What is a placement?

A placement is essentially a period of work experience, usually undertaken by students while studying for their degree. They vary in length and could be for as short as a week to year-long "sandwich" placements which are an integral part of some courses. You will also see the term "internship", which can be used to describe a placement but is also used for a period of work experience undertaken after graduation. Both placements and internships should ideally be paid, but you will also see unpaid placements and internships advertised.

Finding your own placement

Applying for advertised placements is not the only way to gain work experience. As well as looking on UniHub for the latest placement vacancies, it's also possible to find your own placement using a more proactive approach - this will require research, perseverance, and a plan!  

The University advertises placement vacancies on UniHub, why should I find my own?

If you are on a sandwich course, your placement team will be able to tell you about placement vacancies they are advertising. However, finding your own placement is also an option; perhaps you have a very particular role in mind, or you know of an organisation you are interested in, or you may be looking for a placement in a very specific geographical location. If you do find your own sandwich year placement, you will need to check with your placement team that it is going to be suitable.

Who could I approach for a placement?

Think about the type of industry and organisation you would like to work in and the type of role. You can use Prospects to find information about different job roles.

You can find organisations to contact by using:

  • LinkedIn - use keywords in the search box to find specific types of organisation, and narrow down by location

  • Online directories such as Yell, Thompsonlocal, Kompass

  • Graduate careers websites such as Prospects and TARGETjobs can help you identify organisations, professional bodies and Skills Councils, which often have useful employer directories

Be selective - it is better to approach a number of carefully chosen companies, showing that you have researched them, than sending off the same CV and cover letter to 50 companies. Don't just go for big-name companies you have already heard of - small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have lots of opportunities and could offer a very varied experience, so be open-minded.

Who else could help?

If you know anyone who works in the industry you want to enter, ask to have a chat with them about their job and their company, and seek their advice. Do they have any connections you could approach? LinkedIn can help you find out who the people you know are connected with - you may already have some useful "second connections".

Shall I just send the company an email?

Not yet! Research each company first, using their website and following them on LinkedIn and other social media they use. Find out about their business, what they do, what projects are they involved in, who are their competitors? 

And then think about yourself…

What will they want to know about me?

What strengths, skills and key experiences do you have that the company would be interested in? Prepare a strong CV highlighting these strengths and skills. Think about developing a LinkedIn profile, clearly stating in the heading that you are seeking a placement, and the industry and type of role you are interested in. 

How should I approach a company?

This could be by email or letter. If emailing, send your CV and cover letter as attachments, ideally in pdf format. If possible, find a named person to send to - check their website, give the company a ring, or try LinkedIn. Be polite and professional in all of your contacts and check your spelling and grammar! 

What should I say?

What do you have to offer them? Why should they take you on? Make this clear. Why are you approaching them - why do you want to work for them? Show your interest and enthusiasm for what they do. Be clear about what you are asking for - a sandwich placement year, or shorter work experience? Give possible dates and any other requirements of the placement. Say in your email or letter that you will be following up with a phone call in a week or two.

Don't give up - follow up!

A mistake a lot of people make is to give up if they receive no response to their initial approach. People who are successful in finding their own placements tend to be those who follow up, and don't give up! Follow up by phone after a week or so, referring to the email or letter you have sent. Ask if you can talk to a relevant person, or arrange a time to phone and talk, or perhaps arrange a meeting. Even if a company is not able to offer you a placement, show an interest in what they do, and use this as an opportunity to gather information for the future.

I need more advice on using LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can really help with finding work experience as well as jobs. Book onto a LinkedIn development session or make an appointment to see an adviser.

Last modified: 
Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - 15:03