Friday, 13 December 2013

A Time For Giving

Christmas is just a matter of days away and at mid-December I think we can very much say that we are in the season of goodwill. Today apparently is Christmas Jumper Day and judging by my Twitter feed, lots of companies have taken this to heart and been donning their colourful knitwear to raise money for a good cause. Manchester City defender Micah Richards has caused a bit of a stir by pledging to donate £25,000 to charity after receiving messages of support following an injury recurrence suffered midweek playing in Munich. I've directed a few tweets his way encouraging a donation to my chosen charity, but regardless of who receives the cash it is a lovely gesture.

I've recently done something a little outside the box which can probably be classified under the heading of 'Good Samaritan'. I was approached by a student from another university asking if I would mind glancing at their CV and offer feedback. This is something that has happened quite a bit since I started this blog and while my usual response is to point them in the direction of the Placement/Careers team at their own university, on this occasion I agreed. (Note, this was a one off, so please don't bombard my email/LinkedIn with requests for help!)

What I read was very encouraging. There was lots of good material to work with, but as is often the case with the CVs I browse on a daily basis, it required a dash of focus and dabble of finesse to be application ready. A few sprinkles of magic dust and it was returned to the student with kindness. They were happy and the interaction probably should have ground to a halt at that point. Only it didn't.

My instincts wouldn't let me leave things there. When I help my students, I don't just get their CV into shape and pack them off to face the recruitment world all by themselves. If I think they would be well suited to a particular role or company, I make suggestions in a matchmaking fashion. Sometimes it pays off with successful candidates showering me in praise, other times it doesn't but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained.

This person already had a good idea of the industry in which they wished to puruse a career. I put forward a name of a company within that sector. Just like Gin & Tonic, Batman & Robin and Morecambe & Wise, it seemed like a good match. The student showed interest and happily went off to investigate the schemes on offer. And at that point I should have left things be, but like an itch that just won't go away, I took things a stage further.

The company in question are not in my little black book I tap into for sourcing placements. They don't fit into the academic disciplines I work with or offer the type of internships I advertise. However, lodged away in my collection of business cards, I had the contact details of their chief campus recruiter who coincidentally used to be a colleague of mine. It seemed a waste not to put this to good use and at that point I had my own personal Dr Pepper moment; join up the dots and what's the worst that can happen? An introduction turned sour could have lost me some credibility with both the employer and student, but nothing more. So I made it happen.

Is there a happy ending to this tale? I certainly hope so. One informal conversation isn't a gamechanger in itself, but it could be the grease that sets the wheels in motion.

If you have the chance to do so, share a little bit of the Christmas spirit with somebody you don't know. Tis the season to be jolly after all.

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Finding your First IT Position after University

This week on #PlacementChat we have a specific focus on the IT sector. To complement this, here is a guest article with some very helpful advice to help you secure your first IT position after graduation

Finding your First IT Position after University

You’ve completed your degree, had you’re picture taken with your cap and gown and now heading out to work full time. But how do you get your first position when you lack experience and competing in a highly competitive area?


Whilst I’m not saying go back to your student days, it may help to relax and know that it may be a little struggle at first while you adjust to full time job searching. You’re not alone and with the latest figures showing nearly 1 in 10 graduates not finding work within 6 months and 12.9% of computer science graduates (data source) specifically, getting overly stressed and feeling down may impact on your daily life and job search. Try to relax and make sure that you set time away from your job search to make sure that your health doesn’t suffer.

Careers Services

Whilst you may no longer be at Uni, career services can help you with your job hunt, with some offering to help you up to two years after you Graduate. With the career services, or if your Uni had a liaison officer or specific departmental career advisor,  try and contact them to see if they can help you, after all if companies are getting great candidates from the services it’ll look great for them!

Careers services will work with companies looking for Graduates, or internships, which may not be advertised yet elsewhere and help give you a head start on building the perfect CV or application form for them. And you can extend your tuition fee’s worth out of the place!

Internships and Volunteering

If you were unable to get a placement while at Uni, or didn’t lead to a job then you may try an Internship or work experience placement. While unpaid internships have rightly got a bad rap, an internship or work experience with a small amount of income may work in your advantage as it can lead to a full time job in the long run and show your willingness to work and put in some hard graft.

Or try volunteering at a local library (if there’s any left nearby!) to help people with their IT Skills. It’ll look good on your CV if you can say you can communicate effectively and potentially have client facing skills if you are teaching users who aren’t technical.

CV’s and Cover Letters

Whilst there’s a whole host of CV help and advice available, it’s still important to make sure that you take care with adapting your CV to each specific position. Companies are looking at what you can bring to them so make sure you do so.

If you developed a project in Java (other languages are available) don’t say in your Cover Letter: I’m proficient in Java, or words to that effect. Change it to say that you’ve undertaken tasks to develop software programs from inception to completion in a number of Languages including Java and C++. 

Also make sure that your CV contain a number of  ‘keywords’ that match the job advert to take advantage of companies that use automated CV services. If a job advert wants someone who’s proficient in SQL then make sure your CV contains that you’re experienced in it, rather than saying you have experience with Databases, so your CV doesn’t get thrown in the ‘bin’.

Brush up on your Skills

If you have an interview coming up, alongside researching the company, make sure that you brush up on your skills. Basic skills in coding for IT positions will be asked, so make sure that you don’t forget them and can answer them fairly quickly. Whilst more advanced questions should be asked they’ll likely be more theoretical and should be OK for pseudo-code to work with. They’ll be looking at how you figure things out as well as your coding skills.


Most of all – network! Anyone you meet, or anyone you know, is someone who potentially knows someone else who is looking to fill a job, especially in small businesses. So let everyone you know on Facebook and everywhere else that you’re looking for a job, update or create a LinkedIn profile and start searching Social Media networks for jobs. It may not only just pay off in the short term, but long term connections and contacts can improve your prospects throughout your career!

For help and advice on gaining a graduate position in IT go to a specialist IT RecruitmentCompany such as

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Back in the saddle

I returned today to The Placement Office after a two month break. I have to say not a lot changes. Mostly the same companies advertising at the same time of year. Lots of competition for students just to get an appointment to see their placement team, as the start of term rush maintains a pace that tests time and resources. First draft CVs arriving with frankly ridiculous personal email addresses (seriously, CynicalPinkie?) Not to mention all of the politics that goes on in the background. The latter I've been very pleased to do without during my time off, but the rest I've rather missed.

I've resumed my duties with a increased level of respect for placement students. While I often hear good things about what they do during their internships, it is rare that I get a glimpse for myself. Beyond my interactions with the marketing team at RateMyPlacement and a small handful of students who secure placements on campus, placement years take place outside my HE bubble. Having stepped outside that zone for a couple of months, I was surprised to find placement students from my own university making contributions that I could witness with my own eyes.

In the course of ferrying Jr around to his many medical appointments, I've met a great number of healthcare professionals. During a session with a paediatric physiotherapist, I was asked if it was okay for a student to sit in. Naturally I agreed and soon discovered that the person in question was a physio student from my HEI. A few weeks later, a meeting with an Occupational Therapist occurred and again there was a student on hand, learning from their mentor through observation and enhancing their understanding of what the profession involves. I didn't know either student personally, given I'm not involved with healthcare placements, but it filled me with a sense of pride to see them taking the early steps of what will hopefully be long and successful careers.

During the months to come, I won't just be viewing my cohort as students who need placements. The Cynical Pinkies of the world all have the potential to be difference makers and not just during their internships. Whether it be in the health industry, designing a useful bit of code, marketing a company through social media or running lab tests, placement students will be contributing to their employers, clients and wider community. Working in placements provides me with a privileged position to play a small part in making that happen. It is great to be back in the saddle and I'm looking forward to going for the ride with the class of 2013/14.
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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Great Placement Race

At the weekend I did something that I had not done before in my life. With a number on my vest and a timing chip on my shoe, I lined up to run a 10km race. In the holding area before the starting gun was fired, you could hear a number of different conversations; some looking to record personal bests, others just hoping to last the course. As I stood there taking it all in, the best bit of advice I heard was to ignore what everybody else is doing and just concentrate on running your own race.

This was something I tried to take on board and in many ways offers a good analogy for where most of you are now at the start line in a search for a placement. Summer 2014 seems like a long way off, a bit like the finish line before the race starts, and while every student starts from the same point (effectively now), not everybody will reach the end at the same time. With that in mind I've identified 5 distinct 'runners' who make up the field in The Great Placement Race

The Pacesetters

There will always be those who surge ahead and get to the finish line first. In athletics this can come down to natural physical prowess or dedicated training regime, while in job hunting it may be an excellent academic record or prior internship experience that helps them to run away from the rest of the field. They will probably have already got applications made and in some cases have interviews or assessment centres lined up. In the next month or so when many students are still finding their feet with a placement search, they will hear about Pacesetters who have already secured a job. Don't let their success discourage you as there is still plenty of time to get to the finish line.

Steady Runners

These are the students who get on with the task at hand, make their applications, see their placement officer and will get their reward in a due course. As with my 10k at the weekend, this is the largest chunk of the field. They have seen the speed merchants running ahead, but rather than chase their shadows have gone about their business in a pragmatic manner. There will be obstacles to overcome during the race, but with a bit of determination these will be overcome.


In any race, the people I have the most admiration for are the grafters, determined to reach the finish line no matter how long it takes. At the weekend there were people completing the course more than an hour after the first finishers, but refused to be denied their moment. I see lots of students like this during each placement cycle. Rather than let unsuccessful applications get them down, they come back fighting and through sheer will power and self-motivation keep going until they cross that finish line.


Of course while the Pacesetters, Steady Runners and Grafters all get to the end, there are also those who Did Not Finish. Looking for a placement is a demanding discipline requiring time and commitment, and while nobody intentionally wants to be in this category, inevitably not everybody who starts the placement race will cross the finish line to secure a placement. Maybe it was a more difficult challenge than was anticipated at the start, or perhaps there just isn't the never give up mentality of the Grafters. Either way, lots of students who make applications in the next few months will hit an obstacle, and rather than pick themselves up to keep going, will let their placement search end prematurely.


Then of course we have the Did Not Start group. More than one thousand runners registered for my 10k, yet only 800 or so began the race. The same thing happens with placements up and down the land. Some students will register to do a placement, either when applying through UCAS or at the start of their second year, and then fail to show. No applications. Non-attendance at placement lectures. Don't reply to invitations to meet with their Placement Officer. In many ways these are the most frustrating group, as they remain an untapped source of talent and there isn't a Careers or Placement service that doesn't try to reach out to this disengaged group. The fact is though, they do exist. If you're reading this article, it probably means you don't fit into this category, but I'm sure you know a few people in your class who do. Be a friend, and give them a nudge about placements.

So there we have it. 5 distinct groups, each with a different approach to completing (or non-participation) in The Great Placement Race. There isn't a one size fits all method for being successful with your search, but do take on board the advice I received while waiting in the start area - run your own race. Don't be led by the crowd, find your own way and keep going to the end.

The starter gun has fired. Good luck to you for the journey ahead.

For those with curious minds, I finished in a respectable 56 minutes 38 seconds and together with colleagues have raised over £900 for the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre.
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Monday, 16 September 2013

Come Back Brighter

The beginning of term is nigh! It is hard to fathom how things have come around again quite so quickly. In the next couple of weeks students across the country will take the first steps of their placement journey with organised lectures and the scrum to book a CV appointment with their placement officer. It tends to be an extremely busy time of year so please be patient but persevere!

One topic that may be touched upon but is unlikely to be covered in detail at this early stage of the process is rejection. Funnily enough when pitching the idea of undertaking a placement year to an audience mixed with keenies and the apathetic, the 'R' word is not one of the most encouraging in the dictionary. And yet for me it is probably one of the most important words that arise from the placement hunt because it is often how a student responds to rejection that will determine if they will ultimately be successful in securing a placement.

Of the 160-odd students from my courses who secured a placement during academic year 2012/13 I would estimate that 95% of them tasted rejection before receiving an offer. Very few students secure the first placement they apply for, so unless you are positive that you will be in that lucky 5%, it is something that you are going to have to come to terms with.

I'm not going to pretend that rejection is a good thing. I know from my own personal experience just how frustrating and demotivating it can be to throw your heart and soul into something and not get the rewards that you feel your efforts merit. But there are two ways to react to a setback when job hunting. You can throw your toys out of the pram, be angry and halt all applications to protect yourself from future disappointment, or you can come back brighter, harnessing all negative feeling and using it as motivation for future challenges.

The second option is what I will be encouraging my students to follow as they begin their quest for a placement starting Summer 2014. There is a long way to go between now and then, during which time most placement seekers will experience setbacks. As most of my students who secured a placement last year can testify, the first hurdle is not the end of the race. Get past it and there is still a reward to chase down.

Good luck to everybody looking for a placement this year. Keep your eye on #PlacementChat throughout the coming months where RateMyPlacement, a range of employers and I will be on hand to answer your placement questions. Hope to see you there.
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Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Placement Seeker's Bible

If you're about to embark on a search for a placement or internship starting in summer 2014, you may be wondering where on earth to start looking for information about companies that offer student opportunities. Fortunately those nice people at RateMyPlacement have published their guide to the Top Undergraduate Employers for 2013-14 in which they list the Top 75 companies based upon the reviews of students who have worked at these organisations. They've even thrown in sections for Small and Medium Sized Employers to boot.

There will be physical copies of these guides available at universities in the very near future, but if you can't wait to get your teeth into the publication, you can access an electronic version below.

Happy placement hunting!
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Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Placement Officer has left the building

With summer almost behind us, Placement Officers up and down the land are drawing up their plans for the start of academic year 2013/14. The last 12 months has been a marathon, and just when you think things are starting to die down, the madness that is the start of term creeps up on you at astonishing pace. Hold onto your hats folks as things are about to get hectic.

For me, 2012/13 unofficially drew to a close today, retiring on 151 placements not out. Back in December this seemed a long way off with just 4 students having placements secured, but my estimate of 150 appears to have been pretty darn accurate. Admittedly the final tally may yet roll on a few more notches with pockets of interviews still in progress and hopefully one or two students coming out of the woodwork to declare they have been working for several months already but forgot to mention it. But any way I look at it, this has been a good year and one that I hope to build upon for the year ahead.

Before that though, I'm taking a hiatus. After seven and a half years of wading through applications and trawling the depths of the internet to search for placement opportunities, I'm taking up a short term position that is more taxing than psychometric tests and more demanding than the UCAS points requirements of an investment bank. I'm swapping The Placement Office for a brief spell of nappies and weaning by taking a period of Additional Paternity Leave to look after The Placement Officer Jr. It's certainly going to be a different challenge but one that I'm very much looking forward to.

In the coming weeks, the blog and twitter account may be a touch quiet while I'm entertained by gurgles and Jeremy Kyle, though I have a feeling that I will struggle to fully let go of the placement ball. I still plan to be involved with #PlacementChat which has grown way beyond what I envisaged a year ago, so you'll still find me lurking on social media, ready and willing to answer placement related questions.

Good luck to my industry colleagues with the impending start of term, and to my student followers who are about to embark on their placement search, I wish you all the very best. See you again soon.

Ladies and gentlemen....... The Placement Officer has left the building

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Who's that calling you?

Your CV is a tool with which you present yourself to potential employers. It seems a little crazy that we have to cram our working history and educational achievements into a 2 page document, but that is just how it is. Personal details. Education. Work Experience. Interests. References. Put them altogether, spellcheck, press the send button and wait to see what happens next.

I've written before about the importance of have a professional sounding email address on your CV as you don't want to miss out on opportunities just because you've got something a little eccentric. It is after all one way that an employer is likely to contact you to follow up on your application, so you do need to ensure your email address is fit for purpose and an account you check regularly.

But what about that other mode of communication that we all type on our CV? That 11 digit mobile phone number is there for employers to tap into their handset and call you, often without warning. We put it on our CV without a second thought but are we actually ready for the consequences of our actions? If an employer rings you completely out of the blue, are you ready to take that call?

I'm often disappointed with the phone etiquette that I encounter when I'm contacting my students. When I answer a call I would never say 'Who Is This?' or 'What?' and yet those are greetings I regularly receive. Now, it may well be that they have my number stored on their phone and therefore know that it is the Placement Office calling rather than somebody more important, but I do worry that this may be how they answer all calls.

Picture this if you will. You've applied for a placement. Your CV boasts of excellent communications skills. You have customer service experience which is great because this job involves a lot of client interaction and so you will need to talk in a clear and coherent manner over the telephone. A recruiter likes the look of your CV, wants to invite you for an interview to discuss things further and goes to dial your number. It rings and the recruiter is waiting in anticipation to speak to the person who may very well end up working alongside them. The call is answered, and the voice at the end of the line, the excellent communicator, mutters 'What?'

In one syllable, you've probably just blown your chance.

Making a great first impression is so important when job hunting. It isn't just how well your application form is written. It isn't just your previous work experience. It isn't just how well you scrub up for an interview. It isn't just how you communicate with employers. It is all of the above, demonstrating professionalism in everything you do.

The next time your phone rings with an unknown number, even if you are convinced it is yet another person trying to talk you into making a PPI claim, take that call and treat it with the utmost professionalism from the moment you answer. It could make all the difference.
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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Good things come to those who wait

A few months ago I wrote an article imploring students to not give up on placements. It was mid-April, exams were coming up on the horizon and understandably focus was on revision rather than application forms. The message of that article was succinct - it's not too late to get a placement, and it is something that I've been repeating on Twitter ever since.

I can understand the mindset of a student, who after months of trying and getting nowhere is prepared to throw in the towel and turn their back on placements. But if I could bottle resilience and sell it, I'd be considerably richer than I am now. During the months of May, June and July, I've had 77 of my students secure placements. That is during months where some people will have thought it too late to get a placement and not bothered to look for one. I don't want to say I told you so but..... well, you know what comes next!

During July alone which is a month when you may expect the well to run dry, more than 30 of my students have secured placements. From interactions with colleagues in other universities, it is a similar picture. July has been a busy month with lots of successes to report. It is the healthiest I've seen the placement market since the Lehman Brothers fallout in 2008 and with what are potentially green shoots of recovery in the economy, there is reason to be optimistic that next year will be even better.

The message for students preparing to embark on their second year at university, combined with searching for a placement, is be ready to play the long game. Many of my students who have secured their placement in recent days have been going hard at it since last autumn and are finally getting the fruit of their endeavour. How we react to setbacks and disappointments is important. You can fall at the first hurdle and give up, or you can learn from the experience and clear it at the next time of asking. Good things can indeed come to those who wait.

Resilience, determination, bloody-mindness. They aren't necessarily the competencies you are asked to expand upon when applying for placements, but they are qualities that many of my students have exhibited in abundance in their search for work experience. It is great to see so many of them now being rewarded for going the distance.
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Friday, 19 July 2013

One sentence says it all

Yesterday afternoon I was paid a visit by one of my students who had just completed their placement year. He had literally come from his last morning at work, armed with the leaving presents his colleagues had clubbed together to buy him as a thank you for the last 12 months of service. I asked him how the experience had been an in one sentence summed up everything I think prospective placement students need to know about work experience.

'I learnt more in my placement year than I did in the two years of my course.'

It is the sort of headline that newspaper sub-editors or marketing bods could spend hours trying to formulate. Very simple, direct and powerful. It is a message I'll be quoting many times in the future.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A rewarding experience?

With employability high on the agenda at pretty much every university across the country, it is no surprise that there is a degree of out of the box thinking taking place. 'How can we improve our student's employability?' is the question that everybody wants to find a solution. Employers, well the AGR most publicly, make the case for work experience, talking about how competitive the graduate market is. The High Fliers report concurs pointing out 'graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes'.

I'm not somebody who needs convincing. I work with placements day in day out and know just how much value they add to a student when leaving academia. I wouldn't write this blog or actively promote placements through #PlacementChat with Rate My Placement if I thought I was flogging a dead parrot. The vast majority of the students I have helped to secure a placement over the last few years would agree it was not only a great choice to have made, but also provided a boost to their early career prospects compared to their peers who did not take a placement year.

But what about Careers and Placement services themselves? I'm not going to pretend that everything in my domain is perfect. Personnel should always be looking to improve themselves and resources should meet the changing needs of our clients in the modern era. I'm on one side of the digital divide, I know many brilliant people who are on the other. Tweeting and blogging ultimately doesn't bring home the bacon, it is the results that count and in my business we tend to be judged on the numbers. Are more students getting placements? How many are getting into 'big' companies? etc

It was with considerable personal interest that I read Professor Zahir Irani's comments in Guardian newsletter yesterday, under the section Guardian Higher Education Network.To stave off threats from the private sector, Irani suggests 'Career centres should start thinking and acting more like recruitment companies with dedicated consultants, motivated and, indeed, rewarded for placing students and graduates into jobs.'

Reward for placing students into jobs? That is certainly an interesting proposition. I currently earn a fixed salary, without bonus or incentive. Would my mentality change if my income became partially performance-related? Rather than trying to help all students to secure placements, would I turn my focus specifically upon those who I know have a greater chance of success? Maybe I would offer less support for roles at companies where I know there is little possibility of pushing up the numbers. Why for example would I agree to sit down with a student with a poorly composed application for one of the big 4 professional service companies, when my time could be more lucratively spent with a straight As student applying to a company who genuinely wants to hire from my university? Certainly an interesting ethical dilemma. 

Putting the moral maze aside for one second, let's focus on the reality of placement and careers services. Even with the employability agenda, lots of services are under resourced. Throughout HE, there has been a tightening of budgets and Careers services have not been immune from this. Just because employability has been flavour of the month in recent times, it doesn't necessarily follow that the pursestrings have been loosened to hire more staff and expertise to help make these ambitions a reality. More likely, an increased burden of responsibility has been placed upon consultants and placement officers to deliver the goods, without the reward and incentive that Professor Irani mentions. You only have to scroll through the vacancy pages on these days to see that job security in HE is not what it was. You might find a role that you like but the chances are it will be on a fixed term contract. Short term fixes rather than long term planning.

Then there is the issue of governance within an organisation. From talking to colleagues at the PlaceNet conference, there were many who have found their jobs at risk. Some have had to re-apply for their jobs. Others have had their jobs re-evaluated. During such process, it is not likely to see a role scaled upwards. I myself have been operating under a cloud of uncertainty since the fabled word Restructuring was introduced at my university in recent months. I've had a hand in 123 students (and counting) securing placements during this academic year, yet my 'motivation' and 'reward' has not been financial incentive; it has been to not know (and still don't) if I or my role will have a place within the new structure. 

Interesting times afoot then. Hard work and endeavour don't always bring reward, as many students know only too well as the slog through placement application after placement application. The concept of incentive and reward creates a juxtaposition for staff performing their duties with an axe hovering above. Does that make for a rewarding experience? I guess only time will tell.

Update - full article from Prof. Irani now published on the Guardian website
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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Started a placement this week? Spread the word

July is here and up an down the country hundreds of students are coming to the end of the first week of their placement. Although a number of those on my courses got things under way in June, the start of July has seen a lot more placements commence. If you are one of those people reaching the end of a long first week on the job, well done, you've nearly made it and can turn that alarm clock off this weekend before enjoying what appears to be a glorious sunny couple of days.

Spare a thought though for your friends and classmates who have not been hard at work this week. I'm talking about the people from your course who haven't managed to secure a placement for one reason or another. Maybe they've not had the rub of the green and missed out on roles. Maybe they didn't really think about doing a placement for whatever reason. Maybe they applied for a few roles, were unsuccessful but then gave up. Now, having thought about them, why not get in touch, and give them a few words of motivation. Tell them about the first week of your placement. Give them an idea of what you've already been exposed to. This isn't a case of rubbing your success in their faces; it is a question of inspiration and helping them to get with the programme.

Yes it is July, and yes lots of jobs are already filled, but if your friends believe that it is too late to get a placement, I beg to disagree. In the first 4 days of July, as many students on my courses have secured a placement as managed in the whole of July 2012. We're talking about double digits here, not just one or two. And with plenty more interviews in the pipeline and a number of employers contacting me this week with fresh opportunities, I'm expecting numbers to increase further still.

So when you enjoy a beer or glass of wine this week to toast the end of your first week of placement, be a good friend and tell your mates all about it. It's not over for them yet, and a friendly bit of peer motivation may be just what they need to resurrect their placement search.

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Opportunity Knocks

If you've just completed your first year at university, well done. Mission accomplished. Now what are you going to do? There was a time when this represented a 3-4 month holiday, catching up with school friends and earning a bit of cash to redress the balance of your student overdraft. I can certainly recall spending my summer vacations picking up whatever work I could to cover the cost of impending sunshine holidays.

Times have changed somewhat now however. Sure, there will still be trips to the Balearics filled with mischief, and unsociable hours spent working replenishing the pet food aisle in supermarkets, but for the undergraduate intake of 2012, the summer of 2013 also means the start of the great placement search. Traditionally the investment banks and professional services get their student recruitment underway from 1 July, but it appears that IBM have stolen a march on them and have already opened up for applications for their industrial placement schemes. See for yourself with the links below

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So what are you going to do this week? Will you be stuck glued to your TV set willing the rain to go away so you can watch some tennis at Queens Club? Or will you put on your placement hat and start working your way through the IBM CV, articulating your adaptability, self-determination, effective communication and initiative inside 150 words?

A word of advice for you before you proceed. The IBM CV Template is very different from an CV you've previously used. I strongly recommend that if you plan to get ahead an make an early application to IBM, you get your application checked out by your Placement Officer or Careers Advisor before you press send. Don't be fooled into thinking it is the summer vacation so they won't be at university - in most cases they will be, and likely in a position to offer you more time than they will be able to when the new term begins in the Autumn. Make sure you take advantage of this.

The Summer of 2014 seems like a long way off right now, but believe me it will come around quickly. If you've any plans for undertaking a placement (and you really should!) there is no time like the present to get the ball rolling.
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Friday, 17 May 2013

#PlaceNet13 Day 3 & Reflection

The morning after the night before! Following the festivities of Thursday evening, #PlaceNet13 rounded off with a few weary eyes and dare I say it, a sore head or two. That said, the AGM was well attended and all of the night owls who could be found drinking in the hotel lobby in the wee small hours made it on time.

Libby Beck received flowers as a small token of appreciation for her work as a PlaceNet trustee. With her standing down from the role the conference elected Mike Grey as the replacement, while Graham Kaye-Taylor was co-opted onto the executive committee. (Writing about me in the third person is a bit weird, but for the sake of reporting I thought a distinction should be made between me and 'The Placement Officer')
Emily Timson had the uneviable task of delivering a presentation on a Friday morning but gave a very interesting talk about her professional journey within placements, highlighting challenges experienced at different universities.

A discussion took place to decide upon areas of interest for PlaceNet to focus on in the coming year. Thanks were given to Jan and Virginia for their work in arranging the Social and booking the restaurant. Matthias Feist summarised his thoughts on the last three days before drawing the conference to a close.

Afterwards the Trustees met briefly to reflect on the week and get the ball rolling for #PlaceNet14.

On a personal level I found this conference to be extremely rewarding. Any fears I may have had about presenting my work in social media proved unfounded, as it was both well received and started a dialogue between me and other delegates who want to find out more about bringing technology into their provision. I even received an offer to go and talk to students at another university about using Twitter and LinkedIn as part of their placement search and for engaging with employers.

I had a lot of very positive feedback about the blog and there seemed a genuine interest in #PlacementChat from people who had not previously encountered it before. Receiving peer approval for my extra-curricular activities re-affirmed my passion for doing this and I may have convinced some guest bloggers to come forward and get involved.

My professional network expanded and there will be a fair amount of LinkedIn connecting going on over the next few days. The PlaceNet LinkedIn group is already a great resource for sharing good practice and if you are not already a member get yourself signed up and join the conversation.

I'd like to extend my thanks to the PlaceNet trustees for inviting me to the conference and giving me a platform share my passion for engaging through social media. I'm very much looking forward to working with you in the coming months.

#PlaceNet13 has been and gone. Roll on #PlaceNet14.
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#PlaceNet13 Day 2

Day 2 of the conference picked up from where the previous day finished off. A packed agenda full of interesting speakers, sparking ideas and debate. Picking up the early shift was Mike Grey talking about the Employability Advisory Panel he has set up for EC Futures at Coventry University. It was good to hear how he has got employers on board, with some going beyond the call of duty by going along to open days to encourage applicants to engage with placements at an early stage.

Lewis Coakley from the NUS delivered a presentation full of wit, quotations and thought provoking material. 40 minutes simply wasn't enough for him to ponder if education is delivering employability but what he did manage to cram in blew the minds of the audience and led to wider debate later in the day.

Following Lewis was going to be a difficult task and one I was pleased not to be charged with. However Gemma Hunter and Alex Elkins pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and ran a session that for me was the highlight of the conference. Focusing on change and how we approach it, the session broke off into smaller groups to use our innovation and creativity to think about selling hats in an Apprentice-esque activity. Pimp My Cap will be taking the fashion market by storm in the near future!

The afternoon Q&A session incorporated a live twitter chat, taking questions from the wider placement community as well as from the gathered delegation. The panel featured Lewis Coakley, Katerina Rudiger from CIPD, representatives from Bodyshop and I was there for good measure too. The topics covered ranged from unpaid internships to questioning if recruitment is working. It was a valuable experience and one I was pleased to participate in, even if I'm more used to answering questions via Twitter rather than face to face with an audience.

The PlaceNet social took to the local waterway, incorporating a tour of the Bristol harbour area. Our guide pointed out local landmarks while his assistant kept our glasses filled from the well stocked bar. The evening festivities moved onto the Glassboat restaurant for a fantastic meal while the networking continued long into the night.
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Thursday, 16 May 2013

#Placenet13 Day 1

The first day of PlaceNet13 was extremely productive. Vanessa Gough of IBM delivered an impasssioned keynote speech from the perspective of an employer, outlining the importance of their interns, how they add value to the business but also where they utilise assessment centres as part of their recruitment process.

Gill Frigerio brought a completely different atmosphere in her session about coaching. Participants were encouraged to identify an issue in their life before being given 20 points for reflection.

My own little session, talking about blogging as a tool for engagement seemed to go down very well. I've already had an offer from a delegate to talk to their students so my rambling can't have been too painful.

Day 2 of the conference looks action packed. I'm particularly looking forward to the presentation from Mike Grey as well as the collaborative effort from Alex Elkins and Gemma Hunter. At 2pm there will a Q&A with me on the panel. 

Get your questions ready as they can be asked directly from the floor or via twitter. Keep an eye on the #PlaceNet13 hashtag.
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