Placement Stress? Don’t Panic!

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All of a sudden, summer is over and campus is filled with students excited for a great year. For second year students, this time can be incredibly stressful as you are trying to ensure you have a placement sorted for your year in industry. Have you got your placement sorted already? No? Don’t panic! In this article I am going to explain some of the mistakes I made during the application process and how you can avoid them.

Take it from me, I rushed into it and panicked. I didn’t take a strategic approach and instead ended up applying for too many placements including some I didn’t even want. My rejection rates were high which led me to think there was something wrong with me, despite my work experience and education. Why weren’t companies accepting my applications? Eventually I decided to go to the careers centre at the University of Leeds and booked a free appointment, where they taught me how to tailor my applications to each company.

Reviewing my previous application drafts, I realised they needed major improvement. I researched each company in depth in order to demonstrate my specialist knowledge and at last I progressed to the next stage for a larger percentage of my applications; the next step was online tests. My best recommendation would be practising before you even try to tackle the real ones, which can be tricky. Companies do have logic for using them even though it may not seem like it, so don’t give up! In my experience, I failed more times than I passed, as I rushed the questions, valuing quantity written as opposed to quality of answers.

The next step was interviews with my chosen companies. For one placement in particular, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I attended the careers centre talk, where I was able to reach out to their campus representative at Leeds. She was very helpful, giving me hints and tips regarding the interview process and how I should approach answering their interview questions. This preparation gave me extra confidence to promote myself in the interview and show off my work experience and transferable skills, which mpressed my placement company.

The last hurdle was the assessment centre. (Don’t worry, they are not total torture…) Once again, to have any chance of success you must prepare for them! My top tips are, know your stuff about the company and their key competencies, for the best chance of passing the test.

Feedback times vary, but for me I received a formal job offer the next day. I was excited, but mostly incredibly relieved that I finally had a placement offer. I accepted straight away without thinking, as I panicked due to my lack of previous success. Although I enjoyed my placement year, looking back I still ask myself, what if? What if I had taken more time to hear from other companies? Would I have been happier somewhere else? Overall, your placement year does not decide your future, but it is an important stepping stone to kick-start your career. Even if companies ask for your response quickly, don’t feel pressured, because if I had the opportunity again I wouldn’t rush my decision or rush my applications.

– Charlie Kirby