By Vlad Mackevic
The academic year has already started and I can bet that those of you who have entered their second year are already thinking about work placements. I wish you all good luck! However, I also want to give you some tips that might make the search easier.
1. Start early.
Competition is high; the number of jobs is low. You’d better be an early bird. Start looking for vacancies before the academic year starts. There are two reasons why you should do it. First of all, many companies have very early application deadlines. Secondly, come October-November everyone will start job-hunting and competition will turn immense. Your application is much more likely to receive proper attention if it is one of the 10 applications the company receives that day than when it is one of the 50 as the deadlines draw closer.
2. Realise what you want
This does sound somewhat banal and clichéd. However, there is no point in taking things seriously and making effort if you don’t know where that effort is leading.
Naturally, when you’ve just started your second year, it is hard to know what you want to do professionally in the future. Nevertheless, let’s focus on the present and establish what you want professionally at the moment.
First for all, you need to think what you like doing. This is simple – in order to understand what you like and want professionally, you need to look back. Make an overview of your recent past. Think what you have always enjoyed most. What subjects were your favourites at school? What elements of those subjects did you enjoy most? What did you do in your spare time? What kinds of people do you like meeting? What kinds of tasks do you like doing?
Once you’ve got that figured out, try to find an area that matches your interests and in which you could get a placement. Check out this website for job descriptions (what doing each job involves) and click here or here for information on what careers options exist for people with your degree.
3. Research the Companies and the ‘How-To’
Thoroughly research each company you apply to. What does it do exactly? What are its aims? What is its mission statement? Its area of activity? Is it local or international? If international, in which countries are its offices based? Who are its main competitors? What are its strengths? How do your skills, education and work experience fit within the goals of the organisation?
You will need answers to these questions when writing a covering letter, filling out an application form or at the job interview when you are asked what you know about the company or why you want to work there.
Once you have researched the company and know what to write in your covering letter and the application form, you need to research some other questions:
How to write a CV and a covering letter? How to write a high-impact application form that would land an interview? How to behave in an interview? How to actually do the job for which you are applying?
You have to know all of this before you start applying. It’s like learning the lines and rehearsing before the Big Show – so start rehearsing and preparing well in advance! Doing a job without knowing how to will result in having to redo it.
4. Create a good CV and covering letter
A good CV must show that you have not been wasting your time and were able to draw valuable skills from everything you did – your academic work, your participation in student societies and every other activity you have been involved in at university.
Moreover, your CV must be SMART – click here to read how to write one!
CV writing is something you must master as soon as possible – so visit the careers centre of your university or the library, borrow a book or two on CV writing and study them thoroughly. If you invest time in developing this skill now, it will save you a lot of time and hassle in the future.
P.S. You can also download my FREE eBook called How to Write a CV with Little or No Work Experience by filling in the form at the bottom of this article.
5. Showcase your academic and professional abilities
You need to take every tiniest achievement and talk about it as if it is worth the Nobel Prize. Everything counts.
Got a high mark for an assignment? Mention it in your CV! Were you on the football team when your university got into the semi-final? Write it down! Established and managed a study group while preparing for exams? That’s a gold mine for teamwork and organisational skills! Look carefully at everything you have done in your first year (and sixth form as well) and try to find skills and achievements in everything. Then present them and watch the magic happen!
6. Get work experience
Ideally, in addition to having a good academic record, you should also have some work experience. If you have a part-time student job, good for you: it pays your bills and can teach you about communication, teamwork, motivation and interpersonal skills no less than an office job can. However, there is something more that you can do to enhance your CV and stand out. Develop valuable skills by doing something you like – not because you have to, but because you want to.
Here are some tips on how you can acquire valuable work experience by taking initiative and getting involved:
- If you have some ideas about improving your fellow students’ university experience, get involved in the life of your student union: become a member of a committee and make a positive contribution to the way your university is run;
- Choose a student society and become actively involved in its life without anyone asking you to do anything. Just offer to help the executive committee with organising events or managing the society’s online life (the Facebook page or the blog). Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Organise an event yourself. The even can be on anything you want. Talk to your student union’s marketing officer and/or your university’s events officer. They can certainly help you with organisation and make your life easier. Organising an event can make you stand out, as well as teach you valuable skills – you should definitely mention it in your CV. Click here to read about my experience in organising a conference.
7. Never give up
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want. Sometimes companies don’t reply to your application; sometimes your CV gets rejected; sometimes interviews don’t work out that well… All of this did happen to me and the main lesson I learnt from the experience is that one should never give up and stop trying. Whatever happens, keep following your dream. Learn from your mistakes, think what you can do better next time and move to bigger and better things!
It is always good to be flexible as well to have a second option, a back-up plan. However, whatever you do, find time for your dream as well. Hard work and patience will do their job if you do yours.
Good luck with your placement search!
P.S. This article is based on Vlad Mackevic’s new book CAMP UK 10/2012: THE ULTIMATE POST-2012 UNIVERSITY SURVIVAL GUIDE, in which Vlad explains how to make the most out of your university experience. The book is coming out in October 2012, but extracts from it as well as related articles will be published on The Lecture Room as well as www.FirstYearCounts.com throughout the rest of the year.
Be the first one to find out about the book’s release and about the articles as they come along – subscribe to our Awesome Newsletter by entering your email below. Moreover, you will get a FREE eBook on CV writing – a must for every student!