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.
The first victim of my interrogation is Alice, a Marketing Assistant undertaking a placement year at Coty, working on brands such as Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Lacoste. You might recognise Alice from some of my #PlacementYear posts as I usually drag her into all of my photos from work events.
Alice attends the University of Bath, where she studies on the Management with Marketing BSc (Hons) course and is currently 10 months into her placement year at Coty. Below are her thoughts on placement life so far:
The application process
OC: With a year in industry being compulsory on your university course, how did you find the competition with your classmates in securing a placement?
AJ: I found it extremely competitive, especially when my friends and I were all simultaneously applying for Marketing-specific roles. There are only so many placements out there every year, and they get snapped up so quickly. Luckily, I was one of the first of my course to secure a placement, so I didn’t ever feel much pressure.
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?
I applied for five other placements before I got an offer from Coty, which I accepted on the spot. I was mid-process for three companies, and had been unsuccessful in the others. My University Placements team was fairly supportive – they regularly posted new opportunities on Moodle, and even had a few placements exclusively reversed for Bath students. Beyond these opportunities, I endlessly searched on RateMyPlacement, TargetJobs, Prospects and generally googled companies I’d love to work for.
What would be your advice to students who are looking for placements themselves?
Start the process as early as possible. My friend applied to Unilever 12 months before the placement was scheduled to start, and she was relieved when she got offered a job in October to start the next June. Getting it sorted early lets you keep your focus on Uni work, which piles up if still worrying about securing a placement. Plus, a lot of companies will close applications once they’ve received enough, so it’s important to get yours in there early.
Is there anything you would advise them not to do?
Never use generic cover letters. To seem like you’re really interested in the role that you’re applying for, you need to tailor your application to every company. This takes a lot of time, research and effort but will definitely pay off. You can work off of a generic template, but make sure that every sentence is concise and targeted at the specific role and company.
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)
Completing a year industry automatically shows a future employer that you’re committed, responsible and experienced. I believe this definitely gives you the upper hand and a foot in the door, even if you’re heading into a different industry or role after you graduate. My current manager has told me just how much she favours graduates with industry experience – it’s proven.
Had you interned anywhere before your placement? If so, what job role, how long for and what were the main roles?
I had never had a formal office job before my placement, only short-term Marketing roles in the Events sector.
On the job
How did you feel when you first started your placement year? Were you nervous/excited?
I was extremely nervous and apprehensive! I had no experience and felt that I was learning everything from scratch. The three week long hand-over was intensive and exhausting, but taught me all of the practical skills I needed for the job. After a couple of months, I began to feel competent in my role, ready to progress and take on additional tasks.
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?
The role described in my job-spec has absolutely become second-nature. But, the additional responsibilities my managers have given me, keep work interesting and unexpected. I encounter plenty of hiccups and unknowns, which I learn from by working out by myself.
Have you been able to experience other roles within the company?
My role within the Marketing team has developed with additional responsibilities and duties that the intern before me did not have. This has exposed me to a more complex side of Marketing, which is experience I value greatly. I have not yet had the opportunity to experience other roles in the company, but would be open to.
What’s been the highlight of your placement year?
On a superficial level, my highlights have been attending Beauty Awards, film screenings and other free industry events. When applying for the role, I would never have thought I’d be allowed to attend these events on behalf of my brands. In reflection though, the best experiences I’ve had have been seeing my hard work pay off. For example, seeing displays for a new launch I’ve worked on, come to life in stores across the country. Or, seeing campaign visuals in a magazine which I arranged, edited and approved.
What’s been the biggest learning curve/mistake you’ve made?
The biggest learning curve I’ve had is to stay organised. It sounds quite generic, but it makes any task easier. Going into meetings and having your notes, presentations and data lined up and ready for action is the best feeling. It doesn’t come very naturally to me, but it’s worth the extra effort and makes a good impression to colleagues.
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 originally chose Management with Marketing because I thought it was broad and would give me career flexibility after I graduate. Luckily, that choice was right – I really enjoy my course and the career path that I have just started in Marketing.
Overall, do you think a year in industry is beneficial and prepares students for life post-graduation? Would you recommend it?
This year in industry has definitely given me confidence to re-enter the job market after graduating. Thanks to this placement, I feel that I have something of value to offer a future employer. Not only professional experience, but the experience of living independently, having serious responsibility and generally being a functioning adult. It’s challenging and intimidating, but I highly recommend it.
Now that you’ve almost finished your placement year with Coty, if you could go back to second year when you were in the application process, would you still choose the same company and role?
I would definitely still choose my placement. Although, I would have liked to have kept my options open a bit longer. While holding off accepting Coty’s offer, I could have tried to further my applications with other firms and fully consider my alternatives.
Last question – Do you feel more motivated to go into final year or are you feeling apprehensive?
If anything, I feel demotivated. Being employed in my chosen field has shown me that a University degree is barely more than a tick-in-a-box. And, I have found that the theories it teaches you are rarely applied in practice. I’m hoping that returning to Uni next year, I will appreciate the connection between the practical and theoretical sides of Marketing. I’m hoping my placement experiences will provide me with depth of knowledge which will help with understanding lectures and assignments on a new level.
If you would like to connect with Alice, you can find her on these links:
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/alice-jeavons
Instagram : @alic3j