Be inspired, discover new opportunities and get found.
Not too long ago I submitted a blog post to 10 Minutes With about my experience of a year in industry and why it made a huge difference to my future career. I talked about the skills it generated and how a placement can benefit not just you, but the company you work for too.
With that in mind, I thought it would be good to share some tips for both before and during the application process when thinking about taking a “sandwich year”.
Read on for my five top tips:
Experience, experience, experience
Placements with top companies are very competitive, and you need to stand out if you want to be successful in your bid to work with one of them. Work experience on your CV is a great way to show you are proactive and focused.
Many companies offer shorter internships during the holidays. Those that don’t have anything official may be receptive to the idea of taking you on anyway - if you can speak to the right person or make a good enough case with a speculative application.
Part time jobs can also boost your CV
No matter the job, being able to show you have worked somewhere before lets recruiters know you are able to hold down a job, work in a team, and be responsible.
Keeping customers happy in a supermarket, managing a team of volunteers for a good cause, even outreach programs in schools to inspire young people in the subjects you are passionate about are all evidence to an employer that you have enthusiasm and skills that they could use.
Work hard, play hard
University is a great opportunity to try lots of exciting new things. Sports are great fun and can be an excellent way to showcase a time that you’ve worked together with other people to achieve success, or demonstrate your leadership abilities.
More unusual things can work in your favour too. If you’re often involved in the underwater basket weaving society for example, I can guarantee that you’ll have something interesting to talk about in a job interview!
Do your research, start early
Most universities lay on career fairs on a regular basis. These events are also a great way to make an impression with the people who could turn out to be a valuable connection.
Always prepare properly for a fair, dress nicely and look up who’s going to be there and which companies you’d like to know more about. You don’t have to be an expert but a little background knowledge and a spark of interest will make a good impression.
Additionally, think about the people you already know – does a friend of a friend work for a company with opportunities in your field? Similarly, communicate with your lecturers and let them know that you’re looking for work experience – I found my placement only after a lecturer pointed it out to me!
Getting a placement is hard, getting a job after you graduate is even harder. Starting early will give you greater opportunity for success. Many companies start recruiting in September; however, different companies recruit at different times and opportunities will continue to crop up throughout the year.
Make sure you customize each application to each specific role – no cookie cutter cover letters – and make sure you prepare for interviews by thinking about answers to common questions in advance.
Some recruiters use psychometric tests to differentiate applicants, plenty of practice papers can be found online so you can refine your technique and give yourself a fighting chance.
Those are my five tips for preparing to apply for placements in a year out at university. Best of luck in your search!
About the blogger
Ellie is currently pursuing her MEng in Chemical with Environmental Engineering at the University of Nottingham. Her research involves making biofuel out of coffee (and also drinking a lot of it) and in her spare time she's a somewhat experimental cook. Ellie loves learning about energy efficient manufacturing and wishes to be a process engineer someday.