Guest blog: Finding a placement

Guest blog written by Miles Thorp, digital Director at Banana Moon, personalised clothing company

So, the hunt begins. How are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Excited? Stressed? I remember feeling all the above when I was looking for a placement. Feeling like someone slapped me round the face every time I got rejected and oh boy, there were a few rejections. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the placement process from both sides. Finding and doing a placement and hiring and mentoring placement students. I can’t help but think, if only I knew then what I know now. If I could take all the best bits from the applications I’ve reviewed and the students I’ve worked with, finding a placement would have been a piece of cake! Here are some actionable next steps to help relieve some of your stress.

The why

Why do you want to do a placement? This should be the first question you answer. The reason behind getting a placement will help you decide on the type of company you want to work at and it will also help you plan for the worst-case scenario.

Action 1: Define 3 reasons why you want to do a placement

Some examples might be:

  • I want to have a job waiting for me when I leave University
  • I want to get some experience working in a team
  • I want to learn from experts
  • I want a year out of University

The where

You have the all important ‘why’ answered. You know exactly what you’re hoping to get out of a placement, so now it’s time to identify companies that will help you achieve those goals. If all you want out of your placement is a year out of University to earn some cash then the company you work at doesn’t really matter, however if you want something specific like ‘I want to learn web development from an experienced mentor’ then you will need a company that has an experienced web developer who will be available to mentor you.

Action 2: Create a list of companies you would like to work at

Pull together as many companies as you can, make sure you get the relevant contact information for the person that’s in charge of placements.

* In later steps you’ll want to avoid sending CV’s to info@ type emails and instead send to individuals and address them by name.

The application

When we’re recruiting here at Banana Moon we get an inbox full of CVs, there are a few things that stand out. First, students from the same University all seem to use the same CV template. The memorable ones are the ones that don’t. Our available opportunities are creative based, whether that’s creative thinking or designing. The CVs I enjoy are the ones that have put some time in to the layout and design. That won’t be the case for all placements so it’s important to adapt your CV to the type of role you’re looking at.

Second is the cover letter. This seems to be overlooked and most applicants tend to send a generic cover letter that has clearly been sent to all the other companies they have applied to. A recent cover letter that really stood out for me was one that answered 3 questions.

  1. What do you like about our company and why would you fit in with our ethos? Research the companies’ values and compliment the bits that are important.
    For example:
    The fun, challenging and team-orientated work environment is clearly conveyed through all aspects of your business.
  2. What are you excited to learn more about on your placement? Placement descriptions will usually outline what you’ll be working on but it’s good to point out a few other things that you have an interest in and would like to progress with.
    For example: I am also eager to join the Banana Moon team and potentially explore other 2018 marketing trends such as the use of influencers in marketing and the increasing importance of understanding the customer journey.
  3. What experience do you have that will help you in your placement year? Telling us about your experience is good but telling us how it is useful to your placement is great.
    For example: I previously put content calendars together for [example company], this skill would help me with planning and organisation when working on campaigns for Banana Moon.

Your cover letter should be personalised to each company you apply to, the time and effort you put in at this point is very noticeable and will make a difference when a potential employer decides whether to get you in for an interview. You should put your cover letter in the body of the email and attach your CV. This is more convenient for the reader.

Action 3: Send a personalised cover letter and CV to each company

The interview

In my experience the best interviews are ones that turn in to a conversation rather than an interrogation. You should be able to ask just as many questions as we do, the interview process is a great opportunity to find out if this is the placement for you. As the employer the first question I ask is ‘do you know much about Banana Moon?’ My favourite response is… ‘You’re specialists in personalised clothing’, ‘you have X number of employees’ blah blah blah. It saves me time explaining what we do and straight away tells me that you have put some time in to preparing for the interview. What’s even better is if you have questions about our history or ethos like ‘where did the name Banana Moon come from?’ Questions show interest and interest is good. Ask questions about the company, the role and how you would fit in to the team. Make the questions specific to the company so we know you’re not just regurgitating the same questions from your last interview.

You also need to come equipped with answers. Again, make sure your answers are tailored to the company and the role you’re applying for. Give examples of experience and how they fit in with the role. Talk about what you’re learning at University and what you want to do more of. Give examples of how you could do more of it with us.

Action 4: Research the company and have at least 3 relevant questions

The worst case

Some of you won’t find a placement, you may panic and think your life is over. It’s not! Luckily action 1 has told you exactly what you want to get out of a placement and because of that you can start to plan other actions that will help you achieve your goals. Let’s take an example from earlier… I want to go on a placement, so I can get some experience working in a team.

How do I get that experience without doing a placement year?

  • Work experience
    It’s a lot easier getting a 1-week work placement than it is a year long one. Go to all the companies that you applied to and ask if they have a 1 / 2-week placement available.
  • Volunteering
    Find out what volunteer work your University has available. Are there any clubs you could join or charities you could work with that give you the experience you’re looking for?
  • Make your own team
    If you haven’t got a placement you’re probably not the only one. Pull together the others and create your own team. Work on projects together and start to teach yourselves the things you would have learnt on your placement.

Just a few examples of how you can overcome the problem of not having a placement. For each of your goals you should come up with 2 or 3 different routes you can take to get the same outcome that your placement would have given you.

Conclusion

Placements are a great thing, they give good experience and can be a foot in the door to having a job waiting for you when you finish university. But, placements aren’t the be all and end all. Don’t get stressed out if you can’t find one, other options are available.

The key is planning. Understand what you want to get out of your placement and build your plan from there. Plan how you will find a placement and have a back up plan if you don’t.

Useful resources

Available placements
www.banana-moon-clothing.co.uk/front-end-developer
www.banana-moon-clothing.co.uk/marketing-executive

Additional reading
http://talk.fantasticmedia.co.uk/placements/kickstart-your-career-in-the-creative-industry/
http://talk.fantasticmedia.co.uk/placements/from-placement-to-head-of-digital-finding-a-placement/

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