Alex Edward, studying Geological Sciences, has recently started an industrial placement at Sirius Geotechnical and Environmental in Leeds. He will be writing a number of posts for this blog during the course of his placement. In this first post he gives his advice, based on his experience of looking for placements last year, to other students seeking placements.
For the vast majority of my 2nd year, my main focus wasn’t on my university studies. It wasn’t on going out every night. It wasn’t on one of the various societies I was a member of. It was on trying to secure myself a placement for a year in industry (although the first and third points did help with the latter). I was mainly motivated by the fact that I know that work experience, not necessarily degree qualifications, are key to getting a good graduate position.
I am by no means suggesting don’t bother working hard at uni: Most places require you to have a good degree, especially in a technical field, but getting experience in your desired field before you graduate I think, is just as important. I am basing this on anecdotal evidence from older students and from advice from professionals I have met over the past 2 years. In fact, one friend who had spoken off the record to a recruitment agent working for a multi-national energy company, had told me that with that particular employer, your qualifications only account for about 20% of your total application. Another 20% on previous work experience, the rest on how you perform in their application process. Unless you can prove you know how to work in that field, you greatly increase the chances they’ll pick someone else.
With this in mind, obtaining a placement can seem extremely daunting as a student, especially if you have little experience in talking to professionals. A lot of places don’t advertise year- long or summer placements, but my experience is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. There’s always a major temptation to just send an email and hope they’ll reply: My main advice is, if at all possible, don’t. Always ring and at least try and get through to the person who may be making the decision. This works for larger companies as well. For example, URS are a large global engineering firm with an official application procedure on their main website, but if you ring the office where you’d like to secure a placement (like I did in Leeds), you may just get put through to the head of the department in which you’re interested. They may just ask you to send a CV and come for an interview. Once you’ve done that and had a conversation, they’ll remember you; you won’t be just another name on an email.
I’m writing this 2 weeks before starting my placement at Sirius Geotechnical and Environmental here in Leeds. I’m excited to start work full time, but also that I still get to experience a (albeit limited to weekends) form of student life, as I am living with friends from halls. There are gigantic bonuses to taking on a placement whilst still at uni and I’m hoping that this year will be able to provide to a great insight into the “real” working world.
My final bit of advice would be; apply everywhere, to as many places as you can find, especially if you’re not sure what specific sector you’re interested in. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.
If you are looking for a placement for next academic year, or for any other form of work experience, we can help you. There is lots of great advice on our website and under the work experience category of the blog, or you can talk to us