Friday, 21 December 2012

21.12.12 - We're here to the end

Well, it looks as though the Mayan prophecy of apocalypse on the 21 December 2012 was about as threatening as the millennium bug at the end of the twentieth century. I'm still here and I'm guessing if you are reading this too, you've made it as well.

The good news is, you have one less excuse now not to apply for placements. Summer 2013 will come around and there are hundreds of companies around the UK crying out for students to apply for their placement opportunities. The Christmas break is not just a time for catching up with old friends, family and indulgence, though I've been just as guilty of the latter as anybody else.

Free from lectures, labs, seminar, tutorials, university in general, use your time wisely and make some applications. I'm not suggesting you spend every waking moment in front of your laptop, getting frustrated by competency based questions, but if you set yourself a manageable target of say 2-3 applications a week, by the time you head back to university in January you'll have applied for half a dozen or so placements and ready to take 2013 by storm.

Keep your eye on Gradcracker, Rate My Placement, Milkround, Students on Placement and your university placement portal. There will be lots of closing deadlines of 31 December. Somebody is going to secure these jobs; it won't be you if you don't submit your application.

Merry Christmas everybody, and I wish you all a very successful 2013.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

And the award goes to.........

You'd be hard pressed to find an industry these days that does not have some sort of awards system for recognising the skills and talents of its members. This weekend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be announced (David Weir gets my vote). You'll find the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep from cinema competing for Oscars, BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Hell, there is even an awards site dedicated to honouring the memory of people who have managed to lose their life through sheer acts of stupidity (Please do not try to do anything to get yourself a place on that website!).

Since 2010, the National Placement & Internship Awards has recognised and celebrated the achievements of students, employers and universities in the world of placements. This is my industry and having had the good fortune to attend the last awards back in January 2012, I can confirm that the event lives up to the wording of the press release. My thoughts on the NPIAs may be slightly skewed towards positivity by the fact that I left the event with a bottle of champagne, a rather unique t-shirt and a high commendation, but even without those personal mementos I'm sure that I'd look back fondly, having used the occasion to network with fellow placement professionals, recruiters and meet some incredibly talent students.

So why do I mention this now? Well, the shortlist for the 2013 NPIAs was released at the end of November and I was delighted to see that one of my former placement students is a finalist for one of the awards. Having spent many hours trying to help someone to achieve their goal, it is fantastic to see how they flourished while working in industry. This recognition on a national stage is just reward for the hours of dedication put into applying for placements, and then making the most of the opportunity when it finally came along.

My previous article talked about the need to learn from setbacks to achieve success. I'm pretty confident that all of the students up for an award will have encountered difficulties along the way in their search for  work experience. They will have overcome adversity and secured their placements through hard graft and determination. Students who are currently in the midst of their applications should take inspiration from this. Apply the same work ethic throughout their placement search and into the workplace, and they too could find themselves at the NPIAs in the future.

I'm heading back to the Awards in February and very much looking forward to the festivities. Good luck to all the finalists; hope to see you there.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Nobody said this would be easy

In case you hadn't noticed already, it is pretty chilly outside, Christmas is fast approaching and the end of the autumn term is imminent. That went pretty quickly don’t you think? Heading into the festive season, I think it is a good time to reflect on what has happened over the last couple of months with a view for planning ahead for the future.

From my perspective, The Placement Office has never been busier. Interest in placements from my courses has been huge and demand for appointments has exceeded supply throughout the term. The pre-placement lecture series has been very well attended and my students have benefited from listening to the range of employers who were invited to campus, ranging from blue-chip household names to local SMEs. The number of students making applications and being invited for telephone interviews, assessment centres or taking psychometric tests has been very pleasing.

But here is a statistic that I want to share. I'm hoping to place in the region of 150 students this academic year. As things stand, there are 4 placements confirmed. This is not something that is getting me into a panic, though as I mentioned in a previous article, news of early placement success can have a detrimental effect on others. I've been doing this job long enough to know when the bulk of my students secure a placement, and it is from March onwards. In all of the literature I circulate and in the early lectures I make this point abundantly clear, and yet I still find myself being asked “Is it too late to get a placement?” in early December.

I view placements secured before the turn of the year as bonus. The autumn term is the time to soak up information and lay the groundwork for future success. If you've already bagged a placement for next year, congratulations. You can sit back over the Christmas break and get yourself focused on your studies until the summer. You will however be in the minority. For everybody else, the placement search continues.

You may have already made some applications, but not yet had a positive response. Perhaps it time to go through the applications you've sent off, analyse if you could have better answered the questions and look to improve with your next batch of applications.

Perhaps you've got through to a telephone or face-to-face interview, but been unsuccessful. Think about what you did well, what didn't work and how you would prepare better in the future. Very few students will blitz their first interviews, and those who don’t will be better for the experience so long as they learn from it.

Maybe you've not even made an application or drawn up a CV at this point. It certainly isn't too late to start, but why not use the holidays to get started. Lots of companies have deadlines at the end of December and January, so there is no better time to get busy.

Wherever you are at with your placement search, do not be discouraged. View every unsuccessful application as a building block to your eventual success. Nobody said that getting a placement would be easy, but if you remain focused on your target and learn from your setbacks, there is no reason why you can’t be successful.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A Little Discourage

"Is it too late for me to get a placement?"

This was not a question that I expected to be asked on the first Monday of December, but nonetheless was one that I had posed to me today by one of my students. I explained to him that I usually expect to be advertising a good number of opportunities right up until August before they start to dry up. Momentarily this offered some comfort, but I could tell by his eyes that another question was coming my way. And it did.

"Some people on my course have already got a placement. I've not even written my CV. What can I do?"

While the answer to this may seem glaringly obvious, and it was very tempting to point this out, I knew that behind this line of questioning there was a lot of anxiety. Rather than add to the worries of this young man I decided it would be better to try to identify the source of his negativity. A few tactful questions of my own later, I was rather surprised to learn who or what was responsible.


That's right, the person charged with advocating the uptake of sandwich placements, and to help the students from my courses to secure one, had inadvertently caused panic. What was my methodology for instilling such terror? Well, over the past week I've let it be known that several of my students have already accepted placement offers from companies, with a view to motivate their classmates to want to match their achievements. For the most part this has been successful. I have noticed a surge in footfall from students wanting to know if the rumour they have heard is true, and then demanding to have their CVs checked before firing off a fresh batch of applications.

However, while throwing the proverbial cat among the pigeons has had the desired effect for some of the class, clearly it has been somewhat detrimental for others. What is motivational for one person serves as a little discourage for another. Newton's third law suggests every action has an equal or opposite reaction - today's interaction in The Placement Office is probably not quite what Sir Isaac had in mind but it has given me some food for thought when engaging with a mass audience.