So, You’re Thinking of Doing a Work Placement…

ID-10021694The dilemma: you can’t get work without experience, and you can’t experience without working.

It’s becoming more and more evident that what employees want are candidates that have experience, that “get up and go”. Although having a degree of 2:1 or above is still sought after by many employers, there is an increasing drive for work-ready graduates.

There isn’t a better way to get “work-ready” than through working in the industry you hope to get into, and I can say from experience that doing a year-long placement in industry (internship) has completely changed me.

I have come back after my year in industry to University with a stronger work ethic, the ability to juggle and prioritise tasks, a bigger network, more contacts, and above all else, confidence! I can’t recommend taking a year out during your studies to pursue an internship enough, or if that isn’t a viable option, doing as many short-term work experience placements as possible (so long as it doesn’t interfere with your studies).

If you’re considering doing an internship, below are some tips for success:

Use social networks, including Twitter and Facebook to find opportunities

Many big companies will already be advertising placement opportunities through these avenues so keep an eye out!

– Get to know the lovely people in the placements office/job-shop at your University

They will have some great opportunities and contacts to give you, as well as advice on CV, application and cover letter writing.

– Sign up to sites dedication to internships

Sites such as and allow you to search key words, like ‘Finance’ or ‘Marketing’, which will provide concise lists of opportunities from loads of different companies and NGOs.

–  Research

If there is a particular company/agency you really want to work for keep checking on their website, sign up to job alerts if it’s an option and if you start to become impatient it’s worth giving their HR team a call to check when the opportunities will be advertised.

A couple tips for the application process:

DO NOT copy and paste application answers

Recruiters can often tell when this has been done, and it doesn’t bode well, especially when you’ve forgotten to change the name of the company from one to the next… Take your time and consider each application, researching company specific examples for the questions (if it suits).

Don’t apply for too many opportunitiesID-100175906

You could become lazy with the applications, on the other hand, don’t just apply for one, because if you don’t get that dream internship, you’re stuck. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as they (whoever they are) say.

So you’ve written a good CV and a successful application, now come the assessment centres and interviews. Assessment centres usually work in a similar format for most recruiters and companies:

1) Arrive at company for registration, and awkward mingling with your competition for the position.

2) Introduce yourself in front of your potential new boss, HR and your competition – you need to be careful here as you want to come across confident, and memorable without seeming arrogant.

3) The group task, which is designed to test how well you can work with others, and deliver a brief of some sort. Now, depending on the type of person you are you will either decide to take the lead in this scenario, or let a stronger personality in your group take the lead.

The key here is to get your point and opinion across in the group discussions whilst considering your colleague’s point of view, and arguing (I use this term in the softest possible sense) your opinion without seeming like a “know-it-all”.

I suggest using phrases like “that is a valid point/good idea, but perhaps if we did [insert idea/point] it could have a better outcome” or “I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I feel that [insert point] could work also, what/how does everyone else feel?”

4) Presentation of group work – first and foremost breathe, which is easier said than done, considering you’re going to stand up in front a group of people you don’t know and want to impress, not to mention your competition. But, nevertheless it’s important to breathe through the points you are going to make in your presentation, as this will ensure you don’t speak too quickly, and you take the time to think about what you’re saying.

Throughout the assessment centre or interview process you need to bear in mind that you’re being assessed on everything, including the conversations you’re having, your tone of voice and your mannerisms. Consider the way you’re behaving and be on point throughout the day.

5) If you’re still here by this point in the day you will be invited for an interview with someone/a group from HR, or your future team/employer. This part is where you sell yourself – what can you bring to the team, why are you interested in the role, what do you want to do in your future career.

The people employing you will want to know about your past experiences (these questions will be based on your CV, so revise this prior to the interview). Essentially they are assessing the type of person you are here, if they feel you will get on with other people in the team and what you can do for them, so they may even ask you what type of music you are into and about the last book you read – have these answers prepared so you don’t hesitate.

For many of you this process of recruitment will be a new one, so I’ve written some further tips for success:

– A very intelligent lady once told me to “dress for the position you want to be in” and I stand by that advice for every interview.

The recruiter will be looking for you to dress the part, if they state you need to be in business attire, that requires a full suit, and tie for the guys and a smart skirt, shirt/blouse for the ladies with a blazer, or perhaps a fitted suit… Ladies, don’t be tempted to wear your nicest heels, you will be uncomfortable and you’re in for a long day in an assessment centre, so you don’t want to be hobbling around through the lunch break – wear smart heels, nothing higher than 3.5 inches.

You will be surprised how important the smallest things are, for example how you wear your hair, or if your shirt is tucked in. Remember your potential employer will need to feel comfortable putting you in front of clients and colleagues. If chosen you will be representing your team and you need to be someone they are proud to showcase.

– Bring your portfolio with you

Or any examples of your work to the assessment centre or interview – if you don’t have anything of this nature, ask the recruiter if there is anything you can prepare in the time leading up to the interview. It’s always better to be prepared and give the recruiter an idea of what you’re capable of; this shows initiative and will hopefully impress them.

Finally, smile

As silly as that may sound you will be nervous, and that “deer in headlights” expression may creep onto your face – not a good look. You need to show your potential employers you are friendly, approachable and happy to be there… You will have gotten further than a lot of applicants by the day of your assessment or interview, so you should be smiling for that fact.

Most importantly, remember that a job or work experience is as much about what you can do for an employer as what they can do for you… So, if for some unknown reason you don’t get the internship you were hoping for don’t be discouraged or de-motivated – all experiences are good, as long as you learn from them.

Best of luck!

Image courtesy of Jscreationzs and Gualberto107 via


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Adele Roberts

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