This week, Psychology student Chloe talks about her experience of securing a placement by directly approaching the employer. She goes into a bit of detail about her role at Virgin Active and how contacting them helped her land an exciting placement position. If you’re struggling to find any advertised opportunities that you’re genuinely interested in, this post can show you an alternative approach to the conventional application process.
I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to complete a year placement role unique to any others I had seen advertised. I was given multiple job roles and training with the global company of Virgin Active. During my placement I was given the opportunity to take up the front of house role, the membership sales consultant role and also shadow and assist the service managers during team meetings and in the work place. The job roles varied but they all required constant face-to-face customer contact. As a consequence I had to quickly develop my communication and customer service skills. All of the job roles were very demanding and thus required me to be able to quickly adapt and be versatile. This is because some days I could switch between all of these three job roles in just one day. Although difficult, I found this very rewarding as the more challenges I overcome in one job role, helped me thrive in another.
My job search process
However, securing this placement was not easy. I am currently studying Psychology but in my 2nd Year I was completely undecided where I wanted to go with my degree. I decided I wanted to take a year out on placement to provide me with some direction, but this still had problems. This is because I initially spent my time looking at the placements advertised through the University. I applied for many, which is a lengthy process, but admittedly my applications were not up to standard. This is because I had not found a job role in a company that really caught my eye.
This gave me motivation to try something different. I spoke to my personal tutor and the Careers Centre and they told me I didn’t necessarily have to apply to these typical placements through the University. As long as my year placement was approved.
How approaching the company directly helped me
This led me to investigate large companies around my home. I arranged a meeting with the General Manager of the Virgin Active near my home and asked him if he would be interested in employing me for a year on a university placement. I presented him with my CV and reasons why I wanted to work for Virgin Active and I explained how I would want to undertake a number of roles during the year as I felt this was best suited to me so I could gain the broadest possible experience. The general manager had never taken a university placement before so he had to design an individual year plan for myself so that we could demonstrate to the university exactly what I would be achieving. Thankfully he was kind enough to do this for me and complete everything so the placement reached the universities requirements. Admittedly this was a lengthy and difficult process and there had to be a lot of consulting between the general manager, the university and myself, but finally the placement was accepted. I was incredibly pleased, as it was exactly what I had wanted. I knew that my heart was not really in the other job roles I was applying for; I just felt they were my only options.
A year on and I have now completed the placement and it was the best thing I have ever done. I now know that I want to pursue my career in the communication and customer service area. I am much more confident that I know what direction I am going to follow once completing my degree. I have my year placement to thank because of this. In terms of advice I would say do not let yourself get restricted by the norms. If you don’t feel you are suited to the job roles advertised then think out the box and look somewhere else, but do not settle. Having the confidence to directly approach the general manager of my Virgin Active is the only way I secured my placement and I am so glad I did.
For more information on approaching companies directly, check out the “Speculative enquiries” and the “Informational Interview” pages on the Careers website. If you feel none of the advertised internship options interest you, you can also book an appointment or attend the drop in Monday – Friday from 1pm to 4pm for additional advice.