It’s that time of year again where students will either be beginning to apply for a placement year or already in the middle of applying. Placement years are becoming increasingly popular as they provide an opportunity to explore potential career paths, boost CV’s and give a taste for the real working world.
If you are considering a placement, this Q&A with Will Peshall, an Assistant Career and Professional Development Coach at the Henley Business School, will help answer all your queries and concerns.
Q&A with Will from the Careers Team
Q: What would be the first steps to finding a placement?
There are 3 main things I’d suggest. First is self-reflection, think what am I great at? What things are important to me in a job? What am I motivated by? Once you understand how to reflect on your skillset and what you want out of a job, it gives you a good standing to start finding a placement. Second is research, make sure you think about what opportunities are out there that might be interesting based on what you know about yourself and what do these opportunities look like for you. Thirdly you should create a “hit list” to think about what roles do you really want, when their deadlines are and whether you already know anyone working there to get tips from. By creating a hit list, you can make sure all the information you need for applying is in once place.
Q: Where are good places to find placements?
Some good resources online include, but are not limited to: Ratemyplacement (search for placements and internships online and, more importantly, read reviews of companies placements and get expert advice), E4S (search for work experience ranging from part-time Christmas work to placements to graduate jobs), TargetJobs (find placement opportunities and filter by location, sector and degree subject), MyJobsOnline (is a partnership between Target connect and The University of Reading to offer Reading students access to top placement opportunities) and LinkedIn. Also, students should be using the power of Google!
Q: What are things to avoid when searching for a placement?
Make sure you do plenty of due diligence when considering placement opportunities, especially for ones where you might have to pay an organisation to gain experience. A big thing to avoid is to send out hundreds of generic copied and pasted applications to a wide range of sectors. Employers can immediately tell. Instead, keep your applications highly personalised and consider if your placement search is focused enough. Another thing that students usually make the mistake of is feeling like the only place to find a placement is at large, well-known organisations. They certainly shout the loudest about their opportunities because their marketing budget can afford this, but there are so many exciting opportunities in small-medium companies.
Q: Do you have any good stories of successful placements that really stood out to you?
One of our students is currently out on placement at a small accounting firm. He showed a lot of determination in applying for almost a year and this finally paid off in securing his placement only weeks before he would have had to return to finish his degree. He showed an amazing amount of grit and resilience in the face of lots of rejection and ultimately came out on top.
Q: If a student can’t find a placement or doesn’t get accepted will that be detrimental for grad jobs opportunities?
Not at all! In fact, even if you don’t even want a placement, I would highly recommend applying just to get the experience of going through a rigorous and multi-stage application process, since this will likely be very similar to when you apply for graduate opportunities. Think of it as great practice at least. If you aren’t successful finding a placement, there are many other alternatives to getting some great experience to put on your CV including: part-time work, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, summer internships and other ad-hoc work experience.
What Steps Can You Take Now?
Head to the resources that Will has recommended and websites that focus on helping students pick the right placement, such as Rate My Placement.
You can also book appointments with the career consultants to ask questions about finding a placement, top tips to follow and have practice interviews on MyJobsOnline.