Hello. Welcome to the penultimate post in my newest blog series, where I have been documenting the thoughts of placement students as far and wide as I can. Each week I have had 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 give their verdict on whether they think a year in industry is worthwhile.
I just want to take this opportunity to thank all of the amazing gals that took part in my series – I know the questions were long! As my own placement is coming to an end, I thought it would be fitting to end the series next week. Hopefully if you have read any of the previous profiles, or just this one, you will have learnt a lot and the series has been of use.
This week’s interview is with Monique Gillies who works as the PR Intern for a large online gaming company. Monique attends Liverpool John Moores University where she studies on the same course as myself, BA (Hons) Business and Public Relations and is currently over 12 months into her placement role and will have completed 16 months when she has finished. Below are her thoughts on placement life thus far:
The application process
OC: Is a year-long placement compulsory on your course?
MG: A year in industry was highly recommended on my course, but it wasn’t compulsory. I knew I wanted to carry out a placement when I was initially applying for courses, as I knew that additional experience and exposure would be great for me once I graduated. I think it’s great that I had the option to either take a year out or to continue with my course. A placement year isn’t for everyone but it was without a doubt the best decision for me.
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?
With the course I’m on being so small, we all had an idea of what we were applying for – some jobs being the same but I didn’t see that as a bad thing. When I finally decided where I wanted to carry out my placement, I didn’t feel the pressure as much in terms of competition as I wanted to carry out my placement on the Isle of Man, so limited people would be applying for the jobs I was after. I did however find it stressful as I had given myself limited options.
How did you find applying for placements?
I applied for five placements altogether, reaching the final stages for three (I got the third – yay!). I found the process quite daunting and scary as I had little experience with this sort of hiring process, but the employability team at university were unbelievably supportive throughout. I had practice interviews and my CV reviewed a couple of times, which was amazing help.
What would be your advice to students who are looking for placements themselves?
Get organised early, start to research the industry you want to work in and look at which companies take on university students. So many people had already secured placements before I even thought about it so I wish I’d been prepared earlier to avoid the added stress further down the line.
Is there anything you would advise them not to do?
Don’t stress yourself out or get overwhelmed by the application processes or by any rejections – everyone is in the same boat as you!
With the company you are on placement with now, what was their application process like and what did it entail?
My application process was slightly different as I had initially applied for a different role within the company. I had a telephone interview, a task and a face-to-face interview for the role I didn’t get. I’m super happy now that I didn’t get it as it meant I could be in the job I’m in now.
Because of this, I only had a task and a face-to-face interview for the role I’m in now. I didn’t mind the task at all but found the interviews very nerve-wrecking as it was three interviews, one after the other, with the heads of the department.
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 feel that I will be a little more confident when I go for interviews once I graduate, as I know what to expect and have had practice from applying for placements. This doesn’t mean I’ll find them easy though – it’s still going to be a scary process.
Had you interned anywhere before your placement? If so, what job role, how long for and what were the main roles?
I had never interned anywhere before this job, but I’ve had several jobs. One was office based which provided me with a greater insight into the 9-5 office life. The office job I was in was a reconciliations administrator and although it had nothing to do with PR, it gave me experience with communicating professionally via the phone and emails, as well as understanding what was required of me by different people within a business.
On the job
How did you feel when you first started your placement year? Were you nervous/excited?
I felt nervous but at the same time very excited. I’d been told so many great things about the company I would be working for, so I was excited to get stuck in.
Being a PR student, I felt that I could bring some of the skills and knowledge I had from university to the role and having office experience helped me know the standard that would be expected of me.
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?
I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position where I know everything and wouldn’t be learning from what I do. I am much more confident and comfortable in my role now but I still find that I can struggle with different things, but I don’t see that as a negative.
Have you been able to experience other roles within the company?
The role that I’m in now means that I help with a lot and every day is varied. I’ve worked with several teams and areas including live events, betting and sports, ambassadors and many more so I feel like I’ve been given a great opportunity to try different things within the department I’m in.
What’s been the highlight of your placement year?
My best highlight would have been going to Marbella to help follow through a project, but sadly I was already booked to go on holiday so couldn’t go.
Placements – are they worth it?
Since you’ve been putting your degree into practice, do you think you’ve made the right decision with the course you’ve chosen? Could you see yourself in a similar job once you graduate?
I can definitely see myself working within PR, although I would like to try out different industries such as fashion or celebrity. I’m a big fan of poker though, so I wouldn’t mind coming back to the gaming industry.
Overall, do you think a year in industry is beneficial and prepares students for life post-graduation? Would you recommend it?
I couldn’t recommend a placement more if I tried. It’s such a great experience and gives you that head start you’ll need when you graduate.
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?
Yes, 1000%. It’s allowed me to understand so much more about PR and the pressures and benefits of working within a huge global company. I’ve also made some invaluable friendships/relationships with people I otherwise would never have met.
Last question – Do you feel more motivated to go into final year or are you feeling apprehensive?
I’m much more motivated and excited to go back to university for my final year after carrying out my placement. It’s been a great experience and I’m so glad I went for it. I’m going back to university with a much greater understanding of PR and an improved skill set, which I’m hoping will help towards getting the 1st I’m after!