To anyone who has clicked on this post thinking that I’m pregnant or that I am offering pregnancy advice, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. But thanks for clicking. I’m actually writing about what to expect when you’re expecting a placement, so if this may help you, please stay tuned.
When I was applying to placement (after placement, after placement) I had the mindset that I would pick a few I liked, apply, they’d love me and I’d get the job. Well, it wasn’t as big-headed or far-fetched as that but you can understand how straightforward I expected it to be. You might be in a similar mindset so I’m here to give you more of a realistic expectation to how applying for placement really works and what you should expect.
- FEELING CLUELESS
Your placement year is something you’ve known about when choosing your course, starting your course, during your whole first year and yet when second year comes around and you realise that you need to get a placement you feel utterly offended that no one had mentioned this to you or helped you with this yet.
So in your best attempt to overcome complete cluelessness, you should attend a class regarding placement guidelines or at least try to keep up to date with emails. If you’re still feeling clueless, don’t worry, everyone is. At this stage it’s important to ask for help. This could be with your CV, a meeting with your careers department or even just asking people in your class.
Understanding the whole equation of everything involved in a placement takes time. Do not worry. Your clueless hours of thinking “what?” on repeat will end and you will start to get your head around what is expected.
- INFORMATION OVERLOAD
When checking your emails and employability portal for placement opportunities, you will quickly come to realise the vast number of placements that are actually available. There are specific key months when every placement ever seems to be open at once and you could spend days reading about the job description, the company, etc. This is overwhelming. This is information overload.
My advice in this instance is this; in your attempt to filter through the never-ending list of placements, do not rule out placements just because you haven’t heard of the company. Take time to explore the company’s website, learn about their culture and research exactly what your role will be. The time taken will be worth it and you may even be at an advantage over the huge influx of people applying to the big names. Just because they’re bigger, doesn’t mean they’re better.
- NO INVESTMENT, NO RETURN
From the above, you should now realise that applying for placements isn’t just a few clicks and uploads. In my opinion, it’s the applications that are the hardest part and after that it’s a matter of waiting for replies and then preparing for interviews. But you can only really relax and enjoy the latter if you actually put time and effort into each of your applications. Each application is different. Don’t use the same cover letter with a few different words changed (trust me, they’ll notice). It’s important to understand that no two roles are the same so your applications shouldn’t be.
If you don’t invest the effort, you are highly unlikely to get anything in return. It took me three hideous applications to realise this and looking back I can’t believe I questioned why employers weren’t tripping over each other to offer me an interview when in reality they probably blacklisted my CV.
- TIME, TIME, PRECIOUS TIME
If you’re second year at university, the likelihood is that your time mostly revolves around sleeping, drinking, going out, being hungover, thinking about what will make you feel less hungover, thinking your hangover is over then realising it was just the start, eating, going to university, being on your phone and on occasion, doing work for university. And in this jam-packed schedule, where on earth is the time to apply for placements?! * The truth is you have to make time. There’s no cheats or fast routes, it takes time and you need to make the time no matter what other commitments you have, drinking included. Even if you try setting out two days in the week to focus specifically on research and applications for the placements you want, it will really help.
At the start, expect to be bewildered at how it took you two and a half hours to write your CV profile section and blown away at the fact that it still sounds like the first one you read off Google and did your best not to copy. The more time you put into it, the better it will be and you’ll be constantly tweaking and fixing bits to end up with an application you’re happy with. But please, don’t underestimate the time it takes. It’s probably the most important thing for you to take from this whole piece if you take anything at all.
*Apologies to anyone who does not have the student time-schedule as the one mentioned above. I’m sorry that I stereotypically profiled you under a student experience umbrella based on what I’m used to. Well done for being studious, the rest of us envy you a lot.
- GETTING GHOSTED
This is probably the most infuriating thing that you should expect. And also very, very common. Expect long waits of thinking, “no I’ve definitely got this one, no point applying anywhere else, this is the one” and proceeding to find out someone else in your class got the role last week. As far as I was aware, there’s no procedures in place that say employers have to let you know if you’ve been rejected. And on the off chance that you are an employer and you’re reading this, please let a student know if they haven’t been successful in their applications, it’s polite and really helpful. So expect to be ghosted and my advice in this instance would be to set a realistic time limit before moving on and trying your best at your next application. It can be really disheartening but it’s just what you’ve got to do.
Thank you if you’ve made it to the end and have actually read the full thing. I hope it helps you if you’re in the position of applying to placements or if you’re on placement/have been on placement, I hope you can relate to the struggle. Also, it’s not all doom and gloom and once you’ve gotten your placement you feel amazing and have such a massive opportunity ahead of you, but that’s all for another post!
Scout Dobbin is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on placement as a Marketing Assistant. Scout can be found on Linkedin – Scout Dobbin ; Twitter – @scoutdobbin ; Instagram – @scoutdobbin