Category Archives: Placements

Welcome to my first placement blog!

Hi, I’m Charlotte and I am currently on placement with IBM, working on the Barclays Integrated Account. This internship is my first taste of a ‘real’ job in business and so I knew it would be a learning curve from the outset, but I perhaps underestimated the gradient of this curve! As I approach the half-way milestone of my journey with IBM I felt it was a good time to reflect on what it is that’s allowing me to make the most of this opportunity. I wanted to share some of the key things I have learnt throughout this process so far:

Ask

via GIPHY

The importance of asking questions when you don’t quite understand something or need a bit of clarification on a matter cannot be underestimated. This seems like an obvious one as it has been drilled into our heads throughout student life but we are still reluctant to do so, especially when in the workplace environment. I was reluctant to ask questions at the beginning of my placement simply because “I didn’t want to seem stupid”. Ironically, it was stupid to have that thought process. You’re not expected to know or understand everything the first time around. Good employers will respect questions, and clarification enables you to complete the task. This is especially important when you are a newbie to an industry – as many of us are during our placement year.

Say yes

Say yes to everything (well…most things)! It is not guaranteed that you will get your dream role for your internship, let alone even know what your dream role is yet, so it is down to you to take initiative and dip your toe into as many parts of the company as possible. I have found the best way to do this so far is by saying yes to the array of opportunities that are there around you. Whether this is participating in Lunch and Learns, networking events or intern competitions, it enables you to experience a different kind of work to your primary role, expand your network, and you never know, you could end up winning the IBM Intern Customer Journey Project 2017!

 

 

Listen

It can be quite (very) easy to zone out during meetings or office conversations when you are new to a company. Initially, I found it difficult to keep up with the IBM terminology – it really is a different language *considers adding bilingual to LinkedIn profile*. Listening is learning, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn from the experienced business people around you. Aside from meetings, just listening to everyday conversations around the office really helped me to understand the workplace dynamic. Office chat has enabled me to learn more about my team members as people, rather than just colleagues. How to interact with people in this way within a work environment is something that is different with everyone and important if you believe this year is as much about the networking as it is about the work experience.

Extra Learning

Not only are they jargon-filled, meetings are extremely fast-paced. Conversations didn’t wait for me (the audacity) and so I had to be on my game to keep up with them. Extra-curricular education has been essential to this. Keeping up with the latest news in the industry and business practices makes such a difference to settling into your role. Fortunately, IBM has a learning platform where you can take courses and badges to educate yourself on emerging technologies, if you have access to anything like this then I advise taking advantage of it. Aside from this, taking initiative and learning about what your team are working on will not go unnoticed. It shows that you care about what you and your team are involved in, which goes a long way.

My top 4 tips when applying for a placement

I thought what better way to start off my placement year blog series other than some advice on applying for a placement! I tried to make this blog post as un-cliché as possible and apply it directly to my personal experiences – it’s all about getting straight to the point!

  1. Apply early

You’d be surprised at the amount of applications that open early – early applicants are proven to be favourable to the employer. The key is to put yourself in their shoes.

Wouldn’t you want to get as many applicants in as early as possible? Moreover, applying early will reduce the amount of stress that could arise once January exams hit!

  1. Get your CV & Cover Letter checked

Your tutor is the gatekeeper. You have to understand that nearly all of them have worked in the corporate world so they know exactly what employers look for. Remember, this is real life and employers don’t give out second opportunities. One mistake and you’re out. My personal tutor gave me so much useful advice on even the smallest details like font and format that can make a huge difference!

More importantly, four eyes are better than two! Get another person whether it be your friend, parent, lecturer (even your dog or cat) to scan over and make sure there aren’t any mistakes as that could be the difference between being called for an interview or getting your CV dumped.

  1. Read job descriptions!!

I can’t stress this enough. The big clues on how to get your application screened for the next stage lies within the job descriptions – believe it or not, it’s true! Let me give you an example, if a job description is looking for a candidate that is able to “work well under pressure” your experience on your CV or your cover letter should demonstrate and reflect an instance whereby you were able to work under pressure – when an employer identifies this you will be considered and they may spend that extra 4 seconds screening through your application.

  1. Don’t send off the same CV/Cover Letter for every application

Last but definitely not least – never send the same generic CV and cover letter, you are literally burning your own application. In relation to tip no.3 every job description will vary so make sure your CV and cover letter match each job description. This is what will help you to stand out and show that your qualities match those to their job description. Employers have the eyes of hawks and can distinguish between a rushed CV and cover letter and a carefully written one. I assure you, the time you put into each application will be reflected in the result of the application.

P.S. I thought it was important I mentioned this – don’t worry if you haven’t got much experience – a key thing employers genuinely are interested in is what you get up to outside of studies so if you haven’t got much experience to show for make sure to get involved in extracurricular activities inside and outside of university – not only does this show character it shows a huge amount of skill too.

All the best with your applications!

Abigail

Time flies fast!

Before starting my 12 month placement, I was told by other placement students that the time goes pretty quick!

Although I was not expecting it to fly by like it has, here I am nearly half way through my placement thinking what have I done in these past 6 months? Time flies when you are having fun..

Although the time goes so quick and the 9-5 work schedule does not always give enough extra time to enjoy on a week day, I have tried to make the most of my weekends.

After my hiking trip to Norway, I managed to pay Italy a visit. I managed to pay a visit to Venice and Rome in 3 days!! Yes, Italy is huge and visiting 2 cities of this kind in 3 days was a brave move. Each day involved around 20km of walking, which was actually very enjoyable with all the historic buildings and sights in front of me. Venice had surprised me with the narrow little streets everywhere, more than with its heritage- city based on hundreds of islands. It was so easy to lose a sense of direction since all the little streets are surrounded by cannels, bridges and gondolas that look the same!

Rome was another surprising experience, mainly due to its historical background and so many sights to see. With the luck of finding a good value place just by the Vatican City was another win for the journey! Here are a few pictures!

 

 

 

 

So far I have also managed to do a bit of work related travelling. My very first trip to Ireland (Belfast) was successful, which was a couple of weeks ago. I was given a tour of the city followed by a welcoming meeting afterwards, with an outcome of landing a marketing project to co-ordinate!

So things are getting pretty busy towards December, whether you are in your first, second, placement or final year! With Christmas approaching rapidly and deadlines coming around even faster it is a busy period for everybody. It is that festive season where procrastination is at its highest (especially when there is a German Market 10mins away from campus), but I wish you luck and courage for those on placement search and good luck to everyone else with exams and coursework. 😊

P.S. talking of festiveness – here’s some inspiration for the Christmas spirit from London!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

via GIPHY

 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!

 

via GIPHY

 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

via GIPHY

 

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!

Image result for email memes

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!