Securing a placement – what I’ve learned (part 1)
Please know that all points in this blog post are speaking from my experience as a mechanical engineering student – I am not sure what differs for courses other than engineering, or what to expect when applying for placements in other sectors/disciplines!
Firstly – a placement, eh? What are the options?
You can take a placement year (aka sandwich, aka year in industry, aka a year-long internship) between years 2 and 3, or (for MEng students only) between years 3 and 4. Placements are usually a year long, and the university does not actively help individuals apply for placements – you have to do it yourself! However, we do have a dedicated placements and internships officer who is amazing to go to for advice, and (throughout my time here) consistently emails a weekly list of the best placements open in for engineering students, which is really brilliant!
I chose to get a placement between 3rd and 4th year, because I wanted to do something to break up the two most difficult years!
Where to start?
Gradcracker, RateMyPlacement, and Bright Network are all brilliant websites where big companies pay to advertise their placement opportunities. You can use filters to tune to your wants, which is great. But – and this important – don’t only look at these sites!! I have a feeling that everyone looks here first – they’re sort of a go-to. So these companies will most likely be inundated with applications from brilliant students all over the country, and the more applications there are, the less likely you are to progress through the process. So, Google is your friend! Have a look on Indeed – or look up companies you think you might be interested in! Company websites will often have a dedicated careers page – it’s good to look for jobs and internship roles on these sites. If a company you like doesn’t have any internship roles, but you’ve seen that they have in the past – don’t be put out. I would check in every week/couple of weeks to see if anything had been posted. You can also contact places directly, but in honesty I’ve never had any luck with this (as in, no reply!), but it can be successful, so by all means try that if you are very interested in a particular company!
CV and covering letter:
When you are at the very beginning of your placement journey, I recommend starting with perfecting your CV – you can get it checked out at the university! They will nit-pick through all of it, which is wonderful. There is some excellent advice available on the Warwick careers advice pages: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/careers/applications/cvs/
For covering letters – I found this link to be so incredibly helpful:
It goes through structure, content, and pretty much everything you can ever think of (found on the Warwick covering letters site, which has some other great links and advice so is well worth checking out! https://warwick.ac.uk/services/careers/applications/coveringletters/)
You will likely be writing a lot of covering letters. My secret is writing a whole lot of paragraphs about relevant things (about a page and a half of them), and then cutting out the irrelevant ones, or expanding the relevant ones a bit more, when I’m applying for each role. Also super important is to tailor the covering letter towards the company and the role you are applying for. This is time consuming – it requires you to do your research and write about the bits of the company/role you would love to be involved with and what you can bring to it, but – to be honest – it’s good to do this research to make sure you are actually applying for something that you want to do, at a place you would like to work at (there have been times when I decided to stop writing my covering letter for a company because I didn’t think it was for me).
Additional tip – get rid of anything on your CV that you don’t want to be asked in significant depth about – you might just get grilled about it in an interview (talking from experience, here).
Is the role relevant to me?
Please don’t waste energy applying for things you might not be fully qualified for – I’ve done that a couple of times when I was especially interested in the company, and really the role was tailored to different degrees than mine – so I’d get rejected outright. Maybe that seems obvious, but hey-ho!
It is also worth reading the role description as carefully as possible – to make sure it’s what you want to do!
How many to apply for?
As many as you have the energy for! I applied for around 15. I’ve been rejected/ignored by about 5, and have progressed in several others (one of which I’ve got), and the remaining third I imagine I will withdraw my application from once I get my formal contact from the company offering me my placement. It’s important to note that if you applied ages ago and haven’t heard anything, at some point in January/February/March time, you are likely to get a response! I had initially given up on some applications as a lost cause, but it was just that the roles were advertised much earlier than recruitment began! So, I have now changed my mind, and I think that the ones I haven’t heard from yet aren’t a lost cause!
When to apply?
As early as September (but if you’re keen, keep looking non-stop until February!!!). This is because otherwise brilliant opportunities will open and shut without you realising. Searching and applying is like a whole other job that you’re doing on top of your degree. It can be intense – but hopefully you’ll get what you want out of it, and if you don’t, that’s okay – it’s great experience for later!
But what about actually getting somewhere with your applications??
Ah yes – pretty important, this. Well, I am sorry, but I will have to turn this into my next post! This is already a long blog, so I shall stop writing for now, but in my next one I’ll talk through what I’ve learned from my interview and assessment centre experiences, as well as what to expect from digital interviews and aptitude tests.
Thanks for reading!
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash