I was one of those people that signed up for the four year Business Management degree instead of the three year course with the idea of “changing my mind” at some point. The thought of taking a break from university for a year sounded, in my head, like a sort of gap year. I didn’t really believe that there were companies out there that would take a non-graduate student, with zero experience, and treat them like a real resource for their business. On top of that, I also had this idea that a placement year would only be meaningful if you managed to put one of those companies with a very big name on your CV, if not, don’t even bother!
Well, luckily I changed my mind, and I am now here to give some tips to my very sceptic younger self and to some of you that are still debating whether a placement is right for you.
Please, keep in mind:
1. A placement is NOT a break from learning
The amount of knowledge and skills you will acquire is not even comparable to what you learn in books! Getting to know people in the field and with years of experience is tremendously eye-opening. The stimuli you will get every day, from taking part in meetings, following projects and have real responsibilities within the business are going to give you a lot of confidence and awareness of the real world. Those skills you’ll acquire are fundamental for you to kick off the career of your dreams!
2. Bigger doesn’t mean better…
A company with a bigger name and size does not necessarily mean that it’s going to be a better experience for you. Big does not mean better in terms of placements. Yes, of course it might make you feel special if a multinational corporation picks you out of all the people that applied for the role, but is it really a good fit for you? I started out with wanting to do a placement in a big company with a big reputation, but once I started to get the first negative responses I started asking myself: Am I really a good fit for such a big corporation?
Turned out that I don’t think I am at all, and I’m grateful that I kept my options open and gave it a shot with a much smaller company.
3. Enjoy the ride!
Applying for placements or jobs, in general, can be a very drowning process, I know.
The amount of effort you put in writing cover letters, preparing for assessment centres and completing online tests can really put people off at times. Especially if you start getting those automated emails that tell you “you’re not the right candidate for us”. The thing is: it is probably true, you are not the right candidate for every single job you will apply to, and there’s nothing wrong with it! You need to be the right fit for the company but they also need to to be the right fit for you. Keep that in mind when you start getting the first “no’s” and convey your energy in finding out what companies and job descriptions you really feel closer to. This process might take time and it is ALWAYS easier if you seek help from experts. Using the resources around the university was really essential for my personal career awareness. Go talk to a Careers Consultant about your doubts and get your CV and cover letter checked, it really can make a difference.
Lastly, don’t just settle, aim for a job you feel particularly keen for, but keep your options open. If I didn’t do so, I would have missed the opportunity that really changed my mindset. You might have a fantastic goal but remember to also enjoy the ride!
BA Business Management student, 2015/2019