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!

Why do a placement?

Hi, this is Hannah and I am currently doing a study abroad placement in France! Stay tuned as I will be blogging my placement experience throughout the year!

Why do a placement?

I went to Aston knowing that everyone is encouraged to do a placement year, yet even towards the end of second year, I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

So I’ve put together this list of useful reasons why you may want to consider a placement/study abroad:

 

It can help you to distinguish yourself from other people when you apply for jobs

Employers value students who have undertaken a placement. You will have gained some knowledge of the working world, developed new skills and adapted to a new culture (within your business or your new country) while becoming independent and mature. You will have made decisions for yourself, discovered how you work effectively and efficiently while developing new skills with new softwares or business practices. You can use your experiences as examples to the common interview questions: In what scenario have you been a team player? When have you shown management skills? How do you cope with stressful situations? I know that I can laugh with employers when I explain how I adapted to the French culture or how I overcame the language barrier when working in groups. In all honesty, a placement year is a valuable addition to your CV.

 

You will expand your network and could jumpstart your future career

Your placement could lead to a graduate job if you have impressed your managers throughout the year. If you are an asset to the team then your manager will remember this in the future. Alternatively, by studying abroad, you meet people from all over the world, who have heard of job opportunities across the globe that could interest you. You can use sites such as LinkedIn to connect with people that you meet so that in the future you can use this professional network to regain contact with them and remind them of opportunities for jobs that you discussed months or years ago. Since arriving in France, I have made friends on my course who are native speakers and can help with my CV’s and Cover Letters and who know of internships that are available for me to apply for – from Paris to Montreal.

 

It will be the first time in your life that you have earned a proper salary (or you have an Erasmus grant to spend if you’re studying abroad!)

You’ll finally have some money, and you can treat yourself with it – some people chose to live in nice accommodation for the year or treat themselves to regular meals out, but ultimately most people try to save some of their money. A lot of people decide to travel if they have time in summer before final year, or even after university. If you work or study abroad, then it is so easy and cheap to have multiple weekends away, visiting local towns and cities. I have spent two of my last three weekends in Marseille and in Geneva with new friends, and visiting old friends – I feel like I am on a mini gap year alongside my studies!

If you do decide to do a placement, you will be proving to yourself, your tutors (who most likely will write your first job reference when you leave Aston) and future employers that you are experienced, motivated and ambitious.

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 😊

Joining the IT industry from a non-IT background

Maya Modi

 

 

I graduated in BSc English Language from Aston University in 2016 with the intention to study Medicine post-graduation. I’m now an I.T Consultant.

 
 

 

 

I know what you’re thinking and trust me, they are linked. In this blog post, I hope that my story inspires you to consider post-graduate career options that are out of the box. You’d be surprised how fitting your work and academic experience to date can be in an industry you had never seen yourself working in before.

 

I chose to study English Language in preparation to do a Masters in Speech Pathology after – something I’d wanted to do for a good seven years now. I was dedicated and was lucky enough to secure lots of placements to support my application later. I also worked for the NHS at the time, which gave me real-time clinical experience. Speech Pathology is a small but vital sector within the allied health professionals unit of the NHS, but being exposed to trauma and other departments in the hospital made me fall in love with general medicine. I spent a lot of time deliberating whether I should drop out of my course in second year and reapply to Medical school, as there was no point continuing with my degree if I knew I didn’t want to use it for a Masters, like I had originally planned to.

Placement year arrived and I chose to continue with my degree, as I had just secured once in a life time study abroad placements in Spain and Hong Kong. They were the best, most challenging but amazing days of my university experience. As scary as it was to live in a country where I wasn’t fluent in the local language, I got through it and my bravery sparked a new level of ambition within me – I was definitely going to apply to Medical school. I thought my placement year would change my mind about applying, but, if anything, seeing how other people live in the world made me want it more.

Final year came around and I was busy studying for my finals and studying for my Med school entry exams too. On top of everything, there was a strong possibility that I may not get into Med school, so I was applying for my Masters as a backup route and applying to graduate schemes just to explore all options. There was no guarantee that any of these options would work out on their own, which is why I applied to all at the same time to see what route worked out best. I’m very much someone who needs to have a forward plan and cannot rely on chance (I’ve learned that it’s OK to be this way), so I did everything I could to ensure that I was either doing a postgrad degree or working upon my pending graduation. In this time, I visited lots of careers fairs to chat with delegates and explore the “what if?” options. I had some interesting conversations and some that put me off post grad working life altogether. One careers fair stood out to me in particular – a careers fair aimed at females looking to go into I.T, but with career discussions over afternoon tea. It was the most interesting concept for a careers fair and the most valuable to me – as it’s where I started my relationship with my current employer (and I got free cake!).

The delegates from Capgemini reassured me that I didn’t need to have a technical background to join a technology consultancy firm. My people skills, ability to work under pressure and quick learning skills that I developed from working in health were all factors that are required when consulting. Consulting can either take the route of being functional or technical, whereas it’s thought to be mostly technical. I applied to Capgemini shortly after the careers fair and to my surprise, I got the job. I accepted with the intention to still take my medical entry exams, but the option of not studying for another four years and adding to my tuition debt seemed more and more viable.

Now, it may seem as if my decision to drop the Doctor dream was money influenced, but hear me out. I realised that as a technology consultant, I can influence medical technologies to the NHS and work on projects that help to restructure their current business models, leading to efficient strategies. This is crucial to the NHS in the current state and unfortunately, as a doctor, I wouldn’t have as much of an influence at a business level as I do now. A year on at Capgemini and a ton of learning under my belt, I’m finally moving onto projects that will allow me to carry this out.

Sometimes, you have to reroute your plans to achieve your goals. I may not be a doctor and I do miss the patient contact, but my consulting is ultimately going to save lives and this is the most satisfying thing to me.

My Mentor Changed My Life..

Whilst everyone begins gearing up to face exams over the next couple of months, I have been reflecting upon all I have achieved during my second year at Aston University, a university that continues to do a wonderful job of providing its students with opportunities to enhance their employability skills and to excel expectations.

Yesterday I was awarded “Most Progressed Mentee” by the Aston University Professional Mentoring scheme, all thanks to the unwavering support of my excellent mentor Chris Lewis. A member of the Aston University Alumni himself, Chris’s outstanding advice and guidance has been pivotal to me in achieving my goals throughout this academic year.

With his support, some of my proudest accomplishments of the year (in no particular order) include:

  • Being voted as “Most Progressed Mentee of the Year” on the Aston University Professional Mentoring scheme.
  • Securing interviews with several companies and obtaining an industrial placement with Grant Thornton, with a team I’m looking forward to working with and values I am proud to represent!
  • Making it to the penultimate stage of Enterprise-Rent-A-Car’s Management Undergraduate of the Year Award, out of hundreds of applicants!
  • Participating in the Aston University Carbon Journey, and being one of the minority of students awarded 10 bonus credits for completing all components of a module named “Developing a Low Carbon World”, in which I learned about many aspects of climate-change and sustainability, from carbon capture technology to health policy and corporate responsibility.
  • Being Project Leader for one of the three projects on the Aston University Enactus Team. Over the past year, The VOICE Project has created memories that my team and I will always cherish, and whist we never fully obtained all the outcomes we had hoped to achieve, every single second of the countless hours we spent on the project have been worthwhile. The many real-life business and life skills we have learned along the way have far surpassed theoretical learning.
  • Being voted as “Most Dedicated Member of the Team” by the Enactus Aston Team with respect for the work I put as Project Manager for The VOICE Project.
  • Attending “IT’s Not Just for the Boys!” a professional event promoting female participation in the IT industry, hosted by JPMorgan in Canary Wharf in conjunction with Target Jobs.
  • Being granted a place on the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s “Introduction to Social Ventures” course. I am still awestruck by how what I learned in those 3 days has been relevant to such a wide range of experiences this year.
  • Participating in the fabulous UpRising Leadership Programme, where I have been able to experience a host of diverse activities, from meeting with politicians in Parliament, to networking with local professionals and entrepreneurs, to building an awareness of media skills from podcasts to PR, all whilst developing a social action campaign along the way! Our team was successful in presenting our pitch and winning the funding required to start up our campaign SIGNPOST Birmingham, and we are now working on implementation.
  • Attending the Annual Enactus UK Training Programme at Grantham, where I attended several training sessions, as well as being able to meet with hundreds of outstandingly talented young people from across the country.

My mentor Chris’s boundless positivity and can-do attitude has spurred me on throughout the year. He has been patient and understanding, all whilst helping me to explore new ideas, stay on-track with my goals, and even to set a few more for the next academic year (learning as much as I can about the industry I will be working in, learning to drive, building a stronger network, gaining relevant certified qualifications/skills, and becoming a mentor myself, among others).

I can’t begin to recommend the Aston University Professional Mentoring programme highly enough, and I hope that some of you reading this might feel inspired to try it out for yourselves next year. I am happy to say that, whist the programme is now over for this year, my mentee/mentor journey has just begun!

Finding a Graduate Job 🎓

Hi guys, welcome to my first blog post 🙂

I’m Kiran, now an Aston graduate – YAY! I studied Business & Management and graduated in July. I am also very pleased to say that I secured a graduate role in the Careers+Placements team at Aston University, as Student Engagement Coordinator.

Job hunting

So, after my exams finished in May, I had a few weeks off to recuperate after years of studying! I then got my CV checked and approved by visiting a C+P drop-in session and meeting with a careers consultant (the C+P centre hold weekly drop-in sessions to help graduates with any career related queries, CV checks and tips etc.).

I then began applying for marketing related jobs on websites such as, Aston Futures, Graduate Advantage, Gradcracker, LinkedIn, and even sent personal emails to companies of interest.

The phone call

There I was lying on the couch, engrossed in an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’, when I got the call! It was a member of the C+P team inviting me for an interview – I was over the moon! 😀 After all of those endless applications I had finally got a call back.

Interview

On the day of my interview I ensured I wore smart clothes – black trousers and a white blouse – can’t go wrong. I made sure that I took a copy of my CV and my portfolio of previous work. I got to the interview ten minutes early (which seemed like forever because I was nervous). The interview went really well, I spoke about my achievements, previous jobs and education, and showcased some pieces of work from my portfolio. A question I find that always crops up in interviews is ‘how well can you work in a team?’, so make sure you always have an answer prepared.

My first day

I started work the following week, my first day was ace! I met so many friendly colleagues from the C+P team. I was given a handover and had some meetings with my team to bring me up to date with things. My manager and the team are so lovely and supportive. Since I’ve started I have been provided with daily updates and resources to make my job easier.

I have already got stuck into so much. I’ve been here three weeks and have already had a team away day which was so much fun, and I have a team lunch coming up.

So, I would like to congratulate those of you who have secured your graduate roles and best of luck to those still searching! Don’t worry it’s still not too late, keep at it and get in touch with the C+P team!

– Kiran 🙂

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!