Whether you’re looking for a year-long industrial placement or a summer placement, you’ll need to start applying early. There are a lot of students looking for placements and it’s a scrabble to land yourself one. For many students, finding a placement is their responsibility, but that doesn’t mean help isn’t available. Your university department might have a designated placement officer, or, failing that, the careers service will always be on hand to help. Nonetheless, you have to be pro-active, so put on some motivational tunes, get pumped and delve straight into looking for a placement.
What should be my first step?
Well, first of all, get in contact with your placement officer, university department or university careers service and let them know you’re looking for a placement. Be an early bird and book an appointment early on in the term. After all, your placement officer or careers service will get very busy.
Otherwise, your department or careers service might already have a number of vacancies you can search, or they may have relationships with certain employers that offer placements. Careers services and placement officers have plenty of experience in finding placements so make sure you tap into it!
You should also brave your university’s careers or placement fairs. A careers fair is a great place to speak to the employees of a company face-to-face and you can find out about placement opportunities directly from them. They can give you unique insights in companies, helping you to really tailor your applications.
Where should I look for a placement?
When looking for a placement, the main thing is to keep an open mind. You might have your heart set on working for a particular company, but it’s equally important to land the right role; look at what you’ll be doing, not just the company. Apply for placements that you’re really interested in; conveying that interest and enthusiasm in your application will really make it stand out.
So where should you look for a placement? Well, if you’ve exhausted your own university’s database of placements, see if you can find some placements yourself. The first thing to do is draw up a long list of companies that you want to work for, you might have found these at careers fairs, on-line, or on our graduate employers list. You might want to choose a mixture of large, medium sized and small companies to apply to.
Check to see whether these companies offer placements through their websites. If not, there’s no harm in giving them a call and asking if they might be potentially interested in taking you on. If you go down the speculative application route, send them your CV and a covering letter, expressing why you want to work for their company in particular and what you can offer them. You might also want to utilise any connections you may have, i.e. family, friends, acquaintances or previous companies that you’ve done work for. Let everyone know that you’re looking for a placement.
A word of warning though, before you start searching on your own: if you’re doing a sandwich placement year or industrial placement, you might have to check with the department that the placement you’ve found is suitable and complies with the course requirements.
To find out about the latest placement opportunities, check out our placements job board now!
Perfecting those applications…
You should approach your placement applications as if you’re applying for a graduate job. It’s worth spending more time on fewer applications and really tailoring them to individual companies, rather than churning out generic applications for hundreds of placements. Yes, it can be very time consuming, but it’ll be worth it when you find the right placement. Take the time to suss out what you want to gain from your placement and examine your current skills and experience.
Before applying, you should have worked out what employers are looking for from applicants, and how you can fit the bill. Most will specify in their placement advertisement, but other qualities they might be looking for is students who can work independently and have excellent problem-solving skills. You’ll also need to demonstrate a good understanding of their organisation as well as the industry, so make sure you do your research.
Some companies have online application forms, whilst others might do it the old fashioned way and ask you to send in a covering letter and CV. The golden rule is to tailor your application for every company and make sure you back up your assertions (e.g. “I’m a great problem solver”) with evidence. For advice on how to write a CV, how to write a covering letter and how to complete an online application form, check out our careers advice section. Book an appointment with your careers service and go over your CV and covering letter with them too.
All in all, be prepared to apply to many companies, and expect only a few responses and interview offers. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback when your application is unsuccessful. Many companies won’t give feedback at the application stage, but many will if you reach the interview stage. This can help you find out where you’re going wrong.
Above all, don’t let rejection get you down. It’s competitive to get a placement and the key thing is to stay motivated and keep applying. Doing a placement is well worth the effort. Students who have done a placement are far more likely to land that elusive graduate job. Some people even get their final year at university sponsored by their placement company. How’s that for a perk?