Considering a work placement – get crackin’!

work-placementWith hundreds of thousands of students graduating this year, the job market is fiercely competitive. Statistics taken from a recent High Fliers Survey showed that there is an average of 52 applications per graduate job. To give yourself a better chance of securing a job, you should try to gain work experience whilst studying – securing a work placement is therefore becoming more and more worthwhile.

The benefits of doing a work placement are many and increase your employability drastically. Work placements are becoming more and more common, with some courses making them compulsory. On Gradcracker we advertise hundreds of Science, Engineering and Technology work placement opportunities all year round. Most companies tend to divide these between summer and year-long placements but shorter placements are becoming more frequent especially amongst Technology companies.

Get that placement!

Writing a CV and covering letter can be a lengthy and tiresome process but they are crucial to your chances of success. Employers are looking for evidence you fit the role and they look for what they refer to as ‘key competencies’. Common key competencies include: problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, decision-making and communication skills. When writing your CV and covering letter make sure you check what skills the employer is particularly looking for and try and highlight these in your application. Use your covering letter to show that you meet the key requirements and you are familiar with the company and what it does. A lot of students make the mistake of using a scatter-gun approach when applying for placements, try not to do this and, instead, send targeted applications to your chosen employers. Last but not least check, check and check your application again and then get a second opinion – spelling and factual mistakes could put you straight into the ‘no’ pile regardless of your qualifications and experience. If you are struggling to compile a CV and covering letter pay a visit to your careers advisor who will be more than happy to help.

Social media is part of our day-to-day life and is great for catching up with friends and family. The increase in the usage of social media and online activity means it is easy for employers to do a quick search for you online. This is becoming more and more common and is being used as a ‘screening method’. It can provide a ‘living CV’ for the employer: all your social networking accounts, photographs, blogs and comments you have made might be accessed. Make sure you delete or hide anything that could damage your chances of securing a placement. Similarly, ensure you have a professional sounding email address such as and a suitable voicemail if employers try to contact you!

Making the most of your placement!

Starting a placement can be a daunting experience with new surroundings and new people. But it is also an opportunity to learn and to make new contacts.

Before starting your placement, you should think about what you want to achieve from your placement and also think about what your employer expects from you. Make sure you check what time you should start and try to arrive a little earlier – starting early/leaving late will only impress. If you are unsure of the dress code, phone beforehand to check as you don’t want to be making a negative first impression on your first day. It may sound obvious but ensure you are polite when talking to colleagues and others.

When you begin your placement try not to be nervous. Whilst a new workplace, job and colleagues may seem a little frightening, after even just a day or two things will start to feel familiar. Making notes during briefings shows an eagerness to learn and get things right and if you need clarification don’t be afraid to ask. During your placement show enthusiasm and initiative, try to do everything to the best of your ability and make a lasting impression – a lot of employers view a placement as an extended interview for their graduate programme.

At the end of your placement thank people who went out of their way to make your stay such a valuable experience, for example, supervisors and colleagues. Try and get a written reference as this will be beneficial when applying for Graduate opportunities. Lastly, think about the skills you have learned and what your placement has taught you.

For further advice take a look at the Gradcracker toolkit here.

Guest post courtesy of of Gradcracker. Gradcracker is the careers website for Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) university students and for employers of SET undergraduates and graduates.