The Real Student Experience: How To Secure A Placement Year

Hey! My name’s Mara and I’m here to help you out with my best tips on how to secure a placement year for 2021!

As a bit of background info, I began my university journey back in 2017 and spent four years at Nottingham Trent studying Marketing. For my third year, I decided to choose the sandwich route on my course, which btw, was the best decision I ever made. It led me to accepting a year long placement and I can’t recommend it enough!

It was a crazy ride and despite feeling so under-prepared, I managed to get one I really wanted.

So, that’s why I wanted to pop on here and let you in on my journey and the steps I took to receive an industrial placement.

Keep on reading to find out more…

1. Firstly, Organisation Is Key

girl preparing for placement year interview

You need to first think about what sort of placement you’re looking for!

One thing you might not realise is just how many different types of placements there are. Like, I was so shocked at just how many placement providers there actually were. 

My advice for this bit is to narrow down what industry you’d like to be in, and where in the UK (or abroad) you’d like to go!

I stuck with the industry – Business and Marketing – and aimed for a few locations including London and the North West!

If you do something similar, you’ll be able to filter through websites easier and find internships best suited to you!

2. Browse For The Best Opportunities


Do you know some of the best websites for placement opportunities 2021? If not, I’ve listed some of the ones I used below – make sure to check them out!

  • Rate My Placement
  • Milkround
  • Indeed
  • Totaljobs
  • LinkedIn Jobs
  • Reed
  • Company Websites

It’s important you get yourself signed up to all of these listed above (and any more if you know any!).

I used to check these every single day, mainly at around lunch time to see if any had been uploaded in the night/morning. 

There used to be SO many, so I’d suggest filtering through and saving the ones that suit you.

Always make sure to note the deadlines of each job, ‘cos the last thing you need is to find a job you really like and then forget to apply in time!

One of the ways I got around this was through setting up an excel spreadsheet, listing the ones I liked and the deadline dates. Then I could work my way through them and tick them off as soon as I had submitted the application.

It’s way more simple than it sounds and it’ll help you find the perfect placement!

3. CV CV CV 

man with CV and wooden floor

One of the first things you need to think about when applying for sandwich placements is your CV. 

Your CV is a written overview of everything to do with you. It lists all your transferable skills, previous work experiences and education.

It needs to be in tip top shape in order to be recognised by companies and to move onto the next stage. 

I had a generic CV which was the basis for all CV’s I sent off for applications. 

Different employers expect different things, so it’s important to read the job description carefully and keep up to date with what companies are looking for. Then you can tailor your CV to the role in order to suit their requirements.

We have the perfect blog for you if you’re looking for a template for your CV! Check it out here.

Most companies will ask you to attach a cover letter alongside your CV! PS this could be the make or break to getting through to the next stage, so PLEASE don’t forget it!

In your university, you’ll probably have a careers service centre, where you can go for advice on applications. If so, use this to your advantage! 

They’re employed to help you out through the application process, so don’t be afraid to book an appointment.

4. You’ve Applied…Now What?

still searching for a placement year

Well obvs don’t stop applying just ‘cos you’ve applied to one you want! Keep the momentum going and get those applications submitted.

No matter how busy your day gets, always make sure to keep your phone on you at all times

If you’re accepted onto the next stage of the process, you might need to answer a quick phone call from one of the employers. 

I was always super nervous about answering any calls from unknown numbers, so just try and answer as professionally as you can if you don’t know who it is JUST in case. 

In other times, you might receive emails with details about whether you’ve moved onto the next stage of your placement year process.

So keep your notifications on and make sure to reply straight away. 

5. Don’t Get Disheartened If You Get Rejected – It’s Inevitable


Unless you have super powers that no other human has, then you’re not going to get every job you apply for.

I got rejected from lots, and so did my friends! Everyone I spoke to seemed to have been rejected from at least one or two…it’s normal!

Most companies will have a thorough application process and hundreds of students, just like you, will be applying for the exact same role. 

Making sure you keep looking for other placement opportunities will take your mind off of the negative, and focused on the positives. 

6. Got A Response? Prepare For What’s To Come Next!


If you’ve gotten a positive response from a company, give yourself a huuuge pat on the back! It’s such a big achievement and you should be proud of yourself – they like you!

Now it’s worth noting the next stages of the process and everything you need to do to prepare. 

Most employers will usually send over a full email detailing the role and the interview process.

There’s sooooo many varieties of stages they could choose from, including:

  • Telephone interview
  • Send in a video of yourself
  • In person/Zoom interview
  • Presentation
  • Numerical reasoning test
  • Complete a task to show your ability

Obvs I’ve listed a few there, but many organisations have their own set ways of doing things – so make sure to prepare for them all for your placement year.

My Top Tips For Smashing An Interview

Now, I’m no expert, but after having a bunch of interviews and having received feedback, I have a few simple tips you might want to stick by when going in for an interview. 

1. Be Yourself


A principle you should take into every interview is to be yourself – I can’t stress this enough! 

Employers can tell when you’re putting on a persona you think they’re looking for. Trust me, I did this without even realising and they knew instantly!

Being yourself is your best bet. Your personality is your greatest asset and being able to strike up a conversation with the interviewers will make you way more relaxed.

So let it shine!

2. Do Your Research


Most interviews will ask what you know about the company and why you want to work for them for you placement year.

By researching lots beforehand, you’ll be able to construct a promising answer to questions related to the business.

Awkward pauses during interviews can put you off, so I can’t recommend researching more!

3. Ask Your Own Questions


Building a rapport with the interviewees and asking your own questions shows that you’re eager to get to know more.

This will come off positively, so make sure to have a few ready that’re burning in the back of your mind!

At the end of every interview, I was always asked if I had any questions -it’s not unusual!

4. Prepare, Prepare and…Prepare!


I can’t stress HOW important it is to prepare. Your interviews can last from 1 hour, to a full day assessment centre…crazy – right?

By prepping some interview questions, speaking to tutors and understanding your interview process, you’ll be able to go in feeling confident and let your personality shine.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little run down of my placement year process and how I was able to gain experience in a role I was hoping for. It might seem like a super scary process, but once you’ve fully immersed yourself into it and received an offer – it will ALLLL be worth it (I promise!) Good luck on your journey!

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