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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