One of the biggest challenges I faced during my time at Bournemouth University has been trying to find a student placement.
In this post, I’ll break down my experience and learnings to give you practical and actionable advice so you too can find the perfect placement.
From searching for opportunities to applying and interviewing for roles, even documenting your time during your placement. Here’s my story and advice.
Look further than university recommendations. Their process and contacts are the most popular sources amongst students so competition will be high. Search for opportunities outside of these areas and you’ll be sure to find something that’s right for you without having to spend months and months writing covering letters.
Searching Bournemouth for student placements:
I started off looking for placements in the areas and on the channels provided by the university, mainly the placements page on their Careers Hub. But I found this method quickly fell apart as organisations received hundreds of student CV’s daily and were usually only looking to take on one student at a time.
It can take days to write a cover letter, right?
How do you know which opportunities are worth writing them for? One method I did find to be effective was simply searching for agencies and companies in the area, getting in touch with anyone who heads up the team I was looking to join.
Don’t ONLY apply for placements that are being advertised. A lot of the time companies will consider taking on a student placement even if they’re not actively looking for one. A good way to start is to create a spreadsheet of local companies including info about them, contact details and where you are in the application process.
Applying and interviewing for placements:
The application process involved an initial interview accompanied by a content challenge designed to test my writing and research skills. A week after I submitted my challenge, a second interview was arranged!
You’ll probably get nervous during your interview:
I’m no exception to this rule, and there were definitely butterflies in my stomach as I stepped into the Interrogation Station (yes, it’s really called that). To meet with Andrew, my future manager and Amie, head of culture and recruitment at 3 Sided Cube.
One thing I learnt?
It felt more like a conversation than an interview. The whole experience was a lot less daunting than I’d imagined it would be, which is usually the case when your nerves start up when you’re in a position to be judged.
Always call people. Emails often get missed or chucked into a generic pile to be reviewed later. Calling companies shows your interests and puts you at the top of the pile, don’t worry, no one will find your call annoying, even if they’re not looking to employ a placement student!
What did I work on during my placement?
Where to start on your first day:
You’ll probably already have your day planned out, but if you get a chance; ask to write a blog. My first writing exercise was about Alexa, little did I know that this was only the beginning of a whole batch of Alexa-themed content, from how charities can use Alexa skills for good to how you can build your own skill in under five minutes.
Luckily for me, I was also able to work on other things throughout my placement, because there’s a lot more tech to talk about!
How to handle a task you can’t do:
Once I’d written a few blogs I was asked to work on case studies for our Innovation Time projects. A process where one or more team members get to work on a project of their choosing so that they can explore technologies that interest them. This project being a watermelon chatbot for Slack.
Although this task seemed daunting at the time, I got stuck in and after some feedback realised that I wasn’t expected to know how to do everything from the off.
Document everything you do. Including all the projects you’ve worked on at university, having a portfolio to show potential employers gives them a better idea of what you’ll be working on during your placement. While documenting what you do throughout your placement will help build up your portfolio to future employers once you’ve graduated.
What to expect from company culture:
We get taken out to eat every Friday lunchtime to different spots in town, which means you get to taste Bournemouth’s delicious restaurants free of charge every week! There are also internal activities such as yoga, meditation, and workshops that everyone is welcome to join if they want to.
A less common part of company culture:
This year’s CWA (Cube Weekend Away) saw the entire 3 Sided Cube team visited the Peak District for four days and I got to have an amazing time filled with activities (and maybe some booze was also involved).
We got to go gorge scrambling, visited an alpaca farm and made pizzas in an authentic pizza oven. Also, did I mention the place we were staying in had a jacuzzi?
Get involved with everything. Never be nervous about not sounding smart or giving off the wrong impression, people will appreciate you taking an interest and contributing to other people’s work even if it’s not the greatest idea in the world.
Getting involved in events:
Future Club is an event that looks to explore technology of the future.
Bringing together their technical know-how with the expertise of organisations trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
Key members from surrounding councils as well as senior staff from a few local companies came along to discuss how we could solve these aforementioned problems. Which lead to discussions around renewable energy, smart sensors and everything else you’d imagine being in the city of the future.
I definitely ventured out of my comfort zone:
It was super exciting to be part of organising the event and it allowed me to do something I hadn’t done before, developing a new set of skills that I’m sure will be put to use in the future.
Get outside your comfort zone. One of the most nerve-racking things for me was asking to take on different pieces of work that I hadn’t been asked to do. But it was one of my best decisions! Don’t worry about not getting things right as the fact that you even tried them says a lot more about your abilities and skills.
Collaborating with different teams:
The cool thing with working here is that I got the opportunity to work on so many different projects (as you’ve probably gathered by now). One of those projects was writing entries for the Wirehive 100 and UK Agency Awards. Something that was particularly challenging as I’d never written an award entry before, or even seen one!
How did I overcome this challenge?
It was great to get to work so collaboratively with the team as I discussed projects, read over case studies and was walked through working prototypes. Gaining a new skill I hadn’t been taught at university. Even better? We’re finalists for both awards!
Follow local influencers. Be it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or wherever, following local companies and people will help you keep track of what they’ve got going on, what their culture is like and when they’re looking to bring in a placement student. As well as making them more aware of who you are and giving you another platform to reach out on.
7 tips for students looking for placements in Bournemouth:
#1 – Look further than the sources your university provides.
#2 – Don’t ONLY apply for placements that are being advertised.
#3 – Always call people, never give up after an email.
#4 – Document everything you do, before, during and after.
#5 – Get involved with everything from team building to client work.
#6 – Live outside your comfort zone, take on things you can’t do.
#7 – Follow local companies, influencers and networking events.
Fancy taking on a placement at 3 Sided Cube?
Even if the role’s not on our careers page, get in touch with our team – firstname.lastname@example.org! Find out a bit more about us or meet the team you’ll be working with!