The Wonders of Placement Applications

The following blog post was submitted by 3rd year BSc Marketing student, Caroline Wardle.


I’m Caroline, 3rd year Marketing student at Southampton Uni and currently spending my placement year in London at IBM within their External Relations Press team.

Hopefully this post will give you some insight into my journey from being completely overwhelmed to relatively independent and standing on my own two feet in the professional world.

My plan for applying for placements began as an über-keen fresher Googling companies and their schemes, getting an understanding of their individual processes and what was required, before panicking thinking I would never have anything to fill out an application form with… and then pushing it to the back of my mind until the end of the first year when it was really needed and I could panic all over again.

Despite feeling overwhelmed, possibly one of the most useful things I did at this point was writing down the opening times of applications for companies I thought I might be interested in. This way, when the end of the year came, along with the reality of seemingly-endless applications, I was more prepared knowing I could spread them out over the following months rather than applying all at once come October.

Initially for me I wanted to hone my focus on global companies, as I believed this would give me the most wide-spread experience across the organisation, and my interests were always in IBM and Unilever. I always applied to the ‘marketing’ schemes for every company, rather than more general ‘business’ schemes, as I wanted the more specific experience of marketing.

IBM and Unilever opened in July, and were undoubtedly the two lengthiest forms of all the companies I applied to – advantageous as the rest could be largely copy/pasted! I received an interview for a telephone interview for Unilever within a few days of applying, and an invitation to complete the ‘IPAT’ test for IBM (their numeracy/logic online test) – it’s the one company I came across which has a completely different/more difficult format of online test.

Unfortunately I failed the Unilever interview, but as my first proper interview I’ve ever had it was a great experience of the formal process within a company and definitely helped with subsequent ones. More successfully, I passed the IPAT test with IBM and in August was offered an IBM assessment centre appointment for October. That was me done until other places opened in September; I applied to John Lewis, Boots, Telefonica, VW, LVMH and GSK over the next couple of months.

Each company has a slightly different application process to the other, some require cover letters/CVs whereas others want company-specific application forms, and I completed the online tests for all companies – lots of companies take a couple of months to contact you afterwards regarding further processes, so don’t get worried if it takes a while to hear back!

My assessment centre appointment came in early October, which was a day consisting of 2 group exercises, another IPAT test, an interview, a pre-prepared presentation and a lot of nervous waiting. Despite this, it was actually a really enjoyable day and was much more relaxed than I imagined it would be. The only guidance I can really give is to prepare both your interview answers and knowledge of the company as thoroughly as possible.

Arguably rather stupidly, I didn’t apply to any more companies, despite still waiting to hear back from everywhere on my progress, putting all my eggs in one basket in the hope that IBM would contact me with a job offer following a subsequent interview with my manager after the assessment centre. Fortunately this paid off and I was offered my placement at the beginning of November!

Enjoying London

Enjoying post-work London with a view of the famous sights.

Some of the key things I learnt throughout this process, which will undoubtedly help with graduate applications, are that checking when applications open and applying early definitely pay off – both for stress levels and job offer opportunities! I learnt that I should have continued applying for everything going – I definitely would have shot myself in the foot had I not been successful with IBM! Another thing I learnt is to exercise patience – there is always something available out there, the processes are just time-consuming… and to try not to compare myself to where my friends are in their progress as that only makes you think you’re failing.

It’s still early days 2 months in, but so far the placement and living in London are exactly how I hoped they’d be and it was definitely worth all the hard work to get here.

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