Placement Search Blog 1

Like many second-year LUMS students, I’m currently on the search for a placement year. It’s a long process that I’m still in the early stages of. It can be gruelling at times – but it’s highly rewarding and educative, and the prize of a coveted year of paid work experience is an ever-present light at the end of a long tunnel.

In this series of blogs, I’ll be going through the ins and outs of my hunt for a placement, and hopefully offering some useful advice in the process.

At the risk of stating the obvious, preparation was the first step I took. Although it’s tempting to dive straight in, and start shooting off as many applications as possible in as little time as possible, getting ready before acting is essential. The thought that you’ll be just one applicant amongst hundreds, if not thousands, for a position, acts as pretty strong encouragement for doing so…

Fortunately, the Management School wasted no time in getting my peers and I thinking about placements and preparing to apply. The Management 150 module, which I undertook in the final term of my first year, provided a whistle-stop tour of all aspects of the application process: from how to succeed in assessment centres, to how to write a strong LinkedIn profile. The most useful element of preparation in this module, however, was the opportunity to undergo a mock interview. I secured mine with Unilever, and tried to prepare for it as if it were a real interview: refining my CV, researching the company, and scouring the internet for questions likely to arise. The experience, and the feedback I got from it, was invaluable: not just for learning about the format of interviews, but for boosting my confidence in tackling them. Being able to practice such a high-pressure and important task in an environment where nothing was at stake was a golden opportunity. I’d recommend getting in touch with the LUMS Careers Team and arranging one to anybody seeking a placement.

After the Summer break, the next step I took was research. My starting point was using The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, and the websites Rate My Placement and Target Jobs, to find companies that I thought would be a good fit for my skills and interests, and whose placements had been well-received by those who had undertaken them. Once I’d chosen some companies I was interested in, with placements available in areas that suited my skills, I set about compiling research documents for each them, ready for me to apply. Information I compiled included key aspects of the job description and requirements (this one should be a no-brainer!), advice from the internet from previous applicants on what the organisations would be looking for, and details on the organisations’ aims and cultures. This provided a useful starting point for tailoring my application forms and CVs to highlight my achievements and experiences most relevant to the positions. One thing I was not expecting was how time-consuming this could be. It can take hours to get a firm idea of what a company’s looking for – just flicking through job descriptions doesn’t give you enough. Although it can be frustrating watching the days pass by without actually submitting anything, I strongly believe that the preparation is worth it: showing an organisation respect by thoroughly understanding and engaging with them might be what gives you the edge over other applicants.

A final thing I’ve found worth researching in preparation is the application processes themselves. Some organisations operate highly intensive application timelines, and ensuring you have the time and energy to complete these when you apply is of the utmost importance. Take IBM: I applied to their Marketing placement scheme at 10:00 last night – and by 8:00 this morning there was an email in my inbox informing me that I had 48 hours to complete their online tests!

With that, I’ll be getting back to the placement search – and, if I’m successful, I’ll be writing about the next stages soon. Best of luck to all prospective LUMS placement students, whichever stage you’re at!

Why BSc Management, Politics & International Relations?

Management, Politics & International Relations (MPIR) is one of the most interesting and relevant courses on offer at Lancaster University. As a student at Lancaster, you are constantly doing new things and meeting new people. One question you will be asked no end is ‘What course do you do?’. When I answer ‘Management, Politics & International Relations’, the response is often a mixture of intrigue and bemusement. For many, the way in which these very different disciplines link into each other is far from obvious. But in reality, their intersection answers some of the most pertinent questions of our age.

How?

It is no longer enough to view business and management as insular institutions, separated from and distinct from the wider world. They exist and operate within a context of a rapidly changing and interconnected world, where the established order of things is being transformed and destabilised by political phenomena: an ascendant China, rising Western populism, a Fourth Industrial Revolution fuelled by advances in artificial intelligence and online connectivity, and commerce across borders. Each of these changes present both challenges and opportunities – not just for politics, but for business, and managers will be at the forefront of facing them. Increasingly, employers desire individuals possessing not just the technical knowledge of how to manage, but also an ability to apply and adapt that knowledge to our changing world. Business takes place across borders; but an understanding of what occurs within and between those borders is essential to the practice of effectively doing business.

Okay, but where does MPIR fit in to all that?

That’s where this course comes in! I am in my first year of the programme, and my study is currently split three-ways between management, politics and international relations, and philosophy. In the management modules OWT.100 and OWT.101, you gain an understanding of the historical development of managerial practices and managerialism as a discipline, and the key issues and debates affecting management today. In Politics 100, you are introduced to the theory and practice of political philosophy, domestic politics, and international relations. In Philosophy 100, you grapple with the ethical and wider philosophical questions which underpin the theories of management and politics, and gain skills to read and write in a logical and analytical manner.

One of the most satisfying things about the course has been seeing how these three disciplines intersect with and complement one another. By analysing the moral philosophy of John Stuart Mill in philosophy, you can better understand issues surrounding business ethics and motivation in management. Learning about human resource management and ideas of organisational culture in management is contextualised by study of the liberal underpinnings of our democracy in politics. Logic and critical analysis in philosophy aids you in assessing the strength of arguments in sources for politics essays. Each aspect of the course benefits the other, and you often find yourself applying theories learned in one aspect in coursework for others.

Is grappling with so many subjects and issues at once challenging?

Of course! But university isn’t about taking an easy ride – it’s about challenging yourself, confronting difficult issues, and constantly bettering yourself. MPIR certainly enables this. Although you encounter many new and complex ideas, the teaching at Lancaster equips you well to deal with them. Complementing lectures, each week you have seminars for management, politics, and philosophy. These are taken in small groups with dedicated tutors who you have week in and week out. In these seminars, you get an opportunity to discuss and debate what you have learned; critically analyse the reading you are set; prepare and plan for coursework; and discuss any difficulties or points of interest you have with a knowledgeable tutor. In addition to this, we have regular meetings with Bogdan, our course director, who discusses the course and our progress in-depth with us in a friendly environment. You are also assigned an academic advisor who will stay with you for the duration of your time at Lancaster University and discuss any aspect of your study and university life with you on a one-on-one basis.

What about Year 2 of the course and beyond?

There are two things in particular that I’m really looking forward to about the later stages of this degree. Firstly, there is the greater degree of choice and flexibility in Year 2. Alongside compulsory modules in Business Ethics and Social Research Methods, there are a huge range of modules in management and politics and international relations to choose from. I’m especially intrigued by some of the modules in entrepreneurship and marketing on offer as these would present whole new endeavours for me. Year 4 also offers a great deal of choice in this respect. But first…

Year 3 is a year in industry. We’ll start preparing for this soon with the Management 150 module, where we’ll learn how to write a good CV, undertake mock interviews with large organisations, and look at a range of employability skills. I’m undecided on where to do my work placement at present: it could be a small business, a large multinational, an NGO, or even the government. Wherever I go, I’m looking forward to applying the knowledge from Years 1 and 2 in a practical management context – and of course making a bit of money, too!

 

Is an Industrial Placement for me?

I have known since the day I decided that I wanted to study a business related degree that I wanted to complete an industrial placement as part of my time at University. I knew that the experience this would offer me would be invaluable, not only for furthering my understanding of my subject, but also when it comes to applying for graduate jobs when I leave Lancaster. But the decision isn’t always so easy for everyone.

Applying for a placement year can be incredibly scary. Because it divides your degree into two segments (first and second year, the placement, and then returning for final year), this means that everyone else completing a three-year course will have graduated by the time you return. This is something I am absolutely not looking forward to – leaving my friends behind during what would have been my last year with them.

Not only that but during first year I felt completely unprepared for a real life, real responsibility, real workload job. As much as I was loving University life, I wasn’t ready to take the next leap on my career path. These are the fears that often prevent people from applying for a placement year as part of their degree.

I cannot stress enough how valuable a placement year is. This is especially true in industries like mine (Marketing) where not just graduate jobs but the job market in general is fiercely competitive. A placement gives you the upper hand over other candidates – you already have a whole year of work experience in your field, working on real projects with real people in a real company. That is something that makes you stand head and shoulders above your competitors when it comes to finding a job at the end of your degree.

Not only that, but the beauty of getting a job in-between your degree is that the support on offer to you is unlike any you will experience outside of University. The dedicated LUMS Careers Team is always on hand – during term time and holidays – to offer you support and guidance, look over your applications, and put you in touch with previous Lancaster students who can guide you through your application with first hand experience themselves.

I myself am already feeling the benefits of a placement year, and I am still only in the application stages. I know I am more confident and independent, and where last year just thinking about a placement year make my stomach churn, now I am excited by the prospects and the opportunities that lie just around the corner. Yes – I am still out of my comfort zone, and each application poses a new challenge, but that is exactly what an employer wants to see. The entire process improves your resilience, self-confidence and ambition.

So if you’re considering a placement year as part of your Lancaster degree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Though there are sacrifices involved, and some of your friends won’t be here when you return for your final year, the benefits more than outweigh the costs.