One of the main reasons I selected this course (Marketing BSc) at the University of Southampton was the option to spend a year in industry. I believe the knowledge and experiences I’ll gain, as well as applying theory to real life practice, will be invaluable. I like to think that the placement year will be a practice run, almost like taking a dip in the children’s pool before graduating and being dropped in at the deep end. Even though I’m at uni for longer than some of my uni friends and friends at home, I think it’ll be worth it.
My placement search began during the first year summer period. At first, it was difficult to find vacancies but I used this time to practice writing covering letters, polishing off my CV and getting in some last minute work experience. Soon after Christmas, it was like the floodgates opened and soon enough applications were going out thick and fast. So be prepared for the mad rush!
In total, my experience involved five one to one interviews, one video interview, three aptitude tests, one assessment centre and my fair share of rejections. I applied to 13 companies, some for more than one role, and in the end I found myself deciding between three offers – there is light at the end of the tunnel I promise.
On paper I found myself to be the perfect candidate. My peers also commented on how much experience I’d had and the skills I’d developed through part time work and relevant marketing experience. Throughout my placement search, I began to realise it isn’t just what I had done that counted, but how best I was able to portray these past experiences and skills to the company in a short application. Writing an effective covering letter, as well as how you score on aptitude tests, is key. I can’t stress how important these were to so many applications. I soon found that the numerical tests weren’t my thing and avoided applying to companies where these were required.
The placements jobs board was helpful in providing a range of roles in small to medium sized companies, as well as larger. Even if I didn’t use it to apply all of the time, it was useful in giving an overview of various jobs on offer and the type of role I could expect to find myself in.
The whole process of applying to jobs and being constantly rejected is rough. I found myself applying daily and then hearing nothing back for months, and when I did I “didn’t suit the requirements but would be contacted in the future if any opportunities opened up”. As well as being disheartened, it did really knock my confidence but I can now look back and spot that I left it too long before seeking help from the placements office. I’d suggest keeping hold of applications you make and, then after a rejection, ask the placements office to go through your application with you in order to spot faults and point out what you might have done differently, before applying to another company. The placements office is there as a service to be used, so do!
I eventually found myself changing my ideals of relocating to London to work for a large brand in a standard role, to working for smaller local companies that could give me different opportunities and a lot more responsibility. I made a number of successful speculative applications but one really stood out as valuing my experiences and skills, whilst providing opportunities for me to develop as opposed to working as a coffee maker and being just another numbered intern.
I’m now one day into my placement with Briscoe French and have begun my role as Account Executive. I am looking forward to stepping into a dynamic role and undertaking lots of responsibility within a small but powerful team. With a range of experiences under my belt, I am hoping to leave my mark on the company and my future clients. PR isn’t where I expected myself to be but I can’t wait to get started and face the many challenges I’m sure that it will bring.
Without a struggle, there can be no progress. – Frederick Douglass.
My top tips for placement hunting:
- Utilise the placements office and university careers service. No matter how good you think your CV and covering letter is, a fresh pair of eyes to spot mistakes and suggest changes can boost your employability.
- Be open minded about locations and roles.
- Until your placement is secure, don’t book any time out of the country, I made this mistake and missed out on an assessment centre as they had no alternative dates.
- Don’t be disheartened, the best opportunities are yet to be found.