Having your sandwich and eating it; a Business Students guide to securing a Placement

The value of the Placements year The placement year is a very valuable experience,Guest Posting particularly if the student hasn’t had much experience of work before. At university even having a part time job can help students understand their studies better. Secondly it gives the student an indication about what they may like to do after graduation. However, importantly it helps the student secure a better job after graduation. Obviously the value of the placement depends very much on the quality of the placement. Whilst many students find their placement year a positive experience, their may be a small minority who feel they had an unconstructive placement.

Job Fair’s  

Although a universities placement office can provide invaluable advice, support and a number of contacts, students have a better chance of securing a good quality placement if they were to be proactive in independently seeking a placement. One way they can do this is to attend recruitment or Job fairs.

When attending Job fairs, students should ensure they take with them an ample number of CV’s and covering letters. One advantage of job fairs is that students may have the opportunity to apply for those companies which are advertising more than one job. This is aided by organizations which have one application form for a number of job roles.

As the majority of placements take place in the third year of study, its best to visit job fairs in the second year. If a student wants to practice their interpersonal skills, then they could attend in the first year but the employers may see them as a time waster.

C.V’s and Covering letters

The content of the majority of students CV’s is often very similar. This makes it very difficult for an applicant to guarantee their CV stands out ahead of the competition. To help, applicants should thoroughly proof read their C.V to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Many managers complain they receive a number of applications with obvious mistakes and therefore instantly reject them.

Students should use two pages when writing their C.V and never have half pages. Often it is helpful if applicants use tables to display qualifications and other important information. It should be neat and use a formal business tone. Business students shouldn’t use any pictures or colour and most importantly never lie. It’s good to include a small section on career objectives and work experience linked with relevant skills gained.

A good cover letter is also essential to go with a C.V (particularly at recruitment fairs). Students can create two main types of cover letter and C.V’s:

1. A general cover letter and C.V aimed at a range of job roles and companies.

2. A targeted cover letter for a particular company and/or job role.

The latter is often more desirable when viewed by employers, but not always possible.

Targeting a cover letter and C.V

If a student attends a job fair  taking place at their university, the organisers (whether the university placements office or Job shop) will certainly know what companies will be attending. It is prudent for students to find out not only what companies will be attending, but also what job roles are going to be promoted and by which companies. The organiser’s may even have job descriptions for specific job roles. With this information, students can target their covering letter and C.V’s towards those specific jobs which they wish to apply.

If the job fair is being organised outside the university, the organisers will certainly advertise which companies are attending. If they don’t or a student needs to know more information, then they should contact the organisers.

The problem with large job fairs is that many organisations won’t have any specific job to offer, but are generally promoting their company and/or their graduate or placement scheme. That makes it difficult for students to target their covering letter and C.V, but not impossible. If they know the organisations which are attending they can (to an extent) research them and tailor and target their covering letter and C.V accordingly.

Researching the organisations is also very important for making a good impression when speaking to their representatives. Students will create a more positive impression if they are knowledgeable about an organisation and the sector in which they operate.

Students should also consider at Job fairs (particularly large ones), what type of job they want (.e.g. Human Resources, Marketing, Finance, Sales etc) – and target their C.V and covering letter accordingly. Students should note however that in most jobs there is always a large overlap between these areas of work.

Salary range of a placement student A placement student’s salary is usually lower than that of graduate salaries for the type of work undertaken. Currently the average typical salary in the UK is around £12,000 to £13,500 and in London and the South East students could expect to earn around £14,000 to £17,000. However a minority student may secure jobs with significantly higher salaries (up to around £22,000).

Negotiating salary with the employer

Students applying for a job should be cautious when attempting to negotiate their salary. It’s probable that an alternative candidate with very similar skills and attributes would be happy to work in that job role for lower pay. Many companies (particularly larger ones) are likely to have set pay scales, and would be unable to increase the salary being offered. The only time it would be appropriate to negotiate a salary, is if a student was offered two jobs, and needed to turn one down. Then they could go to the less appealing of the two companies and inform them that unless they were prepared to raise the salary they would have to take the job with the other company. However even in such a case, it’s unlikely that the company would be prepared to raise the salary.

Negotiating a salary after securing a placement.

It’s probable that an organisation will have a pay scale, and any pay rise is likely to be rewarded as a result of a good appraisal. An appraisal gives a student a good opportunity to speak to their manager and justify why they should be given a pay rise. The problem that a placement student may face is that normally appraisals occur once every six months (sometime less), and a typically a work placement lasts for less than 12 months, and during the first few months of that a student will be settling in. This means it’s unlikely that a student will be given enough time to prove that they are actually worthy of a pay rise, as salary reviews often happen annually.

Students shouldn’t use salary as the main criteria for choosing a job. Students should take into consideration what a company can offer them in terms of personal development and opportunities. A placement year is about gaining experience and developing skills, not about the pay, although it can help to pay those debts already accumulated.

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