One of the reasons I decided to study my at Lancaster is because it allowed me to have my third year as a placement year. I was excited about this opportunity, because LUMS allowed me to apply the theoretical knowledge from my previous modules into something practical, while growing my future employment chances.
The first thing I wanted to get on track when applying for my placement was my CV. Coming from a different culture, where CVs are formatted differently, I needed some assistance. Luckily, the Careers Team helped me format the CV to the best standards possible. I also had the chance to perform a couple of mock interviews that gave me a lot of confidence, because I was uncertain what to expect from the corporate world. This was significant in my success in securing an internship for 12 months.
I applied to a firm called Fortna. I always thought marketing is a route that I want to pursue in the future, but what intrigued me was the ‘sales’ category in the job description. I never thought I could work in sales, or do anything in that department, due to my nature of being an introvert. I gave it a shot because I thought it would be interesting learning something new and practicing a discipline I haven’t done before. After a successful first stage and an interview, I was accepted as the ‘Marketing and Sales Intern’.
Charlotte from the LUMS team helped me secure this placement. She helped with the communication, the contract, and getting on board with the formalities. For anyone worried that you’re the only one who is involved in the process, you have a team behind you that will support you with all stages.
The first week at my placement was overwhelming, in a positive way. I met a lot of consultants from the USA, South Africa and UK teams. I also had a call with the CEO of the company, John White, who talked to us and organized a little Q&A for all the new employees. I never imagined I would casually talk to a CEO like that. It was a positive surprise.
At first, I was unsure of how I would fit in. However, I quickly understood that everyone, no matter what position or status, is a friend, and we could talk about anything, anytime. I am glad to say that some of these relationships are ongoing even now I am back at university.
My responsibilities were various, and they changed depending on what was necessary. I wasn’t making coffee or just replying to e-mails. My role revolved around a lot of marketing research, including an in-depth analysis of annual reports, financial statements, or supply chain plans. The most significant and impactful part of my job was reporting to directors of the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region. Listening to their feedback and comments gave me a lot of space for growth and personal development.
After creating approximately 60 account plans, I gained a lot of confidence in future job applications regarding the sales department. I also challenged myself by undertaking the role of a university recruiter, and that was a big learning curve, as I spoke to more people than ever before.
In a placement, you learn a lot about yourself, and things that may now appear as an obstacle or something you tell yourself ‘no, that’s not me – I don’t want to do that’, you soon realise are not a big deal, and you start understanding the essence of why the career you are pursuing is a great decision. It reaffirms your future plans.
Throughout my 12 months, I developed plenty of skills that are coming in handy during my 4th year and will be impactful in future jobs. For example, being concise, and clear while communicating, time management, task management, public speaking, and most of all, marketing research. I became a better team player, more confident in my skills, which I initially was unsure of, and became more communicative and more extroverted when needed.
My placement at Fortna was invaluable. You meet so many interesting people throughout those 12 months. You can’t believe how many times you have a random conversation that changes your opinion or stance on certain things. It is a great experience, and I cannot recommend it enough. Go for it.
I have a few tips for anyone who is looking for an internship/placement:
- Get in touch with the LUMS team – they are there to help you, and they are very happy to do it;
- Research every company – look at the quality of your application, not the number of applications;
- Think years ahead – how will the particular position/job description help me in the future?
- Attend as many events as possible – mock interviews, mock assessment centres, company presentations, and so on. Get that mindset.