Looking for a placement? Don’t give up!

Sarah (Events Management with Tourism) wrote a post for us back in October. Here she gives words of encouragement to all of you out there looking for placements.

When starting my course at University, we were actively encouraged to undertake an industrial placement year and told of the benefits it could bring.  I found it difficult and was originally unsure of even taking a placement because I couldn’t find one that interested me, as parties, festivals or weddings – the stereotypical “Event” jobs, did not particularly appeal to me.  Instead, I wanted a position that was in a corporate field, which would develop me as a professional.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that getting a placement year is easy; its not (unless you know someone, a family friend perhaps, that’s willing to take you on).  A lot of CVs and cover letters were sent out over my second year at University, but I was lucky that when the position of a ‘Project Executive’ at the second best agency in my field arose, I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to be one of the five undergraduates taken on board.

A lot of you are probably in the process already, trying to get a placement and have received a ton of rejections. My advice to you is not to give up, the placement right for you if just round the corner, you just haven’t found it yet – I got mine well after I had sent off my 40 placement applications but know many others who applied for well over 100 before they got a position.  Talking to my friends now who all went on placement, it seemed like such an effort to even get one, but I cannot exaggerate how much that time and effort you put in looking for a placement will benefit you in the end – not one of us regret it in final year and it certainly has helped us for final year!

Although my degree course combines theory with case studies, there are hardly any opportunities to work in this specific events sector (corporate/business) either part-time or through volunteering whilst at University, so undertaking a placement year was the only way I would get specific experience to add to my CV.  I knew that it would be to my advantage, adding this to my CV, as well as the training and additional courses I was put onto during my placement year, such as Time Management and Grammar Editing & Checking.  The knowledge, attributes and skills I learnt from my placement now put me in a better position over other graduates when applying for jobs.  Following on from the training and additional courses, I became a confident and professional communicator, both face-to-face and in written communication, demonstrating sound organisational skills whilst on multiple tasks –  this was noted by my colleagues during my placement and since I have returned to University by my fellow students and tutors.

My first day on placement was very daunting; an open plan office, surrounded by managers all with their business caps on was very strange to get used to after coming out of a boozy 1st and 2nd year (lets not lie!) but being in this environment gave me the wake up call I needed and I soon realised my potential.

I was put onto a training programme to professionally develop and learn specific skills for the job. At first I was very nervous as I had no experience in how to do some of the tasks expected of me, however I grew in confidence after training and being shown by my ‘buddy’. I was thrown straight into the deep end working on the biggest Sales Conference the company ran yearly, which took place in Tenerife in January 2014.  Within a short amount of time, I was able to work independently and met all of the targets that were set for me. I was treated as a regular member of staff and was even nominated to be employee of the month on several occasions!  My role included client and vendor liaison, delegate management, website build and maintenance and travel and transfer management – all professional skills that are transferable back into my final year at University and in future careers. The event was run for a well-established pharmaceutical company for 1300 delegates. It was amazing to get hands on experience and have direct communications with such big clients, something that I had never had any experience of before.

Whilst I didn’t think much to the area where my placement was, (I wont say where just in case I offend anyone), a sleepy town compared to vibrant Sheffield or my home town, Chester, I got to go on some amazing events across the world, including Milan and Dubai. I met some really influential key people in the events sector, including, Laura Brown, my Account Manager who was recently voted as ‘The Best Event Organiser of 2014’ by Eventia Awards.  Being able to network and work alongside these people was a great opportunity for me and has influenced and encouraged me to excel in this field in the future.

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Now that I am back at University and in my final year, being able to apply real life experience to the theory I am reading and being taught, I’m finding it so much easier to learn and, as a result, am achieving better grades.  The year in industry has also enhanced my time management and organisation skills, things that are essential in your final year.  The whole experience has also led me to becoming a Placement Representative for Sheffield Business School, where I offer advice to Level 5 students who are deciding whether or not to undertake a year out to work in industry.  Overall, the experience is invaluable to me and I thoroughly recommend others to undertake a placement, not only get some practical experience, but also to develop professionally and get themselves ahead of their competition.

Keep going L5’s !

If you want to contact me and want any other advice, drop me an email: Sarah.Gledhill2@student.shu.ac.uk