Top Tips for Securing a Placement
Are you studying a course that doesn't offer a compulsory placement? International Relations and Politics student Charlotte provides some top tips for securing your ideal placement and how to navigate the application process.
When it comes to a placement year, it can be daunting to think about the application stage. Although your placement is something that you do in third year, it is really something you need to think about at the end of first year. This is because most applications tend to close by the end of the first term in second year and if you are too late, you will most likely miss out on a placement.
Placements are available beyond what your course does/doesn't offer
It is important to note throughout this blog that I am completing placement on a course which does not have placement as an option, so this experience has been slightly different for me than it would be for those taking it as a part of the compulsory placement section of their course.
You should start thinking about placements by the end of first year
The difference between the two is that most of the STEM subjects tend to have a placement module where you must complete essays or projects about your time in placement and there is more help around securing a placement. The other route for placement is slightly different as many of the social sciences tend not to do a placement module option. This means that if you secure a placement for your third year, you essentially fill out a form to take a year out of university to complete this placement.
"Useful websites to find placements include Student Circus, Rate My Placement and Student Beans. Make sure to set job reminders for them and for companies you are wanting to apply to as they will email you when new placement roles you are interested in become live or when deadlines are fast approaching."
Just because your course does not offer a placement module option, it does not mean you cannot take one. You can, but just not graded formally under the university during your placement year. This in my opinion is easier because you can enjoy your placement year without the added stress of handing in essays about your work, as a full-time job is time consuming enough. As someone who is currently on a placement, I have been through this entire process. To make this process easier for everyone I have decided to provide some tips for your placement and securing a placement itself.
My placement is with Mercedes F1 team over in Brixworth in England and because of how competitive F1 jobs are, people always ask me how I managed to get a placement in F1 as a Politics and International Relations student. Because of this constant question, I have decided to write this to encourage people to apply to as many different types of placements as possible.
You essentially fill out a form to request a year out of university to complete a placement
Enter the process with an open mind
Therefore, my first tip would be to go into the process with an open mind. When I first started my application process I was overwhelmed with the staggering number of placements on offer online. I applied to roughly 50 different placements all within different sectors so that I could see what my options were. By doing this I was able to explore jobs I had never heard of or had never considered. I applied to banking roles, HR, political roles, business, marketing, consulting, PR plus so much more in companies that I had never heard of or companies who were globally recognised.
If you apply to lots of different companies, not only does it help you improve in the application process as it helps you to keep practicing the application tests, but it also gives you a higher chance of getting a placement. My thought process behind this was to apply to as many as possible that I was remotely interested in because it then gave me the choice between placements when job offers started rolling in. My current role is in purchasing and logistics, both of which were career paths I never would’ve considered and now I thoroughly enjoy them and have a better idea of the type of job I want after my studies.
Apply to as many companies as possible to increase your chance of getting accepted
Plan ahead and apply early
My next tip would be to work hard in September and at the start of October to complete as many applications as you can before your assignments are due. This is because the application process is very time consuming as they all make you input everything from your CV part by part, followed by stages of tests and video interviews before in person team assessment days and interviews.
"My thought process behind this was to apply to as many as possible that I was remotely interested in because it then gave me the choice between placements when job offers started rolling in."
One application alone can take a whole day to fill in the form, contact details, complete the tests and video your interview responses. Because of this, it is crucial to start your applications before university work becomes too much. I had to be stricter with working hard on applications instead of having social time because in the long term a great placement is worth it for your CV and to help you get great graduate roles, which is far more important than missing out on social events in the short term.
As deadlines start hitting for assignments in mid-October, it will benefit you a lot if you complete applications in the quieter periods of university when your new modules are starting and the workload is not as heavy. Another reason for this is also because most placements close at the end of October with some even closing at the end of September. To make sure that you do not miss any of these dates, filter on the placement search websites by date and prioritise the ones with the closest deadlines because they will not allow people to apply late given how competitive they are.
Check out Rate My Placement for the latest opportunities
The biggest mistake made by people in my course who wanted a placement but did not land one was that they started looking for placements after Christmas, which is far too late. By the middle of October I had already received 17 job offers and had signed my contract acceptance with the Mercedes F1 team, while most in my course had not even applied to any yet or had only applied to one. It is crucial to be on top of the application game or you simply will not get a placement or you will be left with all of the lower paid, less exciting placement options.
Don’t be hasty – consider your options
Another thing to remember is that you do not have to accept the first job offer you get. In some instances you may only get one offer, however some people find that they get more than one. Many people I know accepted their first one because they were afraid that it was the only acceptance they would get after multiple rejections. Instead, if you do get a job offer but you are not certain that you want the job firstly, check the response time frame as some companies allow a few weeks to decide whether or not you want the job, while other competitive jobs give you only a few days.
"As deadlines start hitting for assignments in mid-October, it will benefit you a lot if you complete applications in the quieter periods of university when your new modules are starting and the workload is not as heavy."
The best thing to do is to not accept until the final days of the acceptance period and to make a reminder on your phone to do so. This is because you may end up with other offers from roles that you may be more interested in. Even if you do accept a job, if you are not 100% satisfied with it you can continue looking and applying to other jobs because you can still accept a job role and then turn the role down again if you end up with a better offer.
Don't accept your first offer immediately - wait until all of your offers come in!
Don’t sell yourself short
A final tip for the application process would be to apply for jobs that you are interested in, even if you do not meet the desired criteria. This is because your application may be far better than others who do have the degree discipline that they want. For example, my job with the Mercedes F1 team wanted people who studied a STEM subject, but I was interested in the role and still applied as someone who studied international relations and politics. Because of this I did not have high hopes that I would get the role, similarly with all of the banking roles that I applied to who wanted economics, finance or maths degrees.
Despite this I still got job offers in many roles that had nothing to do with my degree. Therefore I would encourage you to just go for it even if you feel you are not the right person they are describing for the role - you never know where you might end up.
Hear from student Sarah on why a work placement helped to kick start her career
Finally, for any second years looking to do a placement, I would start applying immediately as time is running out and hundreds of roles have already closed. First years, although it seems a bit early, placement application season will come by quickly so be prepared to work hard in September to get one sorted. When applying do not limit yourself simply to Belfast as there are more opportunities in both Ireland and the rest of the UK. And for anyone looking for grad roles the same tips tend to apply as they do for placement, so just apply to as many as you can and see where you get!
*Useful websites to find placements include Student Circus, Rate My Placement and Student Beans. Make sure to set job reminders for them and for companies you are wanting to apply to as they will email you when new placement roles you are interested in become live or when deadlines are fast approaching.
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Politics and International Relations | Undergraduate Student | London, England
I'm a Politics and International Relations student in my second year at Queen's. I am from London and currently live in student housing but lived in Elms BT9 last year. I love to be a busy person and am a member of multiple societies and teams at Queen's.
I am also undertaking a charitable project at Queen's called the Zambia project where we host fundraisers in order to collect money and aid for our missionary trip to Zambia. In my spare time I teach water sports in Bangor and so far I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Belfast even though it is very different to London. I would highly recommend the university to anyone as I have had the best experience here so far and have fallen in love with this country.