(SCROLL DOWN FOR MY 6 TIPS)
I wanted to do a placement year right from the start of UCAS form stages. I chose universities based on which ones offered a placement year, because clinical psychology, my chosen career path, requires experience. I started applying for placements in December, attending interviews from January to April before accepting an offer which I felt was best for me.
The whole process took a lot of time, determination and motivation. I didn’t get any help during my applications, so after experiencing the highs and lows of applying for a placement year, I’ve written my own advice for others.
Universities with courses offering a placement year usually advertise opportunities themselves. I applied to loads via uni but I also wrote to unlisted employers to ask whether they’d consider taking on placement year students.
There’s nothing stopping you from applying to organisations you find independently! All you’ll need to do is fill out some forms between the university and the organisation to say you’ll be learning from them instead.
2. Sending CVs
Don’t worry if you’ve never written a CV before. Universities always provide staff who can help you put one together and show you what to highlight. You can use experiences from unrelated societies or activities to illustrate times when you showed particular skills. If you think you’re perfect for a specific role, pick out key examples, and really convince employers that this will be your future career.
When writing your CV, try to keep it to 1 page. Employers will have loads to look through, so it’s important yours is concise, highlighting relevant experiences and achievements, and showing a perfect first impression to employers. There are loads of great templates all over Google to structure your CV.
3. Cover Letter
For my cover letter, I kept to about 3 paragraphs. The first introduced me, and why I was particularly interested in the role. Then I talked about a few parts of my CV which were particularly relevant. A good tip for writing your cover letter is to read through any available job descriptions and pick out characteristics the employer asks for, before giving an example of your personal use of the desired skills.
This is the most time consuming stage of the placement process, so try to stay motivated and keep searching for opportunities!
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It’s been said that people form first impressions within 7 seconds of meeting you, and interviewers are no different. They have loads of people lined up to interview (usually) for only one job, so you’ll be judged on absolutely everything. Your interview is likely to be anywhere up to an hour, which isn’t a lot of time, so make sure you say everything you need to.
There are lots of types of interview. Over the course of my interview process, I had panel interviews, one-to-one interviews, and I was even asked to come up with a short 2-minute presentation. Google some commonly-asked interview questions, and plan a few answers in your head before you go. Also, research the company before attending the interview so you have some background knowledge about what they do, and what they’re known for.
If you’re anything like me, you might use humour to make the interview more tolerable. Pro tip: DON’T. Apparently, joking in an interview makes you appear “flippant,” so maybe save your jokes for when they’ve officially hired you. That being said, do try and be yourself: show your fun-loving attitude in a different way; maybe talk about a time when you used your fun-loving nature to accomplish a task.
5. Improve as You Move
After the interview, it doesn’t hurt to email the employer, thanking them for their time. If you’re unsuccessful, which is inevitable in some cases, then don’t hesitate to ask for feedback; it’s crucial for both peace of mind, and knowing what to work on in future.
Most employers will respond with feedback, but not everyone will, so out of politeness do thank them, because they’re not obliged to do it. The feedback I received from my interviewers has really helped me: the main area I was told I could improve on was keeping my answers concise, so I put in the work, and my answers grew shorter
6. You’re Hired!
If you’re successful, be proud of yourself! Do feel free to apply to any other offers which you might prefer though, you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s important that you use your placement year wisely, and do what you enjoy, learning as much as possible for your future career.
Don’t Give Up!
This process is extremely competitive and difficult. Keep picking yourself up and keep applying. Rejection isn’t fun, but if nothing comes, it’s great experience for graduate job applications!