Have you been looking into an industrial placement as part of your degree? In this blog post Erin Lovett explains how speculative applications really can pay off.
I’m on a year long industrial placement at Engage Comms, a digital communications consultancy based in Otley. As soon as I found out about the placement year opportunities at university I knew it was something that I was interested in, and I started looking for vacancies on the Careers Centre vacancies system and other internship websites in January of my second year.
After doing some work experience at Fleishman Hillard’s London office that Christmas and really enjoying it, I knew that I wanted to apply for placements in PR or communications, but also decided to look into marketing and advertising as other possibilities.
Applying for roles
I started the application process, beginning with larger companies offering undergraduate placement schemes. These applications could be long and involved so I started going to the Careers Centre for advice, particularly on how to structure CVs and covering letters. They were so helpful, helping me to write a completely new and much-improved CV and even giving me interview coaching.
I got through to the interview stage of a few applications, and unfortunately got rejected. It was disappointing, but I kept looking for placements anyway. Having now had some real interviews, I felt more confident about future ones, plus the application processes I had already gone through had taught me some more about what I wanted from my placement. It was PR and communications, and in particular the use of social media within those sectors that I was most interested in, plus I had realised that the environment of a small company would be better for the skills I hoped to gain.
A new approach
With this in mind, I started from scratch, with a new strategy. I researched all the PR and communications companies in Leeds, and once I had a list, reduced it down by looking at their websites to determine how large the company was, what kind of clients they had, and how invested into social media they were. Then, I sent these organisations a speculative letter, outlining my previous experience, explaining the type of placement I was looking for, and why I had targeted each business. I think the personalisation of the letters was what made them work for me – they were all addressed to the relevant individual, posted in hand-written envelopes and mentioned projects that they had worked on that I liked, as well as why I liked them.
I had a great response over the next few weeks, but it was actually one of the first emails I received that got me this placement! Carol Arthur from Quest PR got in touch to say that they had already hired a placement student – but that she wanted to pass my CV and details onto a friend of hers. Enter Engage Comms! As they are based in Otley rather than Leeds City Centre, they hadn’t been on my original list.
Carol passed my details on to Helen Gill, and I met her and Jo Parker (the directors of Engage Comms) for an informal interview in Leeds in August. They offered me the position of Digital Communications Executive, and I haven’t looked back! I’m only half way through my placement and I’m already really aware of how many valuable skills I’m taking from it.
If I could only give people interested in an industrial year one piece of advice, it would be this: apply for roles that you are genuinely interested in, in companies that you admire. That way, you’ll be engaged and enjoy what you’re doing – and get so much more from the experience!