In this week’s blog post, Hannah, a Leeds University Geography student tells us about her role as a placement student at IBM, how she got the role and what skills and experiences have helped her application stand out. Hannah works in the Watson Internet of Things business unit – IBM Watson. The Internet of Things and number of connected devices is growing daily, so this is a particularly exciting internship opportunity in a developing sector.
I’m am lucky enough to be working in the immediate office of Harriet Green, the General Manager of Watson Internet of Things, Commerce and Education. I work alongside her Executive Assistant, Administrative Assistant and Office Manager to ensure her job runs as smoothly as possible. On a daily basis, I sit in on client meetings and watch how Harriet motivates and guides her senior Leadership teams to drive growth within the three businesses she runs. There are some amazing opportunities in this role, for example, two months into my placement, I traveled to Berlin to assist Harriet at IFA – The world’s leading retail platform for consumer electronics and home appliances – where she was a keynote speaker (you can see a video of her keynote). Three months in, I am starting to develop an in depth understanding of her client accounts, and I have presented the Chairman and CEO of IBM with updates on their progress. The role is demanding but I am very excited about this opportunity and the skills and experience I will gain.
Necessary skills and experience:
When I asked my task manager why they selected me, his response was that my ability to fail – get back up – and improve, was clear through my application and in my interview. This has come from every walk in my life: school, university and previous jobs. Here are a few examples of my previous jobs, what they taught me and whether I think they were necessary in this application.
From a young age I was heavily involved in competitive swimming, when I reached 15 I took up teaching. The most valuable lesson I gained as a teacher is that communication is key and it’ll help alleviate barriers, especially when working with people in varying locations. As my time as SixForm drew to a close and the excitement of freshers began to build, it was time to say good bye to my second job as a customer service assistant at Waitrose. This role taught me fantastic problem solving skills as I had to deal with a wide range of personalities form the general public. I have always been able to budget money effectively, but a few months into my first year at Leeds, I decided it was time to get a job. The Old Bar kitchen is not the most glamorous of jobs – granted – but something which was really important was having good teamwork skills and being able to adapt.
Those skills mentioned above don’t necessarily come from a previous job, I volunteered at Bestival a few years ago, and I used my experiences there in my job application. However, I do think it is important to have some form of work experience – many of my uni friends who haven’t had a job struggle to find relevant examples for applications. The best piece of advice I was given when completing my applications was to place myself in the position of whomever read though them. 6,000 students applied to IBM last year, therefore making your application stand out is vital.
Getting the basics right is the first step, this comes with immaculate spelling and grammar. It’s the easiest thing to get right, which is why it is so easy to miss. Getting several people to read over your final version will help to iron out any spelling/grammar mistakes. The next, focus on the company in some way, show an interest in what they do/their culture. So often, students get rejected at the first stage due to how generalised their answers are, which look as if they have been copied and pasted between multiple applications. The company you apply to wants to see you have an interest in them and what they do – show you have done your research. Finally, make sure the questions get answered – I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many fall short here.
This process can be tedious but it’s reassuring to remember that if a company/role is right for you, you will get it. My role is very tough but I know if I was offered anything else, it wouldn’t have suited me.
If you are thinking of doing a placement, don’t forget to check out our website for guidance on finding a placement, or book an appointment to see us for any additional guidance.
You might also be interested in our new “Your Placement Year” digital resource. This guide can support you throughout your placement journey and includes input from employers, previous placement student and careers & placement professionals.