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How I started a business during my placement year

Ashleigh Plummer, who is an Aston graduate, started a business in his placement year with the support of BSEEN. Ashleigh shares his story below. 

What did you do for your placement year?

For my placement year I started a company called Deusoft Web Development and Creative Studio. This is basically a creative web company that aimed to help small-to-medium-sized businesses showcase their brands in the best possible light. As we worked with multiple clients, the specifications were always different. Our job was to listen to our clients’ needs, break it down and then use an agile process to produce something that our clients were proud of.

How did BSEEN support you?

BSEEN helped by providing an office space at the innovation campus in Birmingham which gave us the professional outlook we needed, especially when meeting with clients. BSEEN also provided a grant which enabled me to purchase business equipment and software. They also provided a mentor who was able to clear some of my thoughts about the direction I was taking the business.

Tell us a bit about the process for applying to the BSEEN programme and the support offered during the year.

The process is very simple. At the end of the day, BSEEN are there to help you start and run a successful business. The process consists of filling in an application form and a panel interview to which you provide a presentation on your business idea.

Once you are accepted onto the programme, you have to attend a business boot camp which provides you with essential foundation knowledge of running a business i.e. Finance, Marketing, Sales, etc.

Over the year, BSEEN organise and advise you on a ton of different events that would be beneficial for your business. These events are great for meeting potential clients and creating new acquaintances.

Can you tell us a bit more about the business you ran?

The company was a web and mobile development studio based in Birmingham, which also offered additional services such as branding, social media marketing and SEO.

Main services included:
• Web development (HTML, PHP, JavaScript and CSS)
• Mobile App development (Android/Java, iOS)
• Branding (logo design, business cards and social media branding)
• Digital Marketing (SEO and social media marketing)

Deusoft was set up in the aim of bringing web solutions to small businesses and start-ups within the West Midlands.

Would you recommend the BSEEN programme to current 2nd year students?

I would, however, it is not your traditional placement scheme. You must have a lot of self-discipline and be a pro-active thinker. No one is going to tell you what to do: you must decide it all by yourself. So if you have a business idea that you are passionate about and you have a long term vision for it, then the programme is for you.

 

What was the highlight of your placement? Receiving my first payment for my creative skills.

What advice would you give those considering starting up their own business?

You need to know how to communicate what your business is as simply as possible. If your customers don’t understand what you’re selling, then they won’t buy from you. The way people see, hear and recognise your business is crucial. Know your audience, know your business.

Did Ashleigh’s story inspire you to start your own business during your placement year? Why not come and speak to BSEEN about the support they can offer you at our upcoming #FindYourPlacement event, which is taking place on 11th June? Spaces are limited, so book your place now!

My placement year at Shoosmiths

Aadil Qureshi is currently a final year student studying LL.B. Law. He completed his placement year at Shoosmiths last year as an Administration Assistant. Aadil shares his placement experience below. 

Sum up your placement experience in 3 words:

Insightful, fun, life-changing.

How did you secure your placement?

I managed to secure my placement by making sure, before everything, that I had a CV worth a second look. In the current market it’s imperative to have so much more than just academic achievements on your CV and my advice to those in years below me has always been to get stuck in with every opportunity that comes your way: you never know which may be the one that helps you stand out. In terms of this placement specifically, I had to complete a short phone interview and then a face-to-face interview which lasted about an hour.

What was your typical day?

My typical day would involve getting into work for 9am, and then commencing work on my to-do list for the day. As a case handler, my usual duties involved contacting customers of our clients who were in debt to the client and request payment of that debt. Should a customer refuse to pay or was unable to pay, it was my job to issue legal proceedings against them. This could involve anything from requesting a County Court Judgment against them to placing a Charging Order on their house or requesting a bailiff visit. Other than this, I also liaised with Courts and Counsel. As the Complaint Specialist, I also dealt with complaints made against us pursuant to FCA regulations.

What skills did you develop during your placement?

I developed various skills during my placement, predominantly case and time management. Effective case and time management was an integral part of my role and this has allowed me to obtain and develop skills which will, in turn, assist me in a career in a fast-paced environment. I also developed an advanced level of communication skills because I would be communicating with people of different levels of intelligence on a daily basis. This means I had to adapt how I communicated depending on whom I was speaking to.

What was your favourite placement moment?

I think my favourite placement moment was the Christmas Party at Shoosmiths. This was full-fledged, no-expense-spared extravaganza. It had the whole Great Gatsby grand party vibes about it. The party took place at the Northampton county cricket stadium and had a guest list of approx. 500 employees. The theme of the night was Bollywood and it was amazing to see everyone have such a great time, even certain managing partners who you see on a daily basis in a professional environment just forget everything and have a good time. The party went on into the early hours of the morning!

What would you say to students considering a placement?

I’d say do it! Whether you love it or not you will not regret it. The placement will either show you if the career you have picked for yourself or the type of work you will be doing is exactly right for you in which case, great. Or, it will show you that you don’t actually want that career or type of job in which case great too, because it is better to know before you have invested years and money into it just to find it isn’t for you. And apart from this, the generic skills you will obtain and develop will help you in all walks of life.

How has your placement affected your final year and future career plans?

It has definitely helped me have a more mature mindset in my final year. This in turn I think has helped me significantly with my modules and just in general understanding of the content. I think the maturity I have gained is also evident to my lecturers and I hope this will also be apparent to any prospective employers. With regards to career plans, for me, my placement showed me a legal career is exactly what I want and has motivated me to push further and ensure I reach the professional milestones I have set for myself.

From placement student at Nestlé to graduate at Capgemini

Sandy Nijjar graduated from Aston in 2015 with a BSc Computing for Business degree. She completed her placement year at Nestlé and now works as a Business Transformation Consultant at Capgemini.

What were your key highlights/projects/achievements on placement?

My key achievement was being given the sole responsibility to manage the field sales solution for six months and supporting over 700 field sales users and the field sales capture tool Visicom. I had worked closely with the market contact within Germany, Nestlé retail operations team and other international support teams.

How did you go about finding your placement?

I used Aston Futures and looked on company websites for placement roles.

How has Aston University helped you prepare for graduate employment?

The Careers+Placements team at Aston University held a number of sessions with companies that equipped me with skills that I could use for my graduate employment.

How did you secure your graduate role?

I applied to a number of different graduate schemes earlier in my final year and juggled my coursework deadlines and exam prep.

My best careers advice to another student would be…

Make the most of all the opportunities available at Aston University. Attend career sessions and network with employers during these events. I would also recommend to apply to graduate roles early in your final year.

We’re here to help you navigate your next adventure – for up to three years after you graduate! Visit us in the Careers+Placements Centre today to discover how we can support your career search.

My career journey so far…

Maya Modi graduated from Aston University in 2016 with a degree in BSc English Language. She is now working as a Consultant at Capgemini. Here she tells us about her career journey so far. 

Where did you undertake your placement?

I split my placement year up into three parts: a semester studying abroad, a semester working in the UK and a summer studying abroad. The studying elements were obtained via Aston and I located the working placement myself.

For the first semester of my placement year, I was an ERASMUS student at Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain. I then came home and spent the second semester picking up my former role within my local Accident & Emergency department. Finally, I spent the summer studying Chinese Sociopolitics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

What were your key highlights/projects/achievements on placement?

Given the placements I was doing, it was difficult to be involved in high profile projects as such, but that didn’t stop me from getting involved with high profile individuals. The lecturers I worked with hailed from renowned universities such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton, so the pressure was on to impress them! My lecturers praised my work, which was a great feeling considering the subjects I was studying were alien to me. I’m also not fluent in Spanish or Cantonese, so adjusting to lecture content was difficult, but I got through it.

How did you go about finding your placement?

I checked Aston Futures religiously for the opening of study abroad applications, as I knew that was what I wanted to do. I mostly liaised with the Careers+Placements team as my main source of finding and securing placements.

How has Aston University helped you prepare for graduate employment?

I think the amount of careers fairs that are open to us are fantastic. I attended most of them, even the ones irrelevant to me. You can practise how to approach recruiters and learn to ask the right questions. I also really liked that Careers+Placements can arrange mock interviews for you and do CV checks.

How did you secure your graduate role?

I attended careers fairs out of my comfort zone to expand the industries I could fit into post-graduation. ‘High Tea Meets IT’ was a careers fair targeted at females wanting to go into the technology industry and we all had high tea together. This was where I met my current employer and from then on, I applied to their graduate scheme via their website.

My best careers advice to another student would be…

I started my LinkedIn page before university. The earlier you start it, the sooner you’ll learn to use it properly. I’d already made a fair few contacts, including graduate recruiters, but as soon as I’d updated my profile to show a placement year my connection requests went crazy!

Your placement year is the thing that’ll differentiate you from the next candidate. Don’t be afraid to mention that you embarked on a placement year!

Keep all of the applications you got rejected from and the CV/cover letters you used when applying to placement positions. Compare it your CV post-placement and do two things:
1) Identify how you could improve your rejected applications – it’s useful for self-learning and creating a stronger personal profile for yourself.
2) Give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve come!

Don’t be afraid to approach people in senior positions. It’s a competitive world and if you eliminate the ‘scary’ aspect of liaising with people senior than you, you’ll find yourself mature in the workplace.

Ask for feedback. If you’ve done work for someone, no matter how big or small, request feedback. Build a portfolio of all the feedback you receive and use it to find trends of what you perform well in and where you could improve. In the graduate working world, feedback helps you build a case to put forward for promotion.

We’re here to help you navigate your next adventure – for up to three years after you graduate! Visit us in the Careers+Placements Centre today to discover how we can support your career search.

Aston student to HR Graduate at Wesleyan Assurance Society

Jess Lambie graduated from Aston University in 2016 with a BSc Psychology (Hons) degree. She is now working as an HR Graduate at Wesleyan Assurance Society. We caught up with her to find out more about her life after Aston.

How did you secure your graduate scheme?

I love to learn new things, to analyse patterns and to create – and I am very much a people person. That’s what led me to study Psychology, and then on to a career in Human Resources.

When I saw this graduate scheme advertised at Wesleyan, offering rotation around the various disciplines within HR as well as the chance to complete my CIPD qualification, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity! Following a video interview and a full day’s assessment centre, here I am – and I love it!

What does your typical day look like? 

I would say that I’m very lucky in the sense that I don’t really have a typical day! Currently I’m sat within recruitment, so my day can involve advertising jobs, organising interviews and assessment centres, CV sifting and video interviewing. But I also get the opportunity to work on projects that utilise my analysis and creativity skills.

I get exposure to all areas and levels of the business, through Employee Relations cases, interviews, Employee Networks and Reverse Mentoring.

What skills have you developed through the role? 

The amount of project work has been a huge help in pushing and developing my organisation skills and independence. Self-motivation and communication are key to my role, and I’m slowly working on my ability to challenge processes – but I know I have all the support I need to work on my development areas.

What would you say to final year students or other recent graduates considering a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are ideal. It’s continuous learning, in all forms; you are supported through a professional qualification that will enhance your knowledge and skill set, but you also get hands-on experience in the role, and exposure to experts in your field.

How has this scheme shaped your future plans? 

I had never been completely sure where I wanted my career to progress. I came into HR by accident, but I soon decided that was the path for me. This graduate scheme has not only confirmed that I made the right decision, but it has also shown me the potential I have to develop in this field. HR is a rapidly developing area, which makes it an exciting and ever-changing role. Thanks to this scheme, I now feel that I have the tools, the support, and the opportunity to gain the necessary experience to progress my career to the HR Business Partner level. There are so many challenges, and I look forward to the next one!

This could be you! If you’re currently searching for your dream graduate role, why not head to Aston Futures to explore the wide range of graduate opportunities advertised there? Don’t forget, you can also come and chat to us in the Careers+Placements Centre if you need some support with your career journey. 

 

My graduate role at JD Sports Fashion plc.

Manreet Atwal graduated from Aston University in 2017 with a BSc Psychology and Business degree. She is now on a Multi-channel Graduate Programme at JD Sports Fashion plc. Here she tells us more about her role and how it’s helping to shape her career journey. 

How did you secure your role?

I used LinkedIn often in my search for graduate roles. I had a rough idea of companies I would like to work for because of my placement search. I followed JD Sports Fashion plc on LinkedIn to see their updates and spot any career opportunities.

I saw an advertisement for their Multi-Channel Graduate Scheme and applied. The application involved uploading a CV and two-minute video describing yourself as creatively as possible. After this, there was an assessment centre. The final stage involved a presentation to the Director of Multi-Channel and a face-to-face interview.

What does your typical day look like?

Over the course of two years, I will move across multiple departments within Multi-Channel. The departments include; Content, Merchandising, CRM, PPC, SEO, Social Media & Marketplaces.

During my placement in each department, my role is to understand the functionality of each team and learn the programmes and processes they use to complete tasks. No day is the same because we have to constantly react to the fast-paced market.

What have you learnt so far?

I’m gaining a really great overview of how an entire department functions. JD Sports is one of the UK’s biggest retailers so the insight I’m gaining is invaluable. I’m learning how teams work within themselves and as part of a wider team, and I am able to provide feedback at the end of each placement of what works and where there may be opportunities.

What advice would you offer to final year students or other recent graduates?

Don’t take the first job you’re offered just because it’s there. Take time to decide; look into the company, look into the role and decide how much experience you want to gain.

It’s okay to have a job before you hand in your dissertation, and it’s okay to be searching for months after you’ve graduated – just find the right match for you. You didn’t study at Aston University for four years to take a job you don’t love!

How has your current role shaped your career plans?

This Graduate Scheme is great because I graduated with the certainty that I wanted a career in Marketing, but I didn’t really know what that meant. This scheme allows me to get stuck into multiple departments and learn my own strengths and weakness. I also get to work in departments I hadn’t considered before such as SEO and various other means of Traffic. JD Sports has also offered me lots of training opportunities, which have helped me grow more confident in my career plans of becoming a high-level manager. 

Looking for your own dream graduate role? Why not head to Aston Futures today to explore the wide range of graduate opportunities advertised there? Don’t forget, you can also come and chat to us in the Careers+Placements Centre if you need some support with your
career journey.