The Exclusivity of “Inclusive” Fashion

Why do I (and many other women) only seem to buy clothes from the same 3-4 companies all the time? For me, it’s not so much a preference (or the fact that they’re a lot cheaper than Topshop), it’s because these are the few shops where I can actually buy clothes in MY size.

And so is the struggle of many people. “Ooh XXX have a sale- oh wait, they don’t do my size”. *goes on website…checks sizes…exits website and huffs*.

Now don’t get me wrong, it does have its perks- think of all the money I’ve saved because I can’t actually buy anything 🙂

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Over the past few years, there has been an “inclusive fashion” movement among retailers whereby they have extended their clothing size range beyond the traditional 8-14s, to cater for women of “all shapes and sizes”. Shops have gone from offering 4 or 5 sizes to 9+. So what’s the problem? Well, for one, the range only seems to extend to suit one body type.

While an increasing number of retailers now offer sizes over 16, very few cater below a 6. Now, to my delight, around 2 years ago Primark began producing clothes in a size 4 – but this was at least 5 years after they began producing sizes up to a 22.

Yes, there’s a whole debate and backlash about this;  some believe that offering smaller sizes promotes an unhealthy lifestyle and reinforces beauty standards, with others saying how one extreme is no better than another, and promoting larger sizes contributes to the normalisaion of obesity.

But this is not about that. Trust me, I did my A Level HE assignment on this topic and drafted and redrafted a literature review around FIFTEEN times so I am not even going into this *has flashbacks and shudders*.

I’m simply saying that yes, it’s obviously good that retailers are adapting to meet the needs of their customers, but why cater for one type over another? I just want a pair of jeans like, it shouldn’t be this hard.

It does lower your self esteem when you bring 7 items into a changing room and none fit or look nice, but that’s not just the case for larger sizes. Do you know how it feels to look like you’re wearing your mother’s clothes? Not good (no offence, ma – I think your clothes are lovely). It probably feels just as bad as looking like you accidentally tumble-dried your clothes and shrunk them.

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I welcome retailers extending their size range and catering for more than 5 sizes, I don’t think anyone should have to go a certain shop/s to be able to buy their size, or settle for clothes too big or too small for them. I’m just saying that retailers need to branch out a bit more. “Start doing a size 16, that’ll keep ’em happy”- well Mr Multi-National Retailer, on behalf of said “’em”, we are not happy.

Bringing in an additional 2/3 sizes doesn’t make you ‘inclusive’. Being inclusive means bringing in a variety of new sizes. Only extending your range to suit one body type actually makes you more exclusive than inclusive, just saying.

Don’t get me wrong, “inclusive” fashion is great – as long as you’re between a size 10-14 and are no shorter than 5 ft 3 or taller than 5 ft 7.

Now, some retailers have started offering a “petite” or “tall” range, thank God. But why?

If the average woman in Ireland, the UK, America, and most countries is around 5 ft 4, why are nearly all clothes made to suit people who are over 5 ft 6? And why are the models always 5 ft 7 – 5 ft 10? Surely it doesn’t make much sense to make clothes which only fit a a very small proportion of your customer base rather than the majority? But maybe I’m just being fussy, idk.

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And so is the beauty of online retailers – they offer plus size ranges, size 4s, maternity wear, petite and tall ranges *heavenly choir sings “ahhhh”*.

I personally prefer online shopping, but it’s not because I can buy clothes from the comfort of my bed while looking like a sight that is not fit for anyone except the postman to see (although I am determined to make dressing gowns a socially acceptable outerwear) Note: NOT a ‘house coat’. It’s because I can buy clothes.

People wonder why high street shopping is down year-on-year. Maybe we’ll go into your shop when your clothes don’t make us feel bad about ourselves and you actually do our size. And I’ll give you that gem of business advice for free.

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I was planning to write about the exclusivity of the bra industry but I guess I underestimated just how exclusive the fashion industry was- silly me. So to the (I’m assuming) joy of any male readers that haven’t given up or fallen asleep already, you are spared. And well done you for making it this far, you must either be interested in what I have to say on this topic, or you’re really bored.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to do some online retail therapy, because I can. And because Boohoo have 30% off coats -sorry, bank account.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: Niamh Murray.

How Coffee Shops Saved My (Social) Life

This morning as I was on my way to get my daily coffee before work, my brother said something so outrageous that shocked me to my very core. “There’s too many coffee shops in Belfast.” It pains me to even type the words.

Once I had a chance to gather myself, I replied “Ammm, ain’t no such thing” (I’m very street like that).

He then went on to list some: Caffe Nero, Hotel Chocolat, Tim Horton’s, Bob & Bert’s, Pearl’s, Clements, Costa, Starbucks (all of which I’ve got loyalty cards for) as if that was too many?

It got me thinking, where would I be without all of these coffee shops? A lot better off financially yes. But also a LOT more tired, and a lot less social.

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I’m a placement student, which means that my schedule doesn’t really sync up with any of my friends who are still at uni. They’re free during the day and out at night, I’m in work all day then in bed by 10pm most nights.

But there’s that glimmering, cappuccino coloured window between 5 and 7pm, after I’ve finished work and before they’ve to go home and start preing.

I mean, what can you do at 5pm? No one under the age of around 60 (no offence) has dinner that early, and going for “a drink” isn’t really an option.

Coffee. That’s what you do.

What do you do at 8am, when the shops are all still closed and you can’t exactly sit at your desk for an hour before work?

Coffee. That’s what you do.

After lectures and seminars to procrastinate actually doing uni work?

You guessed it- el caffe. (See how I’m mixing things up?)

six white ceramic mugs
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Don’t get me wrong, I do love coffee. But for me its not about the drink; I go for coffee because I want to go somewhere nice and sit and catch up with my friends. Even those who hate coffee love going for coffee; there’s steamers, tea, weird flavoured lattes and those ridiculous drinks in Starbucks with a mountain of cream on top and another mountain of sugar inside.

I must admit, Belfast doesn’t have much when it comes to nightlife, everything sort of closes in the city centre at around 7pm (except the glorious night that is Thursday). But there’s always a light on in that Starbucks opposite Europa, or Tim Horton’s (yeah, we’ve got one of those now). Well, until 10pm when they close, but you know what I mean.

All of these coffee shops have actually really shaped my (and Belfast’s) social life.  They don’t just provide us with my daily dose of caffeine and free wifi (yay), they give us a place to sit with our friends and catch up on everything going on each other’s lives.

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And it’s not just big multi-national chains, it’s wee small independent coffee shops and chains throughout the north of Ireland like Clements and Bob & Bert’s. I always try to go the local shops and give them a turn instead. If you think about, I’m basically a caffeine-fuelled modern-day Robin Hood.

I’m helping support the local high street -which God knows it needs all the help it can get after the Primark fire reduced footfall by 30%. And with amount of money I spend a week on a coffee, I’m probably single-handedly sustaining the local coffee industry.

Coffee shops are so important to Belfast. We need somewhere to sit have a good chat- and God knows we need caffeine. Coffee’s what we drink, it’s what we do, it’s who we are.

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So, I’ll raise my skinny cappuccino and toast to the coffee shops of Belfast, “thank you”.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: Niamh Murray.

Gender Roles Are Changing – So Why Aren’t Ads?

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now, but I’ve barely had a chance to get out of the kitchen to do so.

I know what you’re probably thinking, “here we go again, another feminist rant”. Well, before you roll your eyes (they’ll get stuck up there, you know), hear me out.

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Who is the typical lead role in ads for cleaning products? Kitchen appliances? Childcare products? Yep, that’s right, a woman.

Why is that?

Studies have found that cleaning, housework and childcare duties are typically performed by females. So of course, companies are going to target that demographic; I mean, it would be silly to not target your primary users, right?

If we’re going to picture ourselves using products, the ads need to be relatable, and what other way is there than to be similar to the person using the advertised product?

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But, it’s a cycle.

Products are aimed at women because women are the primary users of said products. But women are the primary users because they’re always the demographic shown using the products.

These products are aimed at women, so women buy them. So they continued to be aimed at women, who continue to buy them. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Women will see these ads and think “oh, that’s aimed at me, I should be using that”.

Men will see these ads and think “oh its aimed at women, it’s not relevant to me” and thus not pay attention. And vice versa for male-targeted advertising.

If it’s not aimed at you and it’s not for you, why would you go buy it? I don’t see ads for chainsaws and think “hmmm, must get me one of those.”

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Ads don’t just sell products, they sell lifestyles and societal norms too. They create desire. To achieve the ‘desired’ lifestyle shown in the ad you should act how the actors are acting, use what they’re using, behave how they’re behaving. You should picture yourself as them.

It just so happens that the ‘desired’ lifestyle tends to consist of sexist and old-fashioned gender roles. Gender roles which reflect a sexist and old fashioned society.

But, things have changed are changing. More men are helping out around the house and with child care. Women are leaving the kitchen to go out to work and have careers. Men *gasps* make their own sandwiches.

Yes, our society does ~sadly~ tend to follow traditional gender roles – but maybe that’s because that’s all  we see? In a way, these ads reinforce the sexist and old-fashioned gender roles.

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Surely if cleaning and childcare products were targeted at males, then more males would use them? If you show women using home decor products and gardening tools, maybe we’d use them more because we would be able to see ourselves using these products? (I mean I personally wouldn’t but that’s not the point)

My point is, ads should be changing to reflect the changing society that we live in. Not reflecting the society we did live in. Do they not use PESTLE? Please tell me I didn’t sit through 5 years of hearing about PESTLE analysis to find out companies don’t actually use it.

– Brief recap: PESTLE is a ‘fun’ way to remember the components of external market influences; Political, Economic, SOCIAL, Technological, Legal and Environmental. My GCSE Business Studies teacher would be so proud. Basically companies are meant to analyse what’s going on in the world around them and be aware of changes, like yano, women being allowed to work and not being forced to be housewives? Wee things like that.

Companies and advertisers need to respond to these societal changes. I mean, why limit yourself to 50% of the population? Targeting both sexes gives you access to a whole other demographic. Double the potential customers, double the potential sales, double the potential dolla.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, we have come on a bit from the old days of women in aprons baking pies and cleaning while their husbands are busy at work or ignoring their children.

There have of course been ads with women doing DIY, men changing nappies (yes, you can do it too) and cleaning, and- dare I say it, women working. But the sad thing is, these ads aren’t the norm, they’re the rarity.

I think we need to see less distinct gender roles in advertising (and in general, for that matter). After all, how can you expect society to progress if you don’t show what it could and should be like? Equality. Make that the ‘desired’ lifestyle.

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If you show multiple genders using the products, then multiple genders will buy and use them. Then you can target multiple genders who will continue to buy and use them.

Like I said, it’s a cycle. But I think advertisers need to start pedalling.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: Niamh Murray.

Controversial Advertising: Stupid or Strategic?

Have you ever seen an ad and thought “who thought that was a good idea?!” And no, I don’t mean those corny ads like something you’d see on The Apprentice. I mean those ones that make you think “who approved that?” or “umm why?”

I’ve always thought the whole “all press is good press” notion was a bit, well, stupid really. I mean, I never really saw how negative publicity and consumer backlash could be a good thing for a business?

 

 

Well, today I saw this NHS ad campaign for breastfeeding on my LinkedIn feed. The only reason that I saw this ad was because a connection of mine shared it and expressed their outrage at the nature of the ad. Then I realised that I probably never would have seen the ad if it wasn’t for them sharing it. I mean, I don’t exactly strive to keep up to date on the goings on of the parenting and baby world (well not yet anyway).

This got me thinking though, what if Eminem was right? *gasps in background* What if we do need a little controversy? These ‘controversial’ ads do get people talking and raise awareness about the brand/product after all. So what if all press really is good press?

 

  • To clarify, I’m not saying “let’s go out and offend everyone in the name of free publicity” (or, “let’s listen to Eminem” – I’m definitely not saying that). I’m simply saying that maybe there is method in the madness. And I’m not talking about ads that violate the principles of the ASA and have to be taken down either.

 

Marketing and advertising teams depend on people talking about products, companies, shows- whatever they’re trying to promote; and what better way to get people talking than to start a good old fashioned debate?

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Take the latest Cancer Research campaign – informing consumers of the link between obesity and cancer. Many people complained, stating that it ‘fat shamed’ individuals and lowered their self-esteem.

This sparked an online debate, with people vouching for both sides, which led to the ad being shared and talked about all over social media.

Think of how many people have now seen the ad. So, think of how people are now aware that obesity contributes to the development of cancer. Do you think an ad showing a microscope and cell would have had the same effect?

Whether or not they agree with the ad is irrelevant; these people still shared the ad with hundreds of people. What is relevant, however, is that the aim of the ad was to educate and inform consumers. Which it has.

Those who were so opposed to the ad, were the ones who actually promoted the campaign. Doing Cancer Research a favour. I mean, if you hate the ad so much, why are you giving the company free advertising space on your social media platforms?

Cancer Research essentially got free advertising and discussion about not only their organisation, but the message they were trying to spread.

 

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In a similar way, Netflix’s show Insatiable got slated online with a large amount of viewers complaining about it. I had never heard of the show, but decided to watch it to ‘see what the fuss was about’; I ended up watching the whole series. If the show hadn’t been featured on the likes of Buzzfeed and social media, I probably would never even have heard of it, let alone watched it.

What people don’t seem to realise is that “hate watching” is still watching. Do you think a series which follows the social norms and is 100% politically correct would have been renewed for a second series? Doubt it.

 

Let’s be real, we’re all (I hope it’s not just me) guilty of being attracted to a wee bit of scandal and  the chance to give our opinions *has flashbacks to whether the dress was white and gold or blue and black* and companies know this – they have to get us talking after all.

(it was white and gold btw- just saying)

 

EPSON scanner image
EPSON scanner image

Advertisers love pushing boundaries. They have to think outside that clichéd box and come up with new and imaginative ideas for campaigns. If they didn’t push the boundaries, people wouldn’t react; and the whole point of advertising is to get a reaction from consumers. Yes, ideally you want consumers to actually like you, but, it’s a gamble that I guess can pay off. I somehow doubt that Cancer Research will have a tough time weighing up the cons of a few angry people vs the pros of raising awareness and saving lives.

The thing to note is the status of the company being controversial – the NHS can afford to be because, whether or not people agree with the ad, they’re most likely still going to avail of the NHS’s services. I doubt people would rather fork out a few grand for private healthcare than get it for free from a health provider that ran a questionable breastfeeding campaign.

Similarly, do you think consumers are going to ‘boycott’ a cancer research charity because they don’t like their ad? Don’t think so. So, whilst being controversial can be a good thing, it’s important for advertisers to think of the potential consequences of annoying consumers.

Advertisers also need to be aware of the fine line separating ‘controversial’ and just downright offensive. The last thing you want is for the ASA to be on your back, or having to withdraw a campaign you spent a hell of a lot of money on.

 

woman wearing pink top
Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

So, next time you see an ad and think “what the hell were they thinking?!” Maybe now you know.

Or, maybe they’re not the strategic marketing geniuses we thought they were and it really is just be a poorly thought out ad. Who knows?

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-murray-4a013a150/

Eco-friendly Swaps That Won’t Cost You the Earth

Those of you who have me on social media will already know that I am pretty passionate about saving the environment (imagine wanting to protect your own planet??) So, I have compiled a wee list of easy ways to be green that don’t cost much.

And yes, I have made all of these changes myself so you can trust that they are actually worth making. After all, the Black Eyed Peas always said to practice what you preach…

 

  1. Reusable Cotton Pads

cotton pads

What? As the name suggests, these are an eco-friendly version of that beauty essential. Made from cotton knit rather than traditional cotton, these bad boys can be used and washed again, and again, and again…and once more for good measure.

Why? Cotton is one of the “dirtiest” materials, with the non-organic cotton farming industry using nearly ¼ of the world’s insecticides. These leach into the ground and water supply, harming the natural environment and cotton farmers. This cotton is then dumped after one use and ends up in either landfills, or clogging pipes and the stomachs of sea creatures in our oceans.

How much? They’re around 60p each, with discounts for bulk-buying. I got my 4 for £2.30 including postage, which works out at a cheerful 57p each.

Where from? These are widely available on www.Etsy.com (I found they had the largest selection online).

Are they any good? Yes, I actually prefer these to traditional cotton pads. Because they are less absorbent, you need to use less product on them. So you save product and the environment, sounds like a win-win to me.

 

  1. Bamboo Toothbrushes

bamboo toothbrush

What? These toothbrushes are made with a bamboo handle, rather than the traditional plastic. The bristles still contain plastic, because apart from using horse-tail bristles *shudders*, there aren’t really many non-plastic alternatives yet.

Why? As you’ve probably seen all over the internet recently, there has been a massive movement to reduce the amount of single use and non-recycled plastics to reduce the amount of plastic dumped in the ocean. Bamboo is biodegradable, meaning it breaks down around 150 years faster than plastic and so is more environmentally friendly, and it helps keep sea life’s stomachs plastic-free.

Are they any good? Yep, they last just as long as traditional plastic handled toothbrushes, and they look pretty cool too.

How much? I got mine for 99p each, but got a wee 10% discount for buying six. Cha-ching.

Where from? These are widely available online, but they are cheapest from either Amazon or eBay. There are some independent online stores too, but they’re around 5x dearer.

 

  1. Bar Shampoo

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What? Basically like a bar of soap, but with shampoo instead. Pretty self-explanatory really.

Why? Traditional shampoo bottles are another example of single-use plastics, with few being recycled. These are packaging free, thus reducing waste.

Are they any good? To my shock I must admit, they actually are. I thought that bar shampoo would dry out my hair or make it greasy and full of residue, but it doesn’t. I’m not going to say it made my hair silky smooth and so shiny it was reflective, because no product on this earth could perform that miracle on my frizzy mane. But, my hair feels the exact same as it did with normal liquid shampoos. LUSH has a range of bar shampoos to suit different hair types, and they all smell AMAZING too. *smells hair* Yep, deffo worth getting.

How much? LUSH ones cost around £7.50. This may seem a bit steep, but they last around 4-6 months depending on your hair length, so how many bottles of shampoo would you go through in that time? Now, add that up.

Where from? I get mine from LUSH because I love the smell, but they can also be found widely online.

*A more obvious suggestion would have been bars of soap instead of liquid soap but I’ve already written about bar shampoo so I’ll have to roll with that. But yeah, buy bars of soap too.

 

  1. Burt’s Bees ‘Bring Back the Bees’ Lip Balm

lip balm

What? This is a strawberry flavoured lip balm by beauty brand Burt’s Bees, which, for each of these lip balms sold will plant 5,000 bee-friendly wildflower seeds.

Why? As you are probably aware, there has been a huge ‘Save the Bees’ movement as the population is declining at an alarming rate. Basically, bees are the goodies that provide us with crops, flowers and honey; wasps are the baddies who fly in your face and just sting you for the fun of it.

Is it any good? It’s just as good as any other lip balm, and it smells (and tastes) amazing too.

Where from? This special Bring Back the Bees one is only available online, from either Amazon or Look Fantastic. Not to be confused with Burt’s Bee’s normal strawberry one!

How much? It costs £3.99 on both online outlets, but Look Fantastic has 10% student discount and its postage is cheaper than Amazon (unless you get it for free with Amazon Prime).

 

  1. Sell Old Clothes

 

What? When you’re doing one of those “I need to bin some clothes so I have excuse to buy new ones” clear outs, don’t just chuck your old stuff in a bin bag and dump it. Have a look at what you’ve got, and see if there’s anything you could get a couple pounds for online.

*Alternatively, you can donate these to charity shops, and for things that you don’t think people will buy, donate them to a clothes bank!

Why? Too many of us just bin old clothes, leaving them to lie for around 100 years in a landfill before they ~eventually~ decompose. This led to over 300,000 tonnes worth £12.5 billion being dumped last year from Britain alone (I couldn’t find any Irish statistics but that doesn’t mean we aren’t guilty too). Plus, the money’s dead handy for when that student loan runs out and you’re resorting to Super Noodles for dinner every night.

Is it any good? I tried this out a few months ago when I was moving into a smaller house with a lot less clothes room ( 😦 ) and ending up pocketing just over £60. Not too shabby eh?

How much? You make money! Only thing you have to pay for is the postage – if selling on eBay, there will a small selling fee from eBay and PayPal.

Where? I sold mine on eBay, but Depop is another really popular marketplace too.

 

  1. Reusable Coffee Cups

coffee cups

What? Do I really need to explain this? Might leave you to decipher this riddle for yourselves.

Why? Around 200 million disposable coffee cups are thrown away in Ireland every year, with 99.75% NOT being recycled. A study by Recycling List Ireland found that 528,000 are thrown away every day which works out 22,000 an hour or 366 every minute. Although made of paper, these are lined with plastic which makes them basically un-recyclable and thus adding to the overflowing landfills. Bringing your own reusable cups therefore reduces this, and you can buy pretty ones with cool designs too.

Are they any good? Most reusable coffee cups are insulated, meaning they keep your drink hotter for longer. And, many coffee shops (for example Starbucks, Costa and Greggs) all offer a discount of 20-25p off every hot drink when you use one. Other brands like Caffe Nero and Clements offer double loyalty card stamps. Yay.

How much? This depends where you buy them from, with prices ranging anywhere from £2 to some coffee shop’s own brand ones for £12.

Where from? They can bought in LOADS of places, from B&M to Tesco and Primark to coffee shops and online.

 

  1. Ecosia

ecosia

What? This one isn’t so obvious. Ecosia is a search engine which uses its profits to plant trees around the world. It works the exact same as Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, but for around every 45 searches you do, a tree is planted.

Why? Ecosia has planted over 38 million trees already (16 thanks to me and my 700 searches so far). Deforestation is a global problem, and trees are essential- we need them to breathe (oxygen production), grow foods, make paper, home natural wildlife, and for soppy romantics to carve their initials into. Ew.

Is it any good? It’s just as good as other popular search engines at providing me with important information and statistics, or tell me the name of that short bald actor and my daily horoscope.  (It’s Jason Statham BTW).

How much? Same as Jennifer Lopez’s love – it don’t cost a thing.

Where from? www.Ecosia.org

 

So there you go, 7 simple ways to help save the planet without having to splash the cash!

Feel free to comment if you have any questions, experiences of any of these you’ve tried or any suggestions of other eco-friendly swaps!

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-murray-4a013a150/

The “P word”

“Placement”.

The nine letter word that instils instant fear and dread in university students.

The “if we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist” topic.

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It’s scary isn’t it? One minute you’re catching up with friends, preparing for fresher’s week and celebrating the return of the student loan; the next you’re being forced to ~god forbid~ start thinking about your future and what you actually want to do with your life.

You’ll start having placement students, members of companies and placement co-ordinators making appearances in lectures, and start receiving emails in your university email account that you only ever really use to activate your UniDays discount.

Well, don’t worry – here are some do’s and don’ts to help prepare you for one of the scariest things about second year (second to the fact that this year actually counts towards your degree classification).

Take it from a current placement student who has learned some of these the hard way. And no, I did not follow all of these, which is precisely why I am advising you to.

 

DO:

Start early.

start early

Give yourself a head start and the best chance you can. The last thing you need when you have assignments to write and exams to revise for is to worry about actually starting to write a CV and figure out what a cover letter even is.

 

DON’T:

Feel as though you have to go on a traditional placement. You have options, consider them. Yes, you can go on placement, but you can also take part in programmes such as Study USA or Intern China, or go straight into final year. Everyone is different and wants different things. It’s your degree, your choice and a year of your life at the end of the day. Placement isn’t for everyone, and you know what? That’s totally fine.

 

DO:

Proof read.

Stop rolling your eyes. Yes it’s one of those “duh” points, but it has to be said. After writing around 20 cover letters and application forms, you might discover a shortcut of “I’ll just write the same thing and change the company name and job title”; well, that’s all well and good until you submit a cover letter stating how much you would love to be a marketing intern at one of the leading car retailers to a milk company looking for a web developer.

Which leads to my second point.

 

DON’T:

Make every application/cover letter the same.

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Companies can see right through you and know exactly when you’re using generic applications. Every application should be tailored to suit the company and job you’re applying for. State why to want to work there, and why you would be ~perfect~ for that role. The more specific and relevant your application is, the more likely the reader is to consider you.

Take it from someone who did the whole “copy and paste” approach, and got rejections for not being ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘passionate’ enough about the job or business.

 

DO:

What’s best for you. Friends are such a big part of our lives, and it’s nearly impossible not to be influenced by them; but don’t feel pressured to do something just because they are. Don’t apply for a job you don’t want just because “all of my friends have”, don’t choose jobs based in a certain country because you want to be near them, don’t decide not to do a placement even though you want to just because your best friend hasn’t and you want to “graduate together”.

I mean, “if your friends jumped off a cliff” and all that.

 

DON’T:

Be afraid to be different. Oh, you think writing 30 cover letters, applications and CVs is boring? Try reading 100s of them. Make the employer interested. This is your chance to show your potential and why you deserve the job. Yes, of course that’s what the interview is for- but what if you don’t get that far? Give the employer no choice but to want to meet and learn more about you and what you can bring to the company.

 

DO:

Practise.

Do you know what a psychometric test is? Yeah, one of those “what shape’s next and mathsy sort of test things”. Well, whenever you’re about to complete one, you might get a ‘guide’ which includes what sort of questions will be asked, how much time you have and practise questions. READ IT. I was one of those “I’d rather get it over and done with” so skipped the guide and practise questions. Well, joke was on me when, approximately 12 minutes later I was sitting at the computer trying not to cry and swearing I would boycott a certain brand for life because of the emotional trauma they had caused me. I mean, who cares how many yen 500 US dollars is worth? Well, for some unknown reason, that company does.

 

DON’T:

Panic apply.

panic

If you haven’t got a placement sorted yet but some or all of your friends have, it can be tempting to start applying for every single placement opportunity you get told about. It’s important that you only apply to jobs you actually want. Would you rather wait a few weeks or months and get your ideal job, or be the first one to get a placement but end up not even liking the sound of it?  It can be frustrating getting nothing but rejections or ignored for months, but it’s worth waiting for that one real “YES” moment.  I found myself relieved to get some rejections because I didn’t even really want a job or what it was, but I mightn’t have been as lucky and ended up having to take one and spend a year doing something I hated and wasn’t suited for.

 

And now for my final gem of advice:

 

DO:

Enjoy second year.

There’s nothing you appreciate more than 9 hour weeks and being able to go for LUNCH DATES than working 8 hours a day and having to pack lunches like you’re back in school. Second year was such an amazing year for me, and yes, it’s hard work and a step up from first year; but it’s still a great time to socialise, learn, think about what you actually want, and go out on a weeknight?? Imagine.

party (2)

 

Well there you go folks, that’s a wrap. Hopefully you learned something reading this, and if you didn’t – US $500 will get you around 56,698 Japanese yen. Ha – now you have learned something *pats self on back*.

 

Niamh Murray is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: @_neeev, Facebook: Niamh Ni Mhuirí and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-murray-4a013a150/