by Daniel Alder, BSc Computer Networking student.
In current society, some may argue that there’s an ever-increasing pressure on students to pursue a university degree. This escalates the number of students with degrees – saturating the market and leading to a more competitive environment for graduate jobs. Students must then enhance their CV to stand out, whether through carrying out extra-curricular activities, volunteering or completing industry certifications. However, a great way to stand out from the crowd and increase your graduate employability is to take a placement year in industry.
For my placement year I worked at Cisco Systems, where I gained valuable skills – both soft and technical, that have helped me to secure a graduate job upon finishing my degree. While you can learn technical skills at university, putting them into practice is another thing entirely. Doing a placement allows you to apply this knowledge and enhance it further with more role specific skills.
Placement opportunities vary and I can only speak for my experiences of IT/Networking -based placement schemes, as they are the type that I applied for. Most include preliminary verbal, numerical and diagrammatic reasoning tests, followed by a first round of interviews that test your basic technical knowledge levels and your communication skills. Subsequent interviews vary depending on the size of the company, however I would be prepared for assessment centres where a company visit is required, and a wide variety of skills are tested throughout the day.
I would recommend pursuing a placement if you get the opportunity, as it will provide you with valuable skills that cannot be learnt at university, and will put you above your competition when going for jobs. These skills include: how to conduct yourself in an office environment, learning about office politics and networking with professionals, among many others.
The best time to start applying for placement opportunities is during the summer between your 1st and 2nd year. The larger and more sought-after companies tend to close their doors first as they get the most applicants, so make sure that you apply in time. However other companies have their doors open right until the next July, so it’s never too late to get a placement.
If you would like more information on how to be successful in applying for placements there’s a great placements office within the University who are happy to help. The people to talk to are Sara Flack, who is the Career Consultant for CEBE, or the CEBE Employability Team who can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org