How to Find Placement Opportunities

Are you struggling to find a placement?

Your degree studies teach the theory side very well, but you also can’t beat getting some experience under your belt too. Placements enrich your learning and enable you to experience the theory that you’ve been taught, in a real business setting.

But it would appear that some students find it hard to find such opportunities and some end up not securing one at all.

Placements can range in timescales from anything between four weeks to a year. Universities these days have very close associations with industry and businesses, and often will be given a bank of opportunities to help fill each year.

Tip No. 1  Your first point of call is to ask whichever department at your university is responsible for coordinating opportunities with businesses.  I guess they may even have a noticeboard showing what’s on offer.  Make use of these because these places are easier to find, as they have come from a ‘warm’ lead.

Tip No. 2  If that option isn’t fruitful, then my second option for you is to use LinkedIn.  At any one time there are thousands of vacancies from companies who are seeking placement students, or who are offering internships. But first, you need to have a LinkedIn account (the free option is fab) and secondly, you need a strong profile. 

So choose your wording carefully as you fill in your profile. Putting a ‘Student at XX University’ in your headline tells me nothing! What are you studying? What experience can you bring to this placement? How long do you want it for? What sectors are you specifically looking at, to gain this experience in? 

If you don’t tell them, the employers can’t/won’t guess!

After you’ve completed a good profile, then head over to the ‘Jobs’ tab and type in placements, or something like ‘marketing placements’ and see what comes up.  You can then do some filtering from there.  When you apply for a job placement through LinkedIn, the first thing the employer will see is your fully engaging profile (rather like your electronic CV with extras), so make sure you do that first (and do it well).

Tip No. 3   Means you have to be brave!  It’s the equivalent of getting hold of a megaphone and telling the world what you want. I would like you to consider putting a post in the LinkedIn newsfeed, outlining what you are looking for and why you would be an excellent candidate. Often, if the people reading your post ‘know, like and trust’ you, then they may be inclined to help you or ask around, on your behalf.

Or they may even share your post with some comments about you (thus endorsing you and reaching a much wider audience). I did just this for one of my students and the person who I know well, arranged for the student to have a short placement in a public-sector organisation to enable him to complete a piece of project work for them.  

It works!  That’s just one success I’ve had with my students using this method and I could list many more.

If you don’t get success the first time you post, you may have to repeat your post, but don’t be disheartened. People are not rejecting you. Not everyone is online all of the time, so they may not see your original post, so don’t be afraid to repeat. You can even put a line in your post to say you’d be grateful if anyone could share it for you. If you are known for helping others (being a giver), then others will help you too.

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar

Tip No. 4  To get a placement you must ask and tell!  People can’t network for you if they don’t know you are even looking for something, so get that tongue busy and start telling people – anyone!  You don’t know who people know, so get the word out there!  The person you ask may not know of any opportunities, but if they pass your request on, I’m sure someone will come up with something.

Trust the system and believe.

Tip No. 5  Is to do some speculative work – emailing or writing to named people in organisations and asking whether anything is, or could be on offer.

But here your letter has to be compelling, don’t be a graduate sheep and just write the same stuff that everyone else writes. Don’t be afraid to be different.  And always write to a named person, otherwise no-one will take responsibility for your letter and it will get put aside.  And one of my biggest tips here is to sent a letter to a named person in the post, with a hand-written envelope! Letters are intriguing these days, but emails can be ignored or by-passed when people are busy.

Tip No. 6  Lastly, make full use of social media. Get on those platforms and follow the companies you like and ask them the question “would you like a placement student for four months this summer to work on a marketing project for you”? But they warned here. If your previous posts show things you wouldn’t want to employer to see, this can be a risky strategy, as they are bound to read back through your social media posting and make assumptions based on what they see.  That’s human nature.

So my moral here is, don’t write anything on social media that a potential employer could use to preclude you.

The students that I mentor and embrace the steps above, all get placement opportunities and the one thing they all have in common is that they focus, and don’t give up! The ones that do it half-heartedly are the ones that moan and don’t get anywhere. 

Ask yourself “What would Elon do”??  Be brave, be more Elon …

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