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Why doing a Placement Year is the best way to kick-start your career

By Thea Spalding on Mon 11 May 2015 in Placement Blog

Last week I was asked to go back to my University to attend a Placement Returner’s Day where I delivered a presentation to first and second year students, sharing my experiences and the skills I’ve acquired during my placement year at ProspectSoft. 

Planning my presentation required a certain degree of self-reflection that up until now, I don’t think I’ve practiced enough. It was doing this exercise that made me realise just how invaluable my year in industry has been. Hence why I preach that doing a placement year while at University is the best way to kick-start your career – and this isn’t just a message I wanted to share with students from the University of Surrey, but with anyone considering a placement year.

The job market for graduates is more competitive than ever, and careers services are encouraging students to build up a portfolio of relevant work experience as early as possible in order to elevate their chances of securing a graduate position. In his review ‘Business to University Collaboration’ Sir Tim Wilson, who was awarded Knight Bachelor for his services to higher education in 2011, recommends that internships and work placements are the best way for students to improve their employability; his research revealed that students who completed sandwich courses were more employable upon graduation. This statement is further justified by High Fliers works on the Graduate Market in 2014, where they found that recruiters have confirmed a record 37% of entry level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations – through for example, industrial placements.

Of course, these were all statistics I was well aware of when I made the decision to start submitting applications in the hope of securing a placement but what nobody tells you is why your placement year will make you more employable – other than having a decent section on experience in your newly refined CV.

Regardless of the sector you’re working in on your placement, whether it be software to banking or even engineering, you can expect to see a rapid development in your business acumen. Working in any industry gives you an insight into how to interact in a business environment, a firm understanding of business operations and processes and even teaches you how to conduct yourself professionally on the phone and in emails. Sure, this all sounds pretty basic but knowing how to react effectively in a business situation is something that you can only learn through experience, and it will almost certainly help you stand out from the competition.

Even if your role isn’t customer-facing, you’ll be expected to work alongside colleagues productively, perhaps even participating in strategic business meetings. Essentially, you’ll learn how to work with people. The ability to communicate appropriately is a competency that nearly every graduate employer is looking for, and a year’s experience in negotiating with customers, partners and work colleagues is a handy weapon that you’ll take back to University.

Perhaps most important is the business network you will build up in your chosen industry. Everything from expanding your business links on social media networks such as LinkedIn to gaining contacts among your placement organisation will only assist in securing a graduate job. After all, they do say it’s not just what you know but who you know! If you’ve impressed your employers enough during your time as a placement, there are often opportunities to secure a place on their graduate scheme and already having a foot in the door puts you one step ahead!

Ultimately, having a full-time job for a year sandwiched into your degree will teach you how to handle responsibility.

With ProspectSoft being a small-to-medium sized enterprise, the opportunities I’ve been offered are so diverse and you can truly see the impact of all your hard work. The skillset I will return to University with will be so much broader than if I hadn’t of done a placement year, and many of my lecturers have emphasised that returning placements often have a higher chance of achieving a first– although that’s not something I can confirm yet!

If you’re interested in kick-starting your career with a placement at ProspectSoft or want to find out more about the opportunities that we offer, then visit our placement website at  http://placements.prospectsoft.com/

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