Jasmine Mellor, a textile design student, has recently started her placement with the Home Retail Group. In this post, which she wrote shortly before starting her placement, she shares her top tips for placement-seeking success.
I am a second year undergraduate student studying Textile Design and I am about to start a 6 month placement at the Home Retail Group which compromises of Argos, Habitat and Homebase. The design industry is highly competitive and experience is essential. The need for this experience is what fuelled my decision to take a year out of my studies and complete a year in industry.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a CV and cover letter
When I decided I wanted to complete a Year in Industry the first task I completed was improving my CV. My CV originally was very plain and simple and I knew it needed a revamp. I already had quite a lot of experience from various part time jobs; however none of these were necessarily design related. So rather than focusing on my experience, I really emphasised the skills I had gained since starting my degree and targeted these skills for every role I applied for. I also added images of my design work which were bright and eye catching but ensured that the layout was clear and the text was still easy to read.
Like my CV, I also targeted my cover letters for each and every job I applied for and included images. This was an extremely tedious and long winded task but employers can tell when they have received a generic cover letter, and they do not like it! Also, I made sure that the design of my cover letter matched my CV. It looks a lot more professional to receive a well thought about application which flows from the content to the visuals. Your CV and cover letter is essentially the first impression someone will have of you, and first impressions count! You should make sure you’re clear and to the point, double check your spelling and punctuation and let some of your personality come through. Employers will look through 100’s of applications so you need to make sure yours is memorable (but in a good way!)
The first thing I will tell anyone who is trying to secure a work placement is don’t give up. For the first three months of looking for a placement I applied for around 30 different jobs and I didn’t hear a thing. I can’t tell you how disheartening this is. But I kept thinking to myself ‘if it’s this hard to secure a work placement, imagine how hard it will be trying to land yourself a job without any relevant experience?’ So I kept on trying. I sat down and really thought about where I would love to work and what job role I would love to be doing and started to contact companies who weren’t even advertising a position. If I didn’t hear anything within a week, I would ring them up and ask if they had received my CV. Ringing up large companies can be an extremely daunting task, but it shows you’re really interested and eager to work for them. I found that I got more answers and more responses once I’d rang up a company. You have to remember, the companies you’re applying for are extremely busy so it always helps when you make the process more efficient for them.
Take any opportunity you’re offered
The Home Retail Group was one of the companies I approached who weren’t advertising and to my surprise I got a response. They told me that unfortunately they don’t offer placements but they could offer me a week’s work experience. Now this wasn’t entirely ideal, but a week is better than nothing and I knew it would be a great opportunity either way so I accepted their offer. After completing my week, they got to know me and were really impressed by my hard work and eagerness to learn. They decided that they would love to offer me a 6 month placement. What a result! This just shows that one thing can lead to another, and you should never refuse a good opportunity even if it isn’t what you’re looking for.
My Top Tips
- Make the most of the help and resources that are available to you. Visit the Careers Centre for CV and interview advice and speak to your personal tutors, the advice and support they can offer you is invaluable.
- Sit down and really think about where you want to work. The application process is so much easier when you’re applying for a role that you know you’d love.
- Approach companies who may not even be advertising a position, if you catch their eye then they may change their minds.
- Don’t give up!
We have lots of information and advice about finding work experience on our website, as well as further advice on speculative applications (the approach Jasmine took) and you can also talk to us if you would like any help in your search.