Make the most of your time when applying for placements

career management

Time management. This is a competency that most employers are looking for when recruiting placement students. The ability to manage your time through planning, prioritising and executing is a valuable tool in the workplace, to ensure that business deadlines are met. And yet a common complaint that I hear from students about applying for placements is that they don’t have enough time to make applications.

Time Struggle When Applying For Placements

[one_fourth last=”no”]”Students…with aspirations of moving into graduate-level jobs, sourcing work experience…should be towards the top of their priority list, if not Number 1″ – Placement Officer[/one_fourth]I am fairly sympathetic to students when it comes to demands on their time. There are diligent students who attend all their lectures and seminars. They will have coursework to write and essential course reading to complete. Students often have part-time jobs to help support them through university. People like me encourage students to get involved with clubs and societies to help bolster applications which take away more time. Once extra-curricular and social activities are taken into the equation, it is not surprising that a student will not want to sit down for a couple of hours to fill out an online application, particularly if they have already experienced an impersonal automated rejection email from another employer. There will, of course, be students who say they are too busy to apply for jobs, when in actual fact they mean they are too busy with their X-Box, but on the whole, when my students tell me they struggle to find time to apply for jobs, I believe them.

But here is the thing. While I took a break from blogging for a few weeks, the worst this will have done for me is to hinder the momentum that was built up in the first 6 weeks of my blog. My priorities are clearly set, with the day job and family commitments at the top of my list. For students who have gone to university with aspirations of moving into graduate-level jobs, sourcing work experience, whether through internships or year-long sandwich placement, should be towards the top of their priority list, if not Number 1.

I appreciate that this won’t in itself create more hours in the day, so here are a few strategies to help students to save time when making placement applications.

Use your Careers Service when applying for placements

To me this is a no brainer. Your University employs people who offer help and advice to improve CVs and applications.  If you send poor application after poor application, you won’t get anywhere fast. Save yourself time by going to see your Placement Officer / Careers Adviser and have them cast their eye over what you are sending to employers. Get this right early on and you are more likely to find success.

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Let the placements come to you

Do you use Twitter or Facebook? Then get updates on new placement opportunities from the likes of Rate My Placement. Better still, register an account with them and you can get emails about placements you may be interested in and manage your placement applications. Lots of universities now have Twitter services that let users know about newly advertised opportunities – follow them so you can be kept up-to-date.


Recycling is not just good for the environment

Before you press “send” on an online application form, make sure you save down your answers to competency based questions. You’ll soon find that many companies ask similar questions, so rather than reinvent the wheel, dive into a pool of answers from previous applications. Be careful with this though, as it can be very easy to cut and paste something into an answer that will kill your application. If you write that you have always aspired to work for IBM when applying to Intel, it is safe to say your application will end in the bin. An answer bank is a starting point, but you will still need to answer the specific question on the form.


Apply smart

There is no avoiding the fact that if you only apply for placements with companies who have lengthy applications forms, you will find time an issue. Alongside the more glamorous names, your Careers Service will advertise companies which have less onerous systems. Some may only want students to apply by sending a CV. Even the most hard-pressed student can’t complain about the time it takes to attach a file to an email and press send.


Maximise your downtime

If coursework, lectures etc take up a huge amount of time, students can utilise the vacation periods to apply for jobs. In the heat of the summer holidays, it would be prudent to fire off some applications now before getting back to university and losing the great opportunity of finding work experience that will be crucial for your graduate job search.

About the author


ThePlacementOfficer works at a well known British University, helping students to gain valuable work experience through sandwich placements. TPO is author of the 'Tales from the Placement Office' blog and tweets from @placementblog.