There are lots of different ways to gain work experience, but this post is about the work placement element of your degree. Also known as a ‘sandwich year’ or ‘year in industry’, it will usually take place between your second and final year. You will be assigned a supervisor (usually a tutor best suited to your role) who will visit you throughout your placement. You will also be required to complete assessments and you’ll be graded at the end. This work placement will also be recognised as part of your degree certificate usually stating you have “followed an approved sandwich programme of study”. Some degrees make it compulsory to complete a placement while others make it optional. It can be a tough decision for many people and finding one can also be challenging. So we’ve put together a few pointers to help you decide and how to find one.
Why you should do a work placement
From my experience, most people didn’t complete a placement because they either wanted the experience but weren’t too keen on the assessment side of it, or they decided they would do one but realised how difficult it is to find one as well as studying. The assessment side is only a small part of it, so don’t let that put you off. Your main role in your placement year is to do your job well. The bulk of your assessment will be recording what you do and what you learn from it. The main thing to remember is that any employer would be more likely to take on a graduate who has a year in industry against someone who doesn’t. Experience counts for a lot more than academic grades ever will in this industry so we can not recommend getting one enough.
Below are my top 8 benefits of completing a placement year.
- It will make your final year so much easier. You’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned throughout your placement and you’ll have developed a strong work ethic and discipline.
- Experience is invaluable. You’ll stand out against other candidates, a full year in a role is highly desired by many employers as you’ve already proved you’re workplace ready.
- You will make so many connections on your placement so you can start to build a strong professional network.
- It gives you a real insight into the industry and lets you know what you want (or don’t want) from your future career.
- It could potentially lead to a job offer after uni.
- You’ll get paid.
- You will be able to attend company training courses and get experience of using office systems and programmes.
- You’ll feel more confident in future interviews and you’ll know what to expect.
How to find a work placement
Update your CV
Start by making sure your CV is the best it can be. Update it to include any recent achievements, qualifications (even first year uni grades) and experience you already have. Ask a tutor or careers advisor to check over it and let you know how it can be improved. Be sure to tailor your CV to each role you’re applying for if you’re applying for a variety of different roles e.g. Digital Marketing and traditional Marketing roles will have different requirements. Check the job description and adjust your CV accordingly.
Personalise your cover letter
Make sure you take the time to tailor your cover letter to the role and company you’re applying for. Talk about exactly why you want to work for their organisation. What it is about their company culture specifically you like and makes you think you’d be a great fit. Looking through recent LinkedIn posts can be a great place to find company specific material that will support your application. Particularly when it comes to applying for Marketing roles, demonstrating that you already have an awareness of their recent campaigns and admire their previous work is a strong point to make in your cover letter. Choose a recent successful campaign and talk about exactly what it is you liked about it and how your skill set supports this. Whatever it is, don’t forget to follow on by highlighting your passion or previous success in a similar scenario.
We have a separate blog post on how to perfect your cover letter here.
Begin your search
Start by speaking to your careers advisors, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction of where to look. I was in constant contact with the careers advisors at uni and they’d email me any placements they thought I’d be interested in, so it’s definitely worth spending some time with them. In addition to this they’ll be able to help you perfect your CV and prepare for interviews. You can also set preferences and sign yourself up for job alerts on various career sites, we’ve listed a few useful sites further down.
Prepare for interviews
This may be your first experience of a Marketing interview so make sure you fully prepare. The main things I’d suggest are to read the job description fully, this will give you a real indication as to what kind of questions you’ll face during your interview. Just as importantly, make sure you research the company in depth. This will really impress an employer if they know you’ve done your homework. Having a look at the company’s LinkedIn profile will usually give you some useful insight into the company. Also have your top skills ready with examples (tailor these to each job role specifically). You can usually find some helpful information on what an interview might entail from sites like https://www.ratemyplacement.co.uk/ so it’s definitely worth having a look, but make sure you prepare for any questions that might come your way.
Finding a work placement can be a lengthy task, but stay positive and don’t give up! All of the work you’re doing now to secure one will enhance your CV and improve your employability more than you can imagine. You’ll thank yourself for putting the work in now when it comes to your final year and you’ve already got a year in industry under your belt. Good luck and let us know if you have any questions!