Category Archives: Placements

A month into placement year in Switzerland.. how am I finding it?

Hello everyone!

My name is Lauren, and I’m an International Business and French (IBML) student working at Deloitte in Geneva, Switzerland for my placement year. I’ve been here for just over a month, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

As this is my first blog post, I thought it would be nice to share just a few things that I’ve learnt after only a month of placement:

Change is hard

 

At the start of second year, I began to question why I decided to study languages and force myself to leave England for a French-speaking country. Nevertheless, I’m here now and I am already starting to see a change in myself and my independence. Moving countries requires a lot more work than you would initially think, but once you’re living abroad, you realise that it’s all worth it. You meet different people, experience new cultures, try lots of different foods, and get the opportunity to live in and be surrounded by beautiful cities.

 

Budgeting is even harder

 

 

As I’m sure, you can imagine, living in Geneva is super expensive. Accommodation, food, washing and Wi-Fi are all things you need living abroad. You will need to find a way to pay for these yourself. This is something I should have thought about more before moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, budgeting is something that I will have to improve upon by the end of the year if I want to live with a roof over my head, and having it as a skill will be useful at every stage during my life. I know that even in the past month I have managed to set myself a weekly amount and stick to it, even making room for travelling to nearby cities to visit friends from university which has been a bonus! Also, because you’re in a different country, you can use that as an excuse to do lots of stuff that you won’t have the chance to do at home without worrying too much about how much money you’re spending.

 

The possibilities are endless

 

 

You may think it sounds a bit OTT, but moving abroad really has allowed me to meet lots of incredible people in such a short space of time. During this, the main thing I’ve found is that the word is bigger than I had originally thought, and you definitely shouldn’t limit your placement options to just the UK, or just France when looking for a French-speaking country. Whether you want to study, work, or do a mixture of the two, make sure you use this experience to your advantage and try to visit as many places in the world that put you the furthest out of your comfort zone.

Speak soon!

Lauren x

How to get a perfect placement – and you only need to conquer these three steps!

It’s that time of year again where thousands of students apply for placements across the UK. If you want to get the perfect placement, take note of some of my tips and tricks that will help you on your placement search!

Apply! Apply! Apply!

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 Don’t just apply for 1 or 2 roles. But apply for many as you can. You aren’t guaranteed to get a placement by just applying for 1 role as it is really competitive. I applied to around 40 companies before I got my placement role. How did I apply for so many roles? I made sure to apply for 1 to 2 roles per week!

Don’t be lazy…tailor your application!

 

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 I know we all get lazy when applying for jobs and we don’t bother to change bits of our CV or cover letter. I can certainly tell you that there were times I didn’t bother applying for roles because they required a cover letter.  Most organisations will ask for a cover letter, so it’s best to stop lazing around and get to work. Another lazy tactic we adopt is using the same cover letter for all the roles we apply for rather than tailoring it to the role we want. Make sure you change your cover letter for each role you apply for. Your cover letter needs to seem personal and written like it was made for that role in mind so put that hard work and effort in, it will pay off! Your cover letter is literally your initial selling point – those first impressions count!

Use Careers+Placements

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many students don’t realise how much Careers+Placements can support students with their placement search! It’s only with Careers+Placement’s support that I am where I am today. If you are struggling with your application, need to check your CV or want to brush up your interview skills, Careers+Placements are there to support you! Book an appointment via Aston Futures!

Also, make use of the events that run on campus throughout the term that Careers+Placements organise. They have weekly employer events where various companies come onto campus to talk to students and some of them even host workshops! There are also the annual career fairs such as the placements fair, where more than 30 companies come onto campus (there are always some big names). I found out all the information about events via the weekly newsletters I received from Careers+Placements and their social media channels.

Don’t forget to use Aston Futures to find your perfect placement role. Careers+Placements advertise more than 1,000 roles a year on the online portal (a combination of placement, part-time and graduate roles).

The more you engage with Careers+Placements, the more you will benefit, trust me, I work with them!

Placement year? It should be called YOU year!

Hi, my name is Harjap and I will be blogging regularly about the things I am doing on my placement year and about my experience. I am currently on placement as a Marketing Assistant at Aston University.

 

As an LSS student, I know that there are a lot of students who decide not to do a placement as it is not compulsory.  Many of my course mates are currently in final year as they chose not to look for a placement, and I can’t help but think why? Why when placement year is such a great and rare opportunity to do something new and gain invaluable skills that will only benefit you in the near future, it is something that you definitely don’t want to miss out on. It is a year all about you and your development- nothing else.

I decided to do a placement because I knew the experience will benefit me in the future when applying for graduate schemes. I also wanted to do it to take a break from studying, and I did not want to enter final year knowing I have to do a dissertation (God please save me)! Give me a break already!

I can’t thank myself enough for deciding to do a placement. I am only four months into my placement, and I have learnt and developed so many new skills, exceeding my own expectations! To my surprise!

‘Me time

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Placement year is a time to focus on yourself. You will work a typical 9-4 or 9-5 job, and after that, you have free time to do whatever you like, unlike school where you have to spend your out of hours studying and revising. I wanted to make the most of the time and so I decided to work on my personal goals that I’ve wanted to complete for some time now but never had the time to do them because of my studies.

 

So what have I done in my spare time?

 

I have joined the gym, enrolled onto a Sikh studies course, I’m working on building my skills for my future career, spending time with friends, and exploring the UK. I have many more things I want to  achieve  this year,  And I hope to achieve them before my placement is up.

I honestly feel like I have never been productive enough when it comes to developing skills and qualities. I have done so many things over these four months; I can’t wait to look back after a year to see how much I have grown as a person I really recommend placement year to everyone. Of course, it’s all about getting the experience and I love my placement, but we sometimes forget that it is also the time to develop on ourselves and to tick off our own bucket list!

Career in Policy and Public Affairs

Sometimes I find it hard to describe what I do for a living. ‘Policy and public affairs’ isn’t a career path that everyone has heard of, or knows much about. But I think it’s probably one of the most interesting and rewarding careers going.

I loved ancient history and literature at school, and went on to study at the University of Birmingham. After graduating, I was sure that I wanted to work in the public sector, and to do something that used my skills – reading and absorbing information, seeing patterns and analysing situations, and setting out my arguments in writing. After a while tempting for the NHS in an admin role in London, I managed to get onto Birmingham City Council’s graduate programme.

During my time on the graduate programme I worked in several different roles which enabled me to get a sense of what I did – and definitely didn’t want to do in future. It was during a placement in a waste and recycling depot on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, where I was researching and designing different ways to encourage Brummies to recycle more and throw away less, that I discovered my interest in public policy.

I made a sideways move from working directly in local government to working in higher education policy in London. I wasn’t working for the government department responsible for universities, but for a policy organisation that represents universities – so it was my job to try to influence policy from the outside. I started as a Policy Researcher, and within three and a half years worked my way up to become a Policy Analyst and then a Senior Policy Analyst, eventually managing my own Policy Researcher.

I’m now Aston University’s Policy Advisor. It’s my job to know what is going on in the political world outside, and work out how it might impact on Aston. It’s also my job to find ways of letting policymakers know about all of the excellent work that goes on in Aston. Life as a Policy Advisor is often varied and always interesting. One day I might be watching a parliamentary debate live online to see what the government Minister is saying about universities, the next I’ll be responding to a consultation on what Brexit will mean for the UK’s higher education sector, and another day I’ll be drafting letters to send to MPs about an exciting development at Aston University, or organising a roundtable discussion event.

One of the great things about policy as a career path is that you realise policy roles are all around you, and your skills are really transferrable. As well as the option of working within government or with a particular politician, pretty much any organisation that interacts with government in some way, whether in the public, private or charity sector, will need people to run their policy and public affairs operation.

If you have developed the right skills and experience – like being able to read and digest lengthy and complex reports, analyse what a government announcement will mean for a sector in practice, think how a politician might think, or write a persuasive letter – in a way it doesn’t matter what context you are working in. You can learn that detail of the job as you go along.

 

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in policy is:

  • When it comes to job hunting or looking for work experience, think outside the box – it’s not just government that has policy roles. Universities, charities of all kinds, political parties, think tanks and representative bodies do too. And it doesn’t have to be in London if that’s not your scene.
  • Your career can be incredibly varied, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into one area of policy. I moved straight from environmental policy to higher education policy so I know it can be done.
  • Do your research and keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re applying for a policy role, have a look at the organisation’s recent news releases or blogs, find out which government departments they interact with and which politicians are in charge, and read one of their recent speeches. This will impress recruiters and show that you have already thought about their policy challenges.

Lizzy Woodfield

Policy Advisor, Aston University

If students would like to talk to someone to gain some advice on how to break into a career in policy, or to discuss any other aspects of their career planning, do book an appointment with a careers consultant via Aston Futures (www.aston.ac.uk/careers

My advice…

Hi guys! 

I thought I would share with you some advice and tips to help you on your journey at Aston.

Being at Aston University is a very exciting experience, I know it was for me. Aston has so much to offer – you need to ensure you make the most out of your time here, take up new opportunities and get involved!

So here are some key tips from my experience at Aston…

Tip 1. Open your emails

I know being a student can get extremely busy, trying to manage lectures, studying, group-work, sleeping and socialising etc. And the last thing you want to do is to read through emails. However, always open university emails because they do contain a lot of important information and OPPORTUNITIES!

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Tip 2. Peer Mentoring Scheme

Sometimes as a student you want guidance from a friend who has already been in your shoes, experienced things before you, and just someone to tell you it’s all going to be OK. This is why the peer mentoring scheme is so helpful.

I have been involved in the peer mentoring scheme since my first year. Each year I was assigned to a mentor who was also doing the same course as me, who would guide and help me with anything and everything. It has been a great scheme to make friends, gain help and advice. I even took up the opportunity to become a mentor myself – to give something back to the university and the students.

Tip 3. Extra opportunities/jobs

I was always looking for new opportunities and things to get involved in. For example, on many occasions I got casual/part-time work as a university tour guide and helped with jobs over the holidays, and got paid! (Opportunities were found at the JobShop).

Tip 4. Join Societies

Again, make sure you join societies and clubs! They are a great way to socialise, make friends, gain experience and responsibility. I joined Aston’s Sikh Society and in my second year I was lucky enough to make it on to the committee as Events and Marketing Coordinator.

Tip 5. Careers+Placements

Now when it comes to looking for a placement, a lot of us leave it till last minute. However, do get in touch with Careers+Placements as soon as possible. They offer a range of services and resources in helping you find your placement. I visited the centre many times to get advice from the careers consultants, get my CV and cover letter checked, and attended their careers events. I used Aston Futures (Careers+Placements online platform to search for job vacancies and events) to apply for placements and eventually secured one through them as well!

Being proactive and getting involved has really boosted my CV and EMPLOYABILITY!

And so to some it all up, take advantage of what Aston has to offer and build an unforgettable and valuable experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Kiran 😊

Towards The End of Placement

Almost a year on, and Placement is coming to an end… 🙁

I can definitively say it has been one of the best years of my life, and has really been a highlight of University so far. And to think I was questioning what the fuss about a Placement Year was all about!!!

Doing a Placement abroad can be very costly, depending on where you complete yours, but also on whether you’re working, or studying. However, it can also be relatively cheap, if you’re careful with your spending. I would not want any student, who has their heart set on doing a placement abroad, to be put off by the financial aspect that is involved. There are many forms of financial support available to students, primarily Student Finance, but also scholarships, and help from Aston. See what you are eligible for, and apply! These services are in place to help you, so utilise them. If ever in doubt about anything, just make an appointment to see the Careers + Placement Team, and air any concerns, or queries that you may have. They are very helpful, and will ensure that you are supported as much as possible.

As you start your Placement journey, do not forget to stay in touch will your friends from Aston, as you, or they, may be feeling a little homesick, and might want to speak to a familiar face. No one’s Placement goes smoothly for the whole year, but if yours is going well at the start, just remember that your friend’s might not be going as well, especially if they are working, as this could prove to be more difficult – physically, and mentally – than studying. So, just keep some sort of regular contact, so that you can exchange stories, and experiences of what has gone on so far.

Of course, they might not need any support, as their Placement could be going great. In fact, some of my friends are staying abroad for another month, or two, even after there Placement has ended, as they have enjoyed it so much.

loving madrid thus far!

Keep in touch with your family, so that they know that you are enjoying the experience of a Placement, but also to put their nerves at ease. Moving out, or living abroad can be stressful for you, but also for your family members, as they will be worrying about you non-stop. Whenever you get the opportunity, just allay their fears, so that they know that they do not have to worry about you so much. Although, if you are not enjoying any aspect of staying away from home, or living abroad, then let your family know, as there is always a solution.

Whilst on Placement, ensure that you keep on top of all your paperwork e.g. Erasmus forms, as problems with those documents will only add more headaches to your already hectic life! If ever unsure, just drop the Aston team an email. Personally, with my Placement coming to an end, I have reflected on the past year, and am so happy that I took this route. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself studying abroad, in an international environment, meeting people from all over the world, who will become lifelong friends, then do your research, and if you’re still interested – APPLY!!!

see you soon!

Till next time!

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!

Mastering Madrid.

Greetings from Madrid!

I have now been studying here for roughly two and a half months, and have loved every bit of it. This post will mainly focus on what Madrid has to offer, so anyone aspiring to do their placement here, can receive a few hints, and tips of what might be in store for them. I will also briefly touch upon the finances of studying, and living abroad, as this is a big factor in the decision-making for most people, myself included.

Where to begin?! The University life here is somewhat similar to that of Aston, however, I found that there are some differences, mainly in the way you are examined, and in the way some of the courses are organised. First, and foremost, I got to choose my own modules here, something that you do not get the chance to do until final year, if you’re a joint-honours ABS, and LSS student like myself. This is something I feel is a benefit, as you are given more autonomy, and can focus on a field that you enjoy, or are good at, or both! At UC3M, which is the University I am studying at, there is a big emphasis on continuous evaluation, and mid-term tests. This is something we do not really encounter at Aston, but I have found that they are really not that bad, and can work out in your favour, as there is then less stress on you for the final exam.

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The social life is great, and there is so much to do. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) team here are really helpful, and arrange some great events. You should sign up for the ESN card, it’s only €5, and it great value for money. I would recommend everyone to take part in the early events, as it is a great way to get to know people, and to learn about Madrid, and all of it’s hotspots. The food is unbelievably cheap – especially compared to England! Madrid really is a sports-mad city, so for any football or basketball fans that are planning to study, or work here, they will not be disappointed.

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Generally, the city itself it relatively cheap. Accommodation is cheaper than the majority of anything that you will find in England. You can purchase a travel card, which is €20 a month for students, and with that, you can travel anywhere within the region of Madrid, on any mode of public transport. Flights back to the UK are also quite cheap, so you can return home, if you need to. So, for anyone that wants to do their placement abroad, but is put off by the expenses, should really look into it, as Madrid is relatively cheaper than most other European capital cities, and you will be guaranteed to have a great experience.

Thanks for reading!

Valle de los Caidos- The controversy of Franco’s tomb

I decided to revise my knowledge of Spanish history, so I bought the Ghosts of Spain written by historian Giles Tremlett. One morning during my daily commute to work I was reading about El Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen), I hadn’t heard of this before. The book stated its location and I was stunned that it was located in the sierra of Guadaramma, very close to the Catholic school where I work, I had always wandered why it was there. It is 150-metre tall granite cross, located along a beautiful stretch of the sierra. Ostensibly erected to commemorate those who had died during Spain’s bloody clash of ideology; it is the biggest and most recent piece of fascist monumental architecture in Europe, Franco’s self proclaimed masterpiece. Beneath the cross is a dome shaped burial site of 40,000 deceased from both sides, lavishly decorated with gold mosaic and black marble.

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The disturbing thing about this grandiose monument is that this is also where the remains of dictator Francisco lie, and that many bodies of los ‘vencidos’ (the defeated) are buried in countless roadside graves in Madrid’s afueras, forgotten without a trace. Campaigners put the figure at 100,000 unrecovered bodies from the civil war. A further controversy being that an estimated 20,000 workers who constructed the monument were Republican prisoners, intent on reducing their sentences. Mayoress of Poyales del Hoyo Damiana González insists the monument remains a symbol of forgiveness and peace between two bitterly opposed identities of Spain’s past.

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It is officially regarded as a depoliticised memorial, but there is still the contention of whether it should be demolished, or whether it should be maintained as a vital piece of Spain’s heritage, a historical lesson, allowing them to never return to their twisted past. One things for certain, Franco wanted a conspicuous and imposing presence in an attempt to cement his legacy, fortunately with the populations swift transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975, this wasn’t possible.