Hello. Welcome to my newest blog series, documenting the thoughts of placement students as far and wide as I can. Each week (hopefully) I will have a profile of a current placement student giving their thoughts on searching for placements, the competitiveness, how they found the process and what they think of their placement they are currently undertaking. And most importantly, they will give their verdict on whether they think a year in industry is worthwhile.
This week’s interview is with Lucy Hayball who works as the PR & Communications Intern at L’Oréal. Lucy and I know each other through the blogging world, and Lucy was the winner of last year’s Best PR Student Blog 2017. You can check out her blog right here.
Lucy attends Bournemouth University where she studies on the BA (Hons) Public Relations course and has just recently completed her full placement year. Below are her thoughts on placement life:
The application process
OC: Is a year-long placement compulsory on your course?
LH: Surprisingly enough, a placement on my course is compulsory so you can’t pass the degree without it! A placement year was one of the reasons I chose this particular degree course. I wanted to have the placement experience as part of my course and seeing the companies that Bournemouth University students had been placed at, encouraged me even more.
I wanted to have that experience to apply to my final year, especially when studying such a niche, practical degree.
How did you find applying for placements; Did you apply for many? Was there a team at your university to help with placement searching? What websites/resources did you use for your search?
It was quite stressful with everyone applying at the same time but no one really said much about who they were applying to, it was kept very quiet! I applied for placements quite early compared to my cohort so I didn’t actually find people who had also applied for the same role as me.
I applied in November and got the job in December and was one of the first to get a placement so I didn’t feel too stressed about not finding one compared to everyone else. There definitely was a pressure though!
How did you find applying for placements?
My placement journey consisted of placement applications to L’Oréal and Apple whilst also in conversations with agencies regarding potential job roles. L’Oréal and Apple were fairly side by side timings wise so it was quite a stressful time! I thought I would have to attend more interviews but overall I only had five interviews throughout my whole placement journey which was quite lucky compared to some.
I found my current role through my University career website, but beyond this platform I searched around on RateMyPlacement, TargetJobs and looked around at companies or agencies I’d like to work for.
What would be your advice to students who are looking for placements themselves?
Get your CV and cover letter templates sorted early! L’Oréal and Apple opened their applications fairly early on and it’s so much easier once you have those documents together. It means you can keep your options open from the earliest point.
And then do your research! Find companies that you want to work for and you will find the opportunities from there.
Is there anything you would advise them not to do?
Don’t apply for placements ‘just because’. Get your CV and cover letter sorted early so you have time to think about whether a position is for you or not. Don’t stress about how many placements you’ve applied to compared to someone else.
A placement year is such an amazing time to learn so make sure the role you go for allows for you to do that and is in something you are passionate about – that helps a lot!
With the company you are on placement with now, what was their application process like and what did it entail?
The application process for this role wasn’t as long as I thought it would be. The first part of the application was submitting a CV followed by online tests which doesn’t even really feel like a ‘stage’ of a recruitment process. If you pass the tests and CV screening, you are invited to a telephone interview and if you are successful you are then invited to an assessment day.
This was my first assessment day so it was quite daunting and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was such a good experience though – I had to prepare a blogger event to present, alongside a math test, group exercise and interview on the day.
It was intense, don’t get me wrong but such great experience and we all got feedback so we could understand where to improve in the future even if we did get the job.
How do you think completing a year in industry will give you an advantage when applying to jobs over those that haven’t? (If you think this is the case)
I’ll have to answer this on a personal level as I’m not a recruiter! Completing a year in industry has confirmed to me what I want to do. I struggled a bit through second year with my own personal confidence and constantly feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But 12 months in and I have never been more confident.
I’ve grown so much in myself. It’s helped me to evaluate myself, what I enjoy, my strengths and weaknesses. It’s made me think in different ways and given me a level of confidence I didn’t know I had in me.
Spending a whole year has meant I’ve seen so many sides to my role and the industry which I personally feel will be invaluable to me when applying and knowing which roles I would like in the future. It’s helped me to understand so much and ignited a passion inside me that I can’t wait to pursue further.
Had you interned anywhere before your placement? If so, what job role, how long for and what were the main roles?
Before this placement, I’d completed two work experience placements. The first was at the end of my first year where I spent five weeks at Frank PR. My time here mostly involved researching and working with influencers whilst also selling stories into national and regional press. The final two weeks I returned to be acting office manager where I managed the day to day running of the office alongside some PR tasks.
And then just before I started my placement year, I spent one week at Weber Shandwick in their Tech team. As I only spent a week here it was hard to get involved in bigger projects but I spent time collating coverage, making documents for clients and a lot of proof reading!
On the job
How did you feel when you first started your placement year? Were you nervous/excited?
I don’t remember the last time I was as scared as when I walked through the L’Oréal doors for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited and so ready for the placement but I couldn’t help but think, Will I ever be good enough?
I’d never done Beauty PR but was so ready to learn and work in an industry I loved. I was determined to prove to myself that I could do a placement like this and make every second of it count. I knew my previous work experience placements and two years of study would come in handy but also knew there would be a lot to learn! I definitely had to hit the ground running!
Compare your feelings of how you started with how you feel now. Do you feel like your job is second-nature? Or do you feel like you are still learning?
To be honest, I will always be learning in this kind of role. PR is such a fast-paced industry that you need to be on your feet and there will always be things to learn. But I’ve learnt so much from just one year and feel so much more confident now. I don’t need the guidance and close support that I did when I started. I understand the processes and how things should be done but there’s always more to be learnt!
Have you been able to experience other roles within the company?
More recently, yes! I have a mentor elsewhere in the business on a much bigger, mass brand so I have been able to get involved with that. I was able to attend one of their events and begin to understand how it differs to my own brands which are much smaller!
L’Oréal has a really strong networking culture which I absolutely love. They want you to build up your network and talk to people around the business, people are always happy to help you out. More recently though I have been working with our CMO team on a separate project I’ve requested and completed myself which allowed me to see the strategy and insights side to PR. This is a side that really intrigues me so it was something I desperately wanted to do this before I left.
I haven’t had a chance to physically experience more roles than these, but due to this networking culture, I’ve had coffee with numerous people around the business so have been able to understand their roles and PR/Comms around the business.
What’s been the highlight of your placement year?
I have too many to list here if I’m honest! The first has to be the amount I’ve grown in myself, my confidence and my career aspirations. The difference in my personal confidence is unreal and I can only thank my team for that.
Considering this is my first job in PR, one of my highlights has to be influencers recognising you and knowing who you are! As mentioned above, I went to a PR event for a much bigger brand and influencers knew who I was. There’s something so nice about that!! It’s so great to feel like you are doing things right and people recognise you for who you are and what you have done. And then following on from this, I have absolutely loved going to PR events for my brands. I find them so exciting and love talking to press and influencers about the brands. Who would have thought one year ago I would be meeting people from Grazia and Vogue or having dinner in a London penthouse with top influencers?! Oh and dinner at THE RITZ in my first month! I could go on forever but I just love it.
Seeing a new brand launch in the UK and being a part of that team has to be something pretty special. It’s not every day a new brand launches in the L’Oréal group portfolio and you get to be a part of that. I deal with and have been learning about established brands but hadn’t thought about how you would start from scratch.
Like I said, there are loads but a highlight has to be running social for a brand for a whole year. It has been incredibly challenging don’t get me wrong but it’s been so useful to see how social media management works. Looking back at a feed and knowing you created and built it is such a nice feeling.
And then getting coverage has to be up here, after all I work in PR! Seeing coverage come in and know that you achieved that is an amazing feeling.
Working for such a global company has brought some incredible opportunities and experiences that I am so grateful for. I could go on for days so think I’ll leave this here!
What’s been the biggest learning curve?
As this has been my first ‘proper’ job, the whole year has been a learning curve. I am constantly learning! I think adjusting to the culture was tricky at first and knowing when to speak out. At first, you don’t want to come across too eager and I wasn’t sure how much contribution interns were allowed to make but I was so surprised! My team valued my opinions and this helped to throw me in sooner. And then I didn’t think about all of the legal processes PR’s have to be aware of and adhere to – that was a shock!
Placements – are they worth it?
Now that you’ve almost finished your placement year, if you could go back to second year when you were in the application process, would you still choose the same company and role?
That’s not even a question to me! I’d do this year all over again if I could. A placement year is so incredibly valuable for a practical degree like PR. It’s cemented what I’ve learnt and I’ve been able to see how the theories and models apply real time to what I am doing.
I definitely think that my dissertation will be inspired by this year. I’ve had the most incredible experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life and made some amazing friendships and memories. Having dinner and meeting (being in the same room was enough!) high profile press and influencers are things I’m so proud to have done.
Last question – Do you feel more motivated to go into final year or are you feeling apprehensive?
I’m not going to lie, I’m not completely looking forward to final year. But then I’m not sure many people would be after an incredible year where you love what you do and where you are! But the thing is, I want to finish my degree. My placement has motivated me to finish it. I’ve been able to see the incredible opportunities that are available and to come back to this industry and do this for years to come is all I want.
I’ve seen what I can achieve and it’s all I want.