Work experience: choosing and applying for a placement

Summer Internship or Year-long Placement?

The choice between a summer internship and a year-long placement is one well worth considering. The most important advice I have is that you don’t have to choose in the beginning. If it seems like something you would like to do, apply for it. If you would rather decide first, go for it. Either way, there are two main factors to consider:

  1. Time – Does a year out feel like a huge undertaking? So much so that you’d rather take up a six-week internship during the summer holiday and have time for other commitments? Have you been feeling the urge to get a glimpse into a career that has piqued your interest? Or do you just want to explore whatever is out there because you really have no clue what you’ll do with your degree? These are all questions that will steer you in the right direction.
  2. The details – Given a choice between two different work experience options of varying lengths, it is important to make sure that time is not your only yardstick. You should seriously consider the job descriptions. Ask a lot of questions if anything is unclear! You are going to have to do the work anywhere from 6 weeks to a year and it would be even better for you if you are excited by what you’re signing up for.

The Application Process

Application form – You probably know that the Careers Service can help with application forms for free. I understand that it can be tempting to send off your first draft because it was stressful enough to put that together. Don’t. Take advantage of the service – multiple times if you want.

Online tests – You do get better with practice. I promise that this much is true. Take your test in an environment that you are completely in control of. Someone in the silent study at the Diamond can suddenly get the urge to eat their crisps ‘quietly’.

Interviews – Find out what type of interview it is and prepare accordingly. Listen to the questions and take time in answering confidently. Prepare as many questions as you can because some interviewers may answer a couple of them in their introduction before the proper interview even begins.

Deciding to Accept an Offer

1 & 2 above apply as well as the following:

  • The company – Employers often mention that the application process is for you to get to know them too. It is true. There is only so much you can tell from reading around company websites and doing general research. As you progress from application form or CV and cover letter to Skype/telephone interview to an assessment centre, you get a better sense of how the company likes to do things and maybe what the corporate culture is like.
  • Openness – If you decided to apply for work experience that is not exactly related to your degree or that seems like it might be a bit of a challenge, it is normal to experience a bit of cold feet. If you catch yourself trying too hard to justify your thoughts of saying no to someone, that may be a red flag.

Good luck!

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