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!