How placements can help maximise your chances of securing your first job

by Hugo Solway, Digital Planner Buyer and graduate placement alumni

Usually the most challenging time to find a job is straight after university, since most graduates have limited, or even zero, experience. That ‘limited experience’ may have been a short internship, or a holiday job simply to earn some money. These are creditable experiences to have; however, when you are attempting to stand out in applying for your dream job, this might not be enough. Undertaking a placement year during your degree course helps cut through to prospective employers, and is an option well worth considering. 

Early on in my university career, I was fortunate enough to be advised to take a placement year. Typically, this is a year spent working in industry between your second and third year. It offers you the chance to road test both a job, and more importantly an industry, before making a more permanent commitment.

 There are numerous benefits to completing a placement from improving softer employability skills alongside specific technical skills and competencies, to developing social and professional networks. It also softens the challenging transition from university to workplace. Beyond personal development, a placement gives you a crucial ‘foot in the door’ that could lead to a permanent contract. 

One of my first steps in securing a job in the advertising industry was discovering a placement opportunity at an advertising agency. For each of the last five years, this particular agency has offered one university student placement. After researching the company, and realised it aligned with what I wanted from my job, I applied and secured an interview. Before I knew it, I was starting my first day “in the workplace”.

Additionally, it was enormously helpful to be able to talk to the previous placement alumni. I was able to tap into their experience of the process and they were able to guide me through the nerve wracking early weeks. Impressively, all the placement students had returned to the agency after graduation, and began careers there. To me, this speaks volumes on the success of this process for both the employer and graduate. 

I returned to university to complete the final year of my degree with increased maturity and skills. Even better, I was offered a graduate position following the success of my placement. This not only gave me confidence and allowed me to focus in my final year, but also removed the considerable time and stress burdens of applying for graduate jobs whilst studying for final exams. 

Research has shown that many employers now favour first hand industry experience over first class degrees. Chain placement recruitment allows graduates to step into their roles with considerable industry experience and workplace skills on their first day, and also encourages them to pass that on to subsequent students on placements – a huge benefit to both graduate and employer. And no less importantly, they also already know where the coffee is…