Category Archives: Zahra

Blog Series (6): The Ending

Everything eventually comes to an end, as is my placement. I am now preparing to complete my handover, any campaigns that need to be tied and of course promoting my role for the next placement student. The time goes quickly so make the most of it, I am happy to say I feel as though I have made the most of my placement, I’ve taken part in various campaigns and also been given the chance to manage them on my own as well as, being able to gain some experience on Photoshop, WordPress, Hootsuite, being given full access to our social media accounts, learning how to update and manage the Careers+Placements website and app.

I have taken part in away days, I’ve been able to visit Aston Villa Stadium, gone on Christmas meals and lunches, meetings with key players around the university and had the chance to meet the Vice Chancellor of the university. My placement has taught me how to network, how to build my confidence up for a graduate job and let’s face it as a university student this has been my most productive year of all.

The end is near, a little dramatic but it truly is, I feel ready to transition back into university and feel far more confident knowing that this will be my final year, before my placement I was always unsure, slightly lazy, had ambition but didn’t know how to exactly get to where I wanted, but now I feel as though I’m ready to get that degree and move on. I want to work as I have seen the benefits of working, like anything you will feel stressed or overwhelmed but that’s just life, and you will get through it.

Placement search can be hard, off-putting and difficult but if you find the right placement for you, then all that hard work will pay off, working for the Careers+Placements department at Aston has been a great experience and I can only hope the next bunch of placement students enjoy their placement as much as I did and remember, if you don’t manage to get the role that I am currently in, then don’t stop searching, ask for feedback on your interview and application process and learn from it.

 

I the ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student have come towards the end of my journey.

Good luck to you all, I hope you find the placement you were looking for!

Blog series (5): 6 months in …. The halfway line

Disclaimer: This post is an edited version of my previous post (6 months in) I am now way past the halfway line!

It seems like only yesterday I was on Aston Futures searching for a placement, yet here I am almost 6 months into my Placement Year, half the year done! Already I have begun preparing myself for my assignment and believe you me, it’s not as easy as you think it would be. When going on a placement at times you can feel disconnected from the university. Regardless of working in my place of study, for the longest time I have felt disconnected. This is not a bad thing, this is just a part of me growing up and working hard. It may come to a time where you feel as though, your placement has somewhat matured you, for me, this is exciting as I feel I have finally developed the mindset I need to delve into my final year.

6 months into my placement and I have established a range of skills, I never thought I could develop until after graduation, I have built up my confidence and self-esteem considerably and I have now learnt to trust myself more than any other person in this world, in the world of work, you are relied upon and in order to really succeed, you must also rely on yourself first and foremost to get the job done.

As the New Year approaches, I can truly say that my placement has made me proud of who I have become and the best part is that I still have 6 months to go. During this time, I have taken part in a range of networking events where I have had the opportunity to liaise with other employers and colleagues, I have contributed to several important meetings and will soon have the chance to chair a meeting of my own. I have also contributed to a few ‘employer away days’ where the team gets together to discuss progress, issues and future campaigns. This by far has been one of the most engaging factors for me, as during this period you are required to think critically about all that has been achieved in the past and how this can be improved in the short/long term. During this period of time you are required to analyse and communicate effectively with other members of the team, it is during this point you come to realise that in order to provide a seamless service, it is essential the team takes time away from the office to brainstorm and discuss a range of innovative ideas to
bring about great change.

Not only have I learnt a range of new things I have also met some great people and made a tonne of new memories with some new friends. Working in an environment where you are joined by other placement students not only provides you with the moral support you may need, but it just makes the placement all the more fun and interesting. As we all study at Aston I have made friends on my course who I never knew of before and the best part is that we can all help each other with our assignments! The past 6 months have been a treat and I cannot wait to come back in the New Year to see what it may bring.

Remember, don’t be afraid of success, now is the time to push yourselves, now is the time to really do great things – The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Stay tuned to read about coming to the end of my placement journey next Monday.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog Series (4): The first day

 

Disclaimer: Take this with a pinch of salt, your day could be a little or very different! 

I got the ‘Yes’ in May and started in July which was still a little time away, I was nervous, to say the least. I got on the train and made my way to Aston, when working as staff the environment completely changes, you are no longer that student who gets late for their lectures, or who walks into the Main Building only to walk back out, you are staff and as staff you are required to be there on time, well dressed and ready for the day.

It is likely that your manager will greet you when you come in and help you get settled at your desk, you will then be taken around the department and be introduced to your colleagues, don’t worry if you forget names,  soon all will be familiar, after all the handshakes and formal introductions you will be taken back to your desk.

At this point, things get real, real quick! You’ll be given a timeline of plans and comms that the team have been working on, what you need to work on and what your targets will be. You will be given a handover, for instance, I will create a handover document for the next placement student so they know how I did things, what they need to do and just to give them that bit of advice from placement students to placement student and then you will be given a fairly easy task to help you get familiar with the role.

Oh, and of course you will be given your log-ins, an email account, a staff card and just to warn you, they do not give you a chance to smile coherently for the picture, so be sure to have your ‘I’m ready for a picture’ face on at all times and you will also need to create a message for your voicemail … mines is dreaded, thank god no one really calls me!

The first day was great I did not feel too overwhelmed, as I was eased into the role, at least for a good month! They really do give you the time to settle, you are also given a ‘buddy’ which is another colleague in the department who you can talk to if you do not feel ready to approach matters with your manager or do not know how to.

The first day now seems like a blur, I do remember feeling lonely, however, as I had not befriended any colleagues at this point and my friends had not moved back to university, it was a lonely time at the start as other placement students had not yet started either. However, in due to time I have met the best placement students, staff and made some great friends, make sure to integrate with your team and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your placement colleagues.   

Your first day will be great, it will be normal to feel nervous, but just remember like with anything you’ll adjust and feel at home before you know it!

Stay tuned to read about my journey 6 months in this Thursday

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

 

Blog Series (3): The Call

 

The call … we all wait for that one call… to tell us we ‘got the job’ but sometimes that doesn’t happen for some of us. During my search for a placement I had been rejected a countless number of times, sometimes it just became a daily ‘no’ and so this time, I didn’t hold my breath. I remember getting the call perhaps a couple days after the interview as they had various assessment centres going on. I was in my flat, sleeping the exhaustion away as I had been revising, sitting exams and writing up assignments as well as attending interviews. I remember my phone ringing, I was not impressed, who would ring me at such an ungodly hour? I didn’t recognise the number… Aston? I sat up straight and put on my professional voice.

Within moments I was told that the job was mine for the taking! I was ecstatic. Now when taking a call with an employer who has offered you a job, it is important you maintain some level of professionalism and don’t go off on a tangent thanking them 5,6,7,8,9,10 times and perhaps its best to just ask a few questions to show you’re well aware of what will happen next.

  • When will my start date be?
  • What documents must I bring in?
  • When will the documents need to be given in?
  • Do I need to let my Placement Coordinator know? Which yes you do, probably best to only ask an Aston employer this question as they can guide you on exactly what you need to do, but do pop into Careers+Placements if you are ever unsure.

And then you can put the phone down, squeal and celebrate! Oh and do tell them you ‘look forward to working with the team’ it just leaves a friendly impression!

To those of you reading this, unfortunately only one of you will get ‘the call’ for this role but don’t be disheartened take it as a learning curve and you will get ‘the call’ soon!

Stay tuned to read about my first day on the job next Monday!

 

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog Series (2): The interview

Now I am going to assume that you are in fact applying for my current role as a Marketing Assistant for Aston University (Careers+Placements department) so that I can talk to you in perspective. When applying for a role in Marketing, I decided to bring together my knowledge from various aspects of my life, yes I am an undergraduate and yes as an LSS student studying English and Social Policy I do in fact, hold the skills and qualities needed to be a Marketing Assistant, but is that all I have to offer? That’s the question, what more is there to you, other than your degree? Whilst important it is surely not the only thing that interests you. Think about things you do outside of the university, think about something that may have caught your eye, it could have been a campaign put together by Nike and did that persuade you to buy something? Or did Pepsi’s recently commercial spark an emotion within you? Marketing is around you and it always will be, so why not talk about how you perceive campaigns, or how you would have changed something about a particular campaign … think outside the box!

However, don’t point out the blatantly obvious ‘I study marketing and so that is why I will be good at it’ studying and working are practically two different things, are you familiar with Photoshop, Hootsuite, Survey Monkey, recording stats, excel, WordPress? Do you use social media? Do you blog? Do you vlog? When talking about modules don’t talk about the name of the module ‘oh I did a marketing module’ … that means nothing to an employer not even one at Aston, instead talk about what you perhaps learnt and how you can use that and apply it to real life work, talk about the skills you’ve learnt just studying at Aston, surely your writing would be adept, you would be a fairly good proofreader, you would have a knack for creativity, use that to your advantage.

Don’t be shy to showcase your talent! Can you draw? Bring in a portfolio! It’s all about bringing to light your key skills and talents and I bet, you have much more skills than you know. This is your time to shine, the person who is interviewing you is likely to be your manager … I was interviewed by my ‘potential’ manager and colleague, I used the interview to get to know them as they used it to get to know me!  

Now, the interview came after a group task (yes with other people who were applying for my role and various roles within the department) and an excel task. I was nervous to meet the people who would be deciding the fate of placement year, like most people my hands began to get clammy, I began to second guess myself and my heart started racing when I heard the words ‘Zahra it’s time for your interview’ but don’t quote me, my memory may have distorted the lines of the exact words used, but you get the jist. Once I entered the room for my interview I felt at ease, the department here at Aston is very friendly, there are no intimidating faces and no reason to be intimidated, at this point you are not a student, you are an adult, hoping to become staff! So let your confidence consume you … but don’t get cocky.

I was asked a number of questions during my interview, the questions were picked up and formed from what I had mentioned on my CV … so don’t lie, an employer can tell. The conversation flowed as I did my research and talked about the campaigns done at Aston, here’s a list …

Ah, let me let you research that one on your own!

As I did take the time out to research the campaigns put forward by Careers+Placements, it instantly conveyed my interest within the department and understanding of what ‘we’ are trying to sell as a team. I also talked about what I wanted to gain from my placement and why it was so important to me, it’s not about being the perfect candidate who knows everything already, it about being genuine, showing an interest, and room for progression.

The interview lasted perhaps 15-20 mins, or maybe it just felt that long, but don’t worry if the interview goes well then the conversation will come to a natural halt. An interview should feel like a conversation, pay heed to your body language, but don’t sit like you’re at home, dress well and practically so that the employer can envision you working actively as part of the team and speak with confidence, take your time and speak clearly.

Don’t devalue yourself, let your personality shine and if all goes well, then you could be Careers+Placements next Marketing Assistant.

Stay tuned to read about my experience handling the ‘You got the job’ news! This Thursday!

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student. 

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog series (1): The application process

Hi there, my name is Zahra and I am currently working as a Marketing Assistant for Aston’s Careers+Placements zahra image 11department. Stay tuned for my blog series every Monday & Thursday to help YOU land my role, for your placement year!

Don’t know what’s worse when applying for a role,  the interview or the application process? For me it was the application process, as it can be a daunting experience, it can put you off a job before you’re even given a chance, it can even make you feel incompetent for the job, but if you do it right, then you can really give yourself a fighting chance to stand out from the crowd.

When applying for a role it is likely that you will be asked to submit a CV and Cover Letter, remember you can always get this checked before you apply, by uploading your documents on Aston Futures for your Placement Coordinator to check, this is exactly what I had done before my placement search began. But that’s a story for another time.

When writing up a CV specifically for marketing make sure to highlight ‘relevant’ details, get your thinking hats on or better yet use google to help you identify exactly what skills and qualities you need to work in marketing, once you have done that think about the skills and qualities you do have, and I bet you there are plenty and use that to highlight how you can contribute to the team.

Instead of just listing your skills and qualities, if you have space why not add a sentence to highlight how you have demonstrated the skill or quality in the past. For instance, the most common skill/quality that is listed in most CV’s is ‘effective communication skills’, brilliant, if you have that but so does everyone else or so they claim, if you do have ‘effective communication skills’ how do you know? Communication can come in the form of speaking and writingbrilliance, have you worked in a Call Centre? As a Sales Assistant? Do you blog? Tell us how and remember you don’t need to list every skill or quality, you need to highlight the one’s that make you stand out and are relevant to marketing, be a little different and don’t just stick with the most common skill/quality, do your research!

Another tip would be … and believe you me this is overlooked, take a look at the job description and pick out key buzz words from that description, 9/10 times if a job description is written well, employers will put in keywords that they want you to use, they are literally telling you exactly what they want to see in your CV and Cover Letter!

Be a little creative. Your Cover Letter, is a glimpse into your personality, from this employers, are able to see where your passion resides. When applying for a role at Aston be sure to mention what campaigns you have come across, how familiar you are with the department, if you are part of a society, do you follow their social media? Don’t forget to also mention what campaigns interest you in general, like any other employer Aston does not expect you to only be interested in Aston, we understand you have other interests, don’t shy away from those. Do mention how your modules may contribute to your role in marketing, but be sure to explain how or why, fair enough if you have covered marketing as a module, but what skills did you gain, or let’s say you haven’t, have you worked in a team or given a presentation if so pop that in.

And last, of all, do apply! If you are interested in Marketing then this is the role for you, I have learnt so much during my time here at Aston, it has prepared me well for a graduate job and has given me the confidence to do what I really want to do. Stay tuned, to read about my interview process and tips next Monday!

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

6 months in …

It seems like only yesterday I was on Aston Futures searching for a placement, yet here I am almost 6 months in to my Placement Year, half the year done! Already I have begun preparing myself for my assignment and believe you me, it’s not as easy as you think it would be. When going on a placement at times you can feel disconnected from university. Regardless of working in my place of study, for the longest time I have felt disconnected. This is not a bad thing, this is just a part of me growing up and working hard. It may come to a time where you feel as though, your placement has somewhat matured you, for me this is exciting as I feel I have finally developed the mind-set I need to delve into my final year.

6 months into my placement and I have established a range of skills, I never thought I could develop until after graduation, I have built up my confidence and self-esteem considerably and I have now learnt to trust myself more than any other person in this world, in the world of work, you are relied upon and in order to really succeed, you must also rely upon yourself first and foremost to get the job done.

As the New Year approaches, I can truly say that my placement has made me proud of who I have become and the best part is that I still have 6 months to go. During this time, I have taken part in a range of networking events where I have had the opportunity to liaise with other employers and colleagues, I have contributed to several important meetings and will soon have the chance to chair a meeting of my own. I have also contributed to a few ‘employer away days’ where the team gets together to discuss progress, issues and future campaigns. This by far has been one of the most engaging factors for me, as during this period you are required to think critically about all that has been achieved in the past and how this can be improved in the short/long term. During this period of time you are required to analyse and communicate effectively with other members of the team, it is during this point you come to realise that in order to provide a seamless service, it is essential the team takes time away from the office to brain storm and discuss a range of innovative ideas to
bring about great change.

Not only have I learnt a range of new things I have also met some great people and made a ton of new memories with some new friends. Working in an environment where you are joined by other placement students not only provides you with the moral support you may need, but it just makes the placement all the more fun and interesting. As we all study at Aston I have made friends on my course who I never knew of before and the best part is that we can all help each other with our assignments! The past 6 months have been a treat and I cannot wait to come back in the New Year to see what it may bring.

Remember, don’t be afraid of success, now is the time to push yourselves, now is the time to really do great things – The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

 

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ approach to securing a placement.

Searching for placements can be exhausting, stressful and for some unimportant.  As a student I understood this attitude, I partly shared the attitude. There was no doubt that I understood the value of a placement – I would be leaving with not only a degree but a years’ worth of experience in my field of interest. Something most graduates cannot say they have. I knew I would be giving myself the push I need to succeed in the real world of work and an experience that would either push me towards Marketing or away from it. I knew that I would rather know now than to search long and hard for a job once I graduated, only to realise, it’s not a job I want …. at all. Changing my attitude towards placement search came as more of an epiphany, somewhat mid – January. I began being far more proactive and searching for placements on a weekly basis, which then turned into a daily task.

The more I searched, the more I found things that appealed to me. Having used Aston Futures first hand, I wasn’t filtering my searches, I was simply clicking from page to page, hoping for a placement to hit me in the eye. This was the wrong approach, the approach that defined me as the ‘chronically lazy’. Because, of this lack of ambition and inability to search more appropriately, the rejections piled on. I was applying for things that didn’t interest me much, things that I thought I should just do for the sake of it as I was unable to find many placements in my field of interest … Marketing! And here you thought I would say something unrealistic like ‘acting’ – to be found on Aston Futures.

The rejections, piled on, they were more than just rejections, they were silent rejections as most employers didn’t get back to me, giving me the silent ‘no’. The more I was rejected the more I was motivated, motivated to receive a ‘congratulations’ rather than an ‘unfortunately’ or a nothing at all. It was a hard juggle between placement search, exam prep and having a social life. The more those around me began to secure their placements, the more I felt I the need to try harder. The search can make you feel down and extremely pressured, but the outcome … the outcome is worth it all. The temporary lapse between searching for a placement and securing one is a hard one to overcome, but once you receive that ‘congratulations’ you forget about the frustration caused by not securing a placement, as you’re too overjoyed to care about the past. The short-term. Through the ups and downs of second year I finally received a phone call, somewhat better than just an email and was invited along to an assessment day.

Placements searches can be daunting and tedious but with ambition, there is no doubt you’ll find one. If you weren’t placement material, you wouldn’t be in uni. The assessment day was great fun. Surprisingly. It gave me an idea of what it would be like to work in such an environment, I was able to meet ‘potential colleagues’ and get some practice in for after I graduate. I knew I would have to take the assessment day as a step forward, regardless of the outcome.

Let’s pause this anecdote for a moment as I share with you some wisdom. Research. Research as hard as you would to write a graded paper, research is valuable. Research is what got me the job! I felt confident answering the questions posed to me on my assessment day, as I RESEARCHED – potential questions and things about the company. I WATCHED – practice interviews on YouTube and I wasn’t afraid to emphasise on my own interests and link them back to the job role. As I was interested in Marketing, I made an emphasis on what Marketing campaigns I particularly enjoy, that were not a part of the University, and I linked this back to the job which showed a broader level of knowledge. I did this without neglecting the campaigns put forward by Aston, whom I work for. I made sure to make it known that I was aware of what Aston did and what others had done.

For the first time, in my spiral of second year woes I felt, confident. Because of this I secured the role of a Marketing Assistant – the ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.