Creating together

Hello! My name’s Lottie, I’m in my second year at Newcastle University studying Economics and after a (very!) long search for a placement scheme, I have landed a brilliant role with Johnson & Johnson, which I will be starting in June 2021! Hopefully, in this blog, I’ll be able to give you some of my top tips and advice for securing an amazing role too!

What is a Placement?!

A placement is a 9 to 12 month-long, full-time work scheme within a company between your second and third year at University. It must be vaguely relevant to your degree and of sufficient difficulty. It is a chance for you to gain and develop all sorts of transferable skills for the workplace and often experience living somewhere new for a year.

My journey

I knew in my first year that I wanted to do a placement and attended a couple of careers events in Semester 1 (yes, I really was that eager!) about placements and spoke to people that had already done one. This always left me feeling hopeful of finding one but very aware of how difficult it was to land a role. It went from one person saying they got the first role they applied too, to someone saying they applied to 37 roles before they were offered a placement!

The main reason I want to do a placement is to experience a year-long practice run in a sector before entering into a full time graduate scheme after university and only then discovering that the role or sector isn’t something I enjoy.

One year is a great amount of time to find out if you enjoy working for a particular employer or in a general sector.  As well as that, it will provide me with heaps of experience and hopefully lots that I can talk about when I apply for graduate schemes in my third year too!

Lots of companies also use a placement as an extended interview and offer students the chance to come back and work for them on their graduate scheme after their final year if you perform particularly well. This really appealed to me as I can only imagine how hectic third year will be, then add on having to search for a graduate scheme too!

I started seriously looking and applying in October 2020 and received my offer in March 2021. I think the hardest thing for me was watching many of my peers be successful in securing roles while I was only getting rejection emails.

The last time I checked, I applied for 11 roles in total, which at first glance may not seem like many, but writing 11 different cover letters and researching every role and company, checking over your CV, recording yourself for video interviews and attending assessment centres to be told ‘no’ is extremely disheartening. Despite that, the payoff of receiving an offer makes it all worth it and you just have to remind yourself that every stage of an application is great practice and always a different experience that you can learn from.

The Johnson & Johnson role application process involved submitting my CV and a cover letter, then completing a numerical, literacy and personality test, then completing a pre-recorded video interview, and finally having an online interview with the team leaders over Microsoft Teams. That is quite a few hoops to jump through, but hundreds of students apply to every position and there are usually only one or two places available for each! I’ve since found out that I was one of 8 people that reached the final stage interview from hundreds that applied for this 1 position I’ve received. Seems crazy to think about!

My 5 top tips:

1. Start with the roles you want the least!

This may sound silly, but starting with your least favourite roles means that you will get through their stages quicker, and it will serve as a great practice for the roles you really want as you can mess up your first video interview and you will care a lot less!

2. Make a big, long list of all your favourite/dream companies or the top companies that are in your field of interest and search if they offer placements as well as what’s happening in those sectors

You’ll find that so many companies that you wouldn’t have thought of have placements and it’s a great way to get excited about where you could be working! Always remember to only apply for the roles you genuinely have an interest in, it’s very easy to start applying to anything that you fulfil the criteria of but in doing these applications you may be wasting your time if you know you wouldn’t enjoy the placement and reject an offer in any case! It’s also great to keep up to date with the news and invest in improving your commercial awareness in your chosen sectors.

3. Write yourself a roughly 300-word answer to lots of different competency questions e.g when you’ve shown teamwork, initiative, leadership etc…

This will be very helpful as during the process of most applications they will ask you about your basic competency skills that are transferable in any job, so having an idea of this before you start is great! It will also really help you during video interviews and for final interview preparation. Try sending your drafted answers to the careers service for them to read it over and provide feedback too.

4. Go to careers events and reach out to people on LinkedIn

You might have an idea of what you’d like to do, but there is never any harm in finding out what else is out there. Listening to how other people have done and their career journey is not only interesting but also beneficial to opening new doors to you. I found out about the placement that I will be doing through hearing a Newcastle Alumni speak about the Johnson & Johnson graduate scheme she is currently on during a webinar, and this led me to reach out to her on LinkedIn for more information. It can be very scary reaching out to people on LinkedIn at first but most of the time they want to help you out and share their advice. In any case, the worst that can happen after sending a message is getting blanked, but you can always try reaching out to someone different. Obviously, remember to always be polite and respectful at all times though!

5. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

The best thing while doing applications is to be yourself in them and be honest about what you have achieved. Eventually, a company will see how fabulous you are and realise that you are the perfect fit for that role with them! I know how disheartening it can be to get rejections while peers are getting offers, but remember that everything happens for a reason.

Best places to go to for help:

THE CAREERS SERVICE!!! I could not scream that loud enough! They are such good help. You just need to ask for their help, and they will do what they can. You can send in your CV or cover letter through the MyCareers portal for feedback which only takes a few days to get back usually.

Bright Network is also a great resource as it’s basically the one stop shop for Placement adverts, tips, advice and student testimonials.

Other websites that I know are great are:

These all give a great idea as to the different sectors and placements that are on offer.

Feel free to reach out to me or anyone else to find out more.  Don’t forget that one of your greatest tools here at Newcastle is the ability to network with current students and alumni through NCLSpark so take advantage!

Good luck in your placement search!

Read more of my placement blogs.

Chat to a current student on the Unibuddy messaging platform.

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