How working part-time and volunteering helped me in my placement search

gemmadilkesAdvice, Applications, First Year, Gemma Dilkes, International Placements, Part-Time Jobs & Volunteering, Second Year, UK Placements, Work Experience

Come the end of September, it will be time for new second year students to start thinking about placements, so that means, between now and the time when opportunities become available, you have plenty of time to reflect on what you will want to include in your applications and to even get involved in some other opportunities such as part-time work and volunteering (or, as far as possible given the current situation).

When I was applying for placements, I learned how interested employers are in opportunities that you have taken alongside your studies. This is because: 1) your placement doesn’t have to be directly related to what you are studying and 2) you have no “professional” work experience, so part-time work and volunteering demonstrate soft and transferable skills that are great starting points when trying to sell yourself as a capable young person.

So, do I think that my part-time roles had anything to do with being successful in securing my placement?

100% YES! In November 2018, I was successful in securing a placement with Air France as an English Language Assistant and the thing that I talked the most about on my application was my part-time job as a private tutor in French and Spanish for GCSE students which I had been doing since the end of Year 12. This experience was a perfect fit for the role because the job description mentioned that previous experience in teaching was desirable, I feel that my part-time job as a tutor helped me demonstrate that I had already had a skill required to be successful in that particular role but also in a more general sense that I had soft skills such as being organised and a good communicator.

What other part-time jobs can be seen as desirable to employers when they’re looking to recruit placement students?

In my opinion, any part-time job is incredibly valuable to any kind of application! Tutoring is a more subject specific job which demonstrates good knowledge of what you are studying but other jobs such as sales assistant, waitress, stockroom assistant, student ambassador at university all demonstrate communication skills, organisation, enthusiasm and initiative. We are very lucky at Aston that part-time work is encouraged and that it is possible to balance a few hours of work/volunteering alongside your degree.

And what about volunteering?

Volunteering is also incredibly valuable when applying for placements. Don’t just think about volunteering you may have done recently or at University, think back to anything you did at school as well. One thing that I was told at school was that anything you volunteer to do at school doesn’t just lose its value after you’ve left, it’s still very much worth talking about because you used your initiative and gave up your time to do something you didn’t have to at an age where maybe professional development and placement applications weren’t at the forefront of your mind, so it shows that you were eager to get stuck in even at a young age. Something that I championed on my application to a law firm in Spain was my experience of participating in the Young Enterprise programme in Year 12 where I took on the role as IT Director. As a year group we created our own start-up business, allocated roles to members of the team and met on a weekly basis with our YE regional mentor and our teacher supervisor to discuss the next steps for our mini business. The role I applied for at the firm was Translation and Marketing Assistant, therefore my experience as IT Director and being in charge of the digital communications and marketing for our company showed that I had a bit of knowledge that I could use as a starting point for the marketing side of the placement role, not to mention the elements of working with people, organisation and problem-solving.

Other volunteering opportunities you could talk about are Duke of Edinburgh, World Challenge, being a student ambassador, NCS, charity fundraisers, school council, involvement with societies at University, course rep or peer mentoring. Anything that you have shown initiative to engage in when you’re not studying will be welcomed on any application!

What can I get involved in over the summer despite the Coronavirus situation?

Sadly, the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak has scuppered many people’s plans for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved in other things that are more ‘pandemic friendly’. For example, you could offer online tutoring to students to earn some money, you could volunteer for charities that are helping vulnerable people during the pandemic and offer to be a telephone buddy for a vulnerable person, you could sign up for an online course or just even pursue a new interest that you could talk about on applications. It could also be a good time to set up a LinkedIn profile, these are great for your placement search as you will increase your visibility to potential employers, also there are some online courses available and also some really insightful articles to read which could help you get some ideas about what kind of placement you could look for next year. If none of these things are possible right now, don’t worry! You still have the whole of second year to find a placement and during that time you could find part-time and volunteering opportunities during the academic year (depending on social distancing of course)

I hope this helps. Happy placement hunting and stay safe!