Trying to get a placement was a tricky part of my second year at university.
Thankfully, that’s not true for everyone. Whilst some found it difficult to secure a placement, others were offered the first they applied for. Even now, I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly why I found it so challenging. Perhaps I underestimated the amount of time I would need to spend sending applications whilst also juggling second year work. Companies usually require you to complete a mixture of online tests, cover letters, video interviews and more before you’ll have the first non-virtual interaction with them. But that’s not to put you off! Being rejected for roles can be really tough, but it provides the best learning experience for future applications.
Why do a placement year?
Like many others, wanting to complete a placement year stemmed from a desire for two things: experience and exposure. I knew from early on in my first year that I wanted to do a placement. Having chosen to study Biology (partly for the fantastic breadth of the subject), I was aware this may have its flaws. There are so many potential career paths for this subject, so it was hard for me to know which route to take. Personally, undertaking a placement year was a chance to gain more exposure to potential roles. I was aware of my interests in specific industries; but had very little idea of the kind of roles these sectors encompassed (aside from research). Gaining some clarity of what I might like to do after university was going to be essential for me to make the best choices in my final year.
I had done some short-term work experience in offices and labs. I had also spent my university summers working with young people as a mentor, and later, dorm leader. These experiences provided me with some great memories and loads of transferable skills. However, I knew I needed more long-term experience in a professional working environment to boost my future employability. I knew a placement year was the most sensible choice to find out potential future career paths, and gain additional work experience.
Making an impact
One of the best things about my placement so far has been the ability to make an impact. At university, it can be so easy to be swept up into the stress of everything, and forget the impact you can have with your degree. I work in Oncology, and whilst it can be a challenging field, just knowing that I can make a small contribution to improving the lives of cancer patients is incredible. Regardless of the sector of your placement, contributing to your team means contributing to the success of the organisation. This gives you an amazing sense of achievement and experiences to draw upon in future applications.
Prepare for the future
During a placement, your work is confined to the working week. It’s great preparation for future employment. Rather than assignments and revision hanging over evenings and weekends, gaining this guilt-free time for hobbies and socialising has been eye-opening. Having my working hours pre-determined took some getting used to though. Taking an hour off in the afternoon to then pick things up again in the evening was no longer an option. However, I have tried to implement a more efficient working day in my third year. I’ve been involved in things from drama to volunteering, and taking time to try new hobbies has been great fun.
My three top tips when applying for a placement would be:
It’s great to have the kind of role you’re looking for in mind. However, the likelihood is is that there are placements in roles you’ve never heard of. Making an application based on your interests and skills after researching new roles can give you insight into careers suited to you that you haven’t considered.
Ask for feedback
Companies vary in the feedback they give. Many do not offer feedback if you are rejected prior to an interview, as often there are simply too many candidates to get back to. Although, smaller organisations may offer feedback after just a cover letter. It’s definitely worth asking for and can really help you make a better application the second time around.
I was rejected for two other roles in the company I’m currently doing my placement with before being offered the job I have now. If you find a sector or company you’re truly passionate about being a part of, use this to drive your resilience and continue to make applications.
To find out more about placement years, visit the careers web page.
You can also find more placement year blogs here.