Industrial Work Placements: Why Bigger isn’t Better


Are you starting to think about your options for a placement next year? In this post, Leeds student Erin Lovett, who is coming to the ended of a placement year with Engage Comms Ltd., outlines the benefits she’s gained from working for a smaller company. The post was originally published on LinkedIn

It’s no secret that work experience makes graduates entering the job market more employable. The time spent learning about the industry and essentially ‘practising’ for a role can be invaluable, and it’s great that schools and universities are throwing their weight behind this and giving students more opportunities to undertake work placements. However, within universities I think there’s a myth being perpetuated: the bigger the company you can get work experience with, the better. It probably has a lot to do with the potential for progression and travel, which of course might well be deal-breakers later on in your career – but are they really relevant when you’re looking for work experience?

Last year, after I had been applying for placements for a week or so, I realised that I had to narrow my focus. Like lots of students, so far I had mostly been applying for undergraduate ‘placement schemes’ at huge multinational corporations. I made a list of what I thought would be most useful to me and my career development, and immediately realised that I’d been applying in all the wrong places.

Access to senior staff was really important to me. I wanted to be able to pick their brains, and make the most of their experience. Working in a microbusiness has meant that I’m being supported by the directors themselves, and can tap into their 20+ years of combined experience in the communications industry!

I knew that to stand out of the crowd I would need experience across business functions. I wanted to get an idea of how a business was actually run, and for decision making processes to be visible to me – how else could I learn from them? At Engage Comms I’ve been involved in targeting new business, detailed research projects and copywriting, but even better, I’ve been involved in the conversations dictating our strategy in those areas.

The opportunity to network and be in client-facing situations is often greater when your placement takes place in a smaller business. As well as attending most client meetings for the accounts I’m currently working on, I’ve also attended multiple networking events this year, and even helped represent Engage Comms at the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire PRide Awards.

Finally, I wanted to have real responsibility. It might be scary, but ultimately it’s much more rewarding. When what you are doing actually matters to the company that you are working for, you tend to learn quickly too!

My placement year finishes in September, and I will be walking away with a graduate job offer and a part-time role for next year, new skills coming out of my ears, and plenty of valuable industry contacts. To anyone applying for work experience or an industrial placement from university: apply to some small businesses. The rewards will be anything but.

If you are looking for work experience, there is lots of information and advice on our website. Alternatively, you can talk to us

You may also be interested in Erin’s previous post in which she explains how she used a speculative approach to land this placement.

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Filed under Advice, Develop your employability, How I got my job, Work Experience

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