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From Placement to Head of Digital (part 1): Finding a Placement

You’re coming to the end of your second year at university, you’ve just about finished all your work and you are winding down ready for summer. There’s the slight chance you were listening a few months ago when your tutor made mention of getting a placement…no? I didn’t think so – I didn’t either! Looking back, my placement was the single most important thing that happened in my career. Over the next 6 weeks I will be taking you through my journey from placement student, to the Head of Digital @fantasticmedia. With actionable takeaways each week to help you in your personal quest through the placement process and beyond.


“Fail to plan, plan to fail”

I haven’t always been the organisational machine I am today; at university I was quite the opposite. Towards the end of my second year I wasn’t even thinking about placements, for me enjoying student life was a full time job. I wasn’t convinced that a placement was for me. Why would I want to give up all this sleeping late and partying for a 9 to 5?

With only a few weeks to go before the start of the next university year I thought I should probably take a look. I gave myself a quick slap around the chops to bring me round from the crazy summer I’d just had, and started to collate a list of all the companies I could see myself working for.

I knew I wanted to work for a small to medium sized company as it would open me up to more of the business, so my list focused around these. Unfortunately, I soon found that most companies did n’t state whether they ran placements or had opportunities available so I found myself doing a lot of cold calling just to see if an opportunity was available. As I started to make my way through the list I quickly realised that I had left it way too late. The small number of companies that had placements available had filled the positions weeks before.

TIP: Approaching a company a year beforehand wouldn’t be to soon. The earlier you get a placement sorted the better — this will free you up to really enjoy your summer!

So, where do I find available placements?

Usually universities will have some sort of placement / job board which is great, but limited to companies that have approached the university. There are also lots of sites that allow companies to post placements for students to look through which are a great place to see what’s available, a few examples are: Enternship, Gradintel and Step.


“Rather be lucky than good”

With only one week to go, I emailed my course tutor @HuddersfieldUni to let her know I was unable to find a placement and wasn’t too bothered about getting one. To my pleasant surprise the email back included a note: “Have you applied for the role at Fantastic Media?” with a link to their site. “Miles I really think you should try for this, the experience and growth you will get from a placement are immeasurable”.

After that email how could I not? I drafted an email and tidied up my portfolio site. At university my development knowledge wasn’t great, I was more design focused, but managed to cobble together a decent(ish) portfolio site, which is an absolute must when applying for any placement or job. Don’t worry if you can’t build your own, you can use @unifolio to create your student portfolio website.

I sent my portfolio link along with my CV and covering letter over to the guys at Fantastic and a couple of days later to my surprise I was called in for an interview. I arrived at the interview a nervous wreck! Somehow being as unorganised and unprepared as I was, the talented management team @fantasticmedia saw my potential and decided to give me the placement. Happy days!


Conclusion

Looking back now, knowing how important and beneficial my placement was for me there are so many things I would change. My lack of organisation and drive took the control out of my hands and made obtaining a placement pure luck. Start planning your placement applications as soon as possible, research what’s available and create a plan of attack. Look at the individual companies you would like to work at and use third party sites to find available placement opportunities. Start marketing yourself early by interacting on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. Sending complimentary emails to the companies you are interested in, about their work or latest news story.

Getting Started

  1. Get your portfolio sorted.
    Don’t leave your portfolio until the last minute, keep updating and improving it throughout the year leading up to those all-important applications. @schneidertobias has written a really good article on getting your portfolio over the line, check it out here. Also our very own @ashdotslash has written a great article on kick starting your career here.
  2. Get applying.
    The more applications you send the higher your chance of finding a placement. The more interviews you get the better, even if it’s not the right role the experience is priceless. Be sure to research companies before turning up to an interview, there’s nothing worse than asking someone “do you know anything about Fantastic” and having a blank face staring back. For each stage of the process be prepared.
  3. Apply here.
    Here at Fantastic we are always looking for talented individuals to join us for work experience, whether it be a couple of weeks, months or a full year placement. We look for people we can mentor, with the end game being joining the Fantastic team full time. If you would like to work with us, send your CV and portfolio site to digital@fantasticmedia.co.uk.

Takeaways

  • Start your search for placement opportunities early…start it now!
  • Once you find a role research the company and market yourself to them before you apply. Find out who is in charge of hiring then follow and interact with them on Twitter and other social networks
  • Create an online portfolio that showcases your work. You can create a free portfolio @unifolio
  • Don’t limit yourself to one company. The more interviews you have the better
  • Good luck!

How was your hunt for a placement? If you’ve got any tips that I’ve missed feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest posts on our blog. Follow me on twitter @thorp88.


Next Week

In next week’s post I’ll be sharing some insight in to my placement role, responsibilities and how I found a balance between work and university after I finished my year placement.

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Director at Fantastic Media working on everything from UX and CRO to e-commerce and digital strategy. My design and development centres around the users experience and making sure everything we do has a goal and a measurement of success.

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