parent who owns a company and who would be more than happy to offer you some experience.
Finding a placement can be a tricky time and the competition is getting stronger. The main thing you need to do is keep persevering, don’t give up. Keep emailing companies and reaching out to people on LinkedIn. You could even post on LinkedIn to see if anyone could share your post around and get you some help. It might be worth seeing if you can get some unpaid work experience over the summer holidays if you are struggling to get a placement. If you do find yourself a placement you should be extremely proud of yourself and good luck!