The following blog post was submitted by 3rd year BSc Marketing student, Jazmin Curzon.
If I were to give any undergraduate one piece of advice, it would be to grasp every opportunity to gain work experience with both hands. University placements are a great way to enhance your employability and to get a taste of the real challenges and responsibilities of working life, not to mention they drastically increase your chance of getting a graduate job after University.
I am currently six months into my own University placement and I can tell you the time is just flying by. Never before have I experienced a working day where I’ve glanced at the clock and wondered where the day’s gone, and this isn’t down to the fast nature of London life, but for the first time I’m in a job where I’m busy doing something I enjoy.
So what’s this magical job you ask? I was lucky enough to secure my placement at IBM, one of the worlds largest IT and Consulting Services and have been working within their Schools and Universities Attraction Team. It is down to us to ensure IBM attract the best and brightest graduates; if you’ve attended a careers fair you might have seen some of our representatives. My role within this team is to help devise marketing strategies and to manage our promotional activities both physical and digital. This involves everything from writing copy, website design, putting out content over social media and the creative execution & delivery of new strategies. But don’t go thinking that because I’m enjoying my placement it’s a walk in the park. I get a lot of work sent my way and I often don’t leave the office till late, but it’s worth it just for our cake day on Wednesday. Yum!
So lets delve a little bit deeper into the benefits of a University placement.
Firstly a placement will give you the opportunity to develop skills specific to your subject industry as well as allowing you to apply the theory of your course in a practical environment. On a daily basis I refer to my University teaching whether it’s using statistical techniques for analysing data or trying to improve customer engagement on social media.
As well as getting to apply your studies practically, placements are a great way to test the water in your field and will help you to make a more informed decision about your career choice. I’m a firm believer that you can never be sure of something until you’ve given it a go. It may be the case that you feel you would be more suited to a smaller company or you may wish to pursue a different career path all together.
Building a professional network is another huge advantage of a placement year. Working in recruitment marketing I get the unique opportunity to do a lot of networking with other graduate seeking companies so I get to see what everyone has to offer as well as learn what they look for. It also gives me the opportunity to meet people from a range of different industries. The other day my team were invited to a cocktail party by a new work experience company targeting the media industry. Not only did we get to visit a swanky bar and sip free cocktails but it was a chance to extend our network.
Professionalism is vital in the workplace, especially if you want to be taken seriously. It can help to accelerate your maturity, as well as helping to teach valuable skills such as self-management and problem solving. I know that coming back to University I’m definitely going to introduce 9-5 working hours, and be better at managing my time. I want to completely eradicate the pre-deadline nights frantically working away at an assignment I should have started the month before. To an employer just the fact that you’ve taken a year out in industry is important, it demonstrates you’re serious about pursuing a career in that field and desire to improve yourself professionally.
The ability to work collaboratively is another attribute greatly sought out by employers. In University it’s easy to get used to the individual learning style of academia, so it’s quite a contrast coming into an organisation where team work is essential. In my role I have to work and interact with a number of departments and other companies. A lot of this work is also project based, so often I am involved with temporary teams along side my day-to-day activities. For instance, at this current moment in time I am working on three separate projects aside from my day-to-day role.
One of these projects is part of my giveback: within IBM every employee is encouraged to participate in giveback, and this can range from working with a chartable organisation to internal teaching within the business.
One of my giveback opportunities is as administrator for IBM’s Girls School Outreach Programme. The aim of this project is to encourage more girls into business and IT, and involves a dedicated group of mentors working with schools to put on events and talks. As well as these activities, we run a week long work experience programme and an afternoon at IBM, all of which I get to help organise. This project has been both rewarding and fun and has involved working within and managing a large team of people, which will be a great addition to my CV.
If you’re still considering whether a placement is the best option for you, consider this; “This year 37% of entry-level position are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisation.” So it’s not surprising that so many students are looking at a placement year as a way to increase employability.
And if you’re still not sold, a placement is a chance to experience a new city, new people and earn a tidy sum of money, as well as take a well-deserved break from University before your final year of studies. With that little extra cash you’ll even be able to have a break from the beans on toast and supper noodles.
To finish with, here’s my top tip for securing a placement:
For both your application and assessment centre, make sure you research the company thoroughly. Employers will test to see you’ve done your homework. I would advise visiting the company website and memorising their mission statement and values. It’s also a good idea to set up a google alert so that you’re notified of any news about the company.