Archive | March, 2015

Why work for an SME?

As you search for work experience, whether it is a placement, internship, or job; you will probably be instantly be drawn to the huge iconic companies such as ‘L’Oreal’, ‘Deloitte’ or ‘Disney’. Although these are all fantastic places to work and gain experience, have you ever considered applying to work for a Small-Medium-Enterprise?

Here’s some aspects you might not have considered…

  • You can make a big impact – Being a small fish in a big pond can be tough and, whilst you will contribute, you probably won’t make as much of an accountable impact to the company as a whole. With smaller SMEs you will be part of a much smaller team and so you will probably have more responsibility and your work will make a bigger difference, which can be very rewarding.
  • A simpler application process – Being smaller, SME’s often have a less lengthy application process, and so whilst still competitive, you are more likely to be given the opportunity to shine at interview.
  • More accessible – If you aren’t someone who wants to move for your placement, an SME might just be for images (12)you as there are plenty of opportunities local to Southampton which would mean you won’t have the hassle and expense of moving to another location.
  • Valuable experience – A placement at an SME is just as valuable as one at Coca Cola. It’s not where you do your placement, but what you do and what you make of it. Future employers look for skills and attributes you gain from a placement more than the size or reputation of the company itself.


If you are interested in working for an SME, we can help you out. Take a look at our Jobs board for current opportunities or pop in and see us for some advice!

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Placements: an international student’s perspective

This blog post was submitted by Xian Huang who is currently on a marketing placement with Alitex in Petersfield.



I was quite nervous before the whole placement started. The main reason relates to language. It is always a bit tricky for an international student to work in a circumstance where you need to constantly speak your second language. Apart from some volunteering experience, I haven’t had any other working experience before. It is a totally whole new dimension for me. Besides, the job description may actually make things worse, as it gives you such a lots of tasks on an A4 paper, and I was so worried that I couldn’t accomplished the task on that list.

Alitex Placement

In the office!


I am working as a data analyst, and for this role, chasing figures cannot be avoided. It took me quite a while to be comfortable with chasing managers for their sales figures and other data, but once I realized that people saw me as a colleague and not a student, I found it much easier. By constantly working with data related tasks and also self-study at home, I am now quite confident with data analysis and I know it will be really useful for my last year of study and for my future career. Another thing worried me as an international student was phone calls. At the beginning two months, I didn’t have the responsibility of taking phone calls (our company culture is to encourage everyone in the front office to pick up the phone if the receptionist is busy). I remember that I was so nervous answering my first phone call and I felt quite frustrated if I don’t get the information right. I was afraid that I would annoy people by saying pardon a lot. But now, thanks to lots of practise, I am very happy to take phone calls, and I am more confident to deal with various people with different accents and their talking speed.

The colleagues I am working with are from various age groups. It is not like in the class or uni that you study with the people that are same age like yours. For me, I feel it is quite eye opening, especially in a country with a completely different culture.

I like my role, more precisely I like the working environment I am in. I have been involve in the activity like Chelsea Flower Show, a Company Away Day (we did mulching in Kew garden)…etc. I regularly have some social life with my colleagues. We have a team exercise class in the staff room every Wednesday and play badminton every Thursday. There is a great balance between working life and fitness here.

Away day Kew Gardens

On a company away day at Kew Gardens

You can view Xian’s placement video to find out about her day to day role at Alitex:

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Your Placements Team x



What to wear for an interview

Dressing for work or interviews and assessment days can be really daunting and stressful. At the FBL placements office at the University of Southampton, here are some tips with our very own University of Southampton models:

1. Prepare your outfit in advance
Ensure you know what the expected dress code is. It may be very formal and corporate but some industries or informal interviews may not be as strict. It is always better to go over dressed than under-dressed but if you are very unsure you can ask.

2. Wear smart shoes
Ensure that you wear classy shoes that are clean, appropriate and comfortable. Stick to black, brown or nude shoes.

Smart Shoes

Smart Shoes

3. Wear a business suit or a smart dress

Depending on the occasion, wear something corporate such as a suit or business dress. Make sure you wear something clean and with inoffensive colours or patterns. It’s also really important that you wear something that fits –  a baggy suit or a dress that is too tight averts the attention from you as a fantastic candidate.



4. Wear a smile
Although you may be nervous, there is nothing better than a genuine smile to increase your personal confidence and to show prospective employers you are personable and pleasant – just be yourself!



To watch the full video click here on our youtube channel. If you want to join the community and be kept up-to-date with everything that’s going on, then follow us:

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Your FBL Placements Team x


Not just a ‘day job’…

Caroline is one of our students who is currently half-way through her placement with IBM. She gives us a little insight into what else she gets up to alongside her daily tasks…


At the beginning of my placement, I had fairly limited knowledge of the IBM (aside from knowing their 2013 revenue figure, having read the annual report relentlessly for interviews – needless to say that wasn’t the first thing they asked me about), so with very little idea as to what corporate life would be like, I tried to ignore the prospect of having a dull 9-5 office job.

7 months later and i’ve discovered that these preconceptions are very inaccurate, and no two days are ever the same. Although I love what I do as part of the PR team at IBM, and the work is constantly varying which always gives something new to try and learn, the variety of working life comes primarily from the 100+ interns working with me in the London Southbank office alone (300+ nationally). I count myself incredibly lucky to have this network of interns available in the office for entertainment when a break from ‘real work’ is needed, and consider it one of the best aspects of my placement year.

We were recently all together for a major IBM event, the Business & Developer Connect which was held at Twickenham Stadium last November. As interns, despite not being given the most glamorous jobs, the opportunity to spend time and work together (in this case 18 of us for 2 days) doing something outside our usual day jobs is well worth the effort involved in getting from opposite ends of London by 6.30m – no mean feat. The perks were definitely meeting Tim Henman & Will Greenwood!

Caroline post


Other good opportunities to make the most of placement year have been to get involved with “GiveBack”, something which IBM (and I would assume the majority of large companies) actively encourage. “GiveBack” is any charitable act to benefit anyone – which, as you can imagine, leaves a fairly substantial list of possibilities! For example, activities i’ve taken part in since joining have been:

  • Working on the University of Southampton careers fair stall
  • Running an IBM Graduate Assessment Centre
  • Teaching science experiments and cooking lessons to children at an autistic school (definitely the best day off work!)
  • Becoming a STEM Ambassador – helping to mentor girls to encourage careers in science, tech, engineering and maths (a slightly ironic role for me as, as a marketer, I was never a huge fan of the sciences).

Despite being a slightly random collection of extra-curricular activities, taking all the opportunities available has given me so much more variety and interest other than my normal day-to-day job, which is exactly what placement years should be about!

Your FBL Placements Team x


Creme eggs, internships and university work – Tips for a successful Easter

With Easter approaching next week, there is mutual agreement that the days are getting warmer and longer; at last the worst of winter has gone.  Spring has arrived but academically, its almost the end of the year – just one final leap!

FBL - Final Leap

FBL placements – Final Leap

The FBL placements office know that Easter is a crucial time for a student regardless of the year or subject: Here are our 5 top tips to make sure you have a successful break.

  1. Write down what you want to achieve

4 weeks is a long time, it can be helpful to write a few tasks you would like to achieve in that time. Perhaps to gain some part time work, apply for graduate jobs , summer placements or simply to revise a certain number of hours per week.

  1. Contemplate a placement or work experience

Easter is a fantastic time to get some more work experience. The University of Southampton offers the excel placements but you could also research your local companies to see if they are recruiting.

  1. Check deadlines

Deadlines come in all shapes and sizes and during Easter, it’s easy to loose track of important dates. Make sure important calendar events such as student finance payments, interviews, and coursework deadlines after Easter are at the forefront of your mind. Some applications for summer placements and jobs also end around April time so keep your eyes opened.

FBL placements - Easter calander

FBL placements – Easter calander

    4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This can also be a slightly busy period of the year but there are many people to help you at university of Southampton, friends and family. At the FBL placements office we are happy to help and give advice on topic such as placements, internships and CV advice.

   5. Enjoy a good work balance

Make sure you have some time off as well as keeping on top of all the work. This holiday is a time to refresh yourself before semester 2 exams and the summer so enjoy the better weather and friends. It is Easter after all and chocolate has been scientifically proven to aid stress and work – so Creme eggs are a recommendation.

FBL placements - Creme egg

FBL placements – Creme egg

If you want to join the community and be kept up-to-date with everything that’s going on, then follow us:

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