Prestigious doesn’t mean the best option for YOU!
Name: Margarita Latoseva
Course: BSc Business and Management
Placement Position: Marketing Assistant
Location: Aston Students’ Union, Birmingham, UK
Post #6. Heaven or hell: summary of the Placement Year
The main point of this long text below is: Placement experience is GREAT! It will definitely benefit you in the future! Just do it! No regrets!
Looking back at my year I realised that my whole experience can be divided into 3 stages.
Stage 1: Panic attack.
This stage lasts for the first few months when you come into the new organisation, you know nobody and nothing. Literally, any task makes you panic (even though you keep poker face like a boss). Especially being a student, you keep doubting any decision you make because of your lack of experience and competency.
Remember: Take a deep breath. It SEEMS that struggle is real. When your deadlines will approach, you will spot the difference.
Stage 2: Doubt.
At this stage, your manager and colleagues already got used to the 100500 questions you ask and give you some time to adjust and “relax”. That is when you get the chance to think about your job and responsibilities and very often it may feel that you are not doing tasks that are challenging enough.
Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Very soon you will be so experienced that the number of tasks will be tripled. No time for boredom or relaxation.
Stage 3: “Wisdom” wave.
Last months of your placement are very straightforward and crystal clear. You know what you are doing, you are a “true master” now. This is the best time because at this stage you should get an understanding of your limitless abilities. This is the stage of positivity!
When students say that placement is a life-changing experience – they don’t lie. Some of my friends realised they enjoy a completely different area of business, others built strong lifelong connections.
There might be ups and downs, but in the end, you are the winner anyway. You already understand the struggles and beauty of real life in business, you don’t have any unrealistic expectations and you better understand not only the career perspectives but also yourself.
My placement year has definitely changed me for the best and it would never have happened without my amazing team. If previously I doubted myself, today I make plans and go for it!
The placement turned out to be the start of a beautiful journey.
Spring is the perfect time for new beginnings, or in my case, its another chance to pull myself together after the long winter and try to get the most out of the remaining four months of my placement.
While some of my placement mates are having mental breakdowns and suffer from uncontrollable anxiety because of the deadlines and workload, I feel right on track with all my placement assessment work. So remember, the earlier you start dealing with your assignments, the better it is for your mental health!
Being on track and managing your time will definitely result in greater chances for additional involvement. This month I have an exciting opportunity to refresh my memories from last year – interviews, interviews, interviews! But this time I am in a better place; I am interviewing the “new me” – hell yes! That feels much better! *devilish laugh* Just kidding, I turned out to be a kind interviewer. I think that’s because I still feel the pain and worry of those students! Haha
This is the first time that the Aston SU marketing department placement student has been involved in the interviewing process and it has been an amazing and extremely useful experience for me. Firstly, I am proud that I managed to build such a trustworthy relationship with my wonderful team that they allowed me to participate in such an important decision-making process. Secondly, it is a chance to explore the whole process from the other perspective.
I have analysed the outcome of some of the interviews we had, and added my own experience on top, so here are some tips from me on how to do interviews with different companies:
- Do your research. Obviously, you should understand the structure of the company and more importantly – your potential place within the company.
Real life example from one of the interviews: Student claimed to be interested in the digital marketing side of the role, particularly in social media. Hence my next question was about the pros and cons of ASU digital channels. However, the student hadn’t explored them before appearing at the interview. Interested, huh? #EPICFAIL
- So the second tip is: never lie or exaggerate your experience! You never know what question will be asked next. So if you aren’t sure that you have enough competency to talk about a certain process, don’t mention it in the first place!
Real life example from one of the interviews: Student claimed to be extremely good at paying attention to details, saying they love double checking every single thing in every essay. The same student spelt the manager’s surname wrong in the cover letter. PLEASE, DOUBLE CHECK! #EPICFAIL
- Don’t underestimate yourself! Nope, that’s not a contradiction to the previous point. Let me just give you an example.
Real life example from one of the interviews: Student had done IT A-level and used Photoshop for one of the projects. In the skills section of their CV, they had only put Microsoft Office. Even if you have a very basic understanding of the software – INCLUDE it on the CV. It will give you MORE CHANCES! Not so epic, but still a #FAIL
- Understand the company’s organisational structure. You should learn about the company: are they corporate, or are they more loose and creative. During the interview don’t focus only on your stress and discomfort, observe and catch the vibe of the conversation. Some interviewers will keep it very official and structured, others would prefer a bit more of a casual style with some positive humorous notes. Try to concentrate on the present moment and speak THEIR language. Engage with them, don’t be deadly serious when your potential manager cracks a joke. It’s more important than you think!
Real life example from one of the interviews: In ASU we look for the creative but organised person. We know that the interview is stressful, so we try our best to make it friendly. We want you to relax and DO YOU! All companies, no matter how big or small, want to understand more about you. Show your personality. The company will teach you the rest of the stuff that you may not know!
Just remember that if you were invited to the interview, you are already good enough! So don’t be afraid, embrace your personality and always be prepared – show your professionalism!
New Year = new post!
Every 31st December, most people make a promise to become better versions of themselves, hoping that next year will bring new opportunities and chances for a change.
But, as Bill Gates said (according to some sources), “No dollar will pass between sofa and ass”.
So often the New Year turns out to be nothing new because exciting opportunities only come with hard work and a desire to become a better person.
Here is some good news, guys: if you’re on your placement – changes are inevitable even if you don’t want them…you’re voluntold to improve! But don’t worry, you have like 365 chances!
December at Aston SU was a great month fulfilled with fun, networking and festive vibes! (I thought I will find out what diabetes is, but thankfully not this time!) I loved creating festive content and developing new creative ways of engaging with students!
Unfortunately, two marketing team members have recently left our department and despite the sadness, I’m excited to create a new strong professional relationship with the new members of our team. In a way, it’s a great opportunity to relive my first-month experience and refresh the networking skills. (I will make sure to try out all the tips offered by other placement students too!)
One of the most challenging tasks now becomes efficient time management, because it isn’t just about my responsibilities as a marketing assistant anymore, but also the additional assessment work for University.
So here are some tips from me:
Tip #1 Start early!
I started scratching down my ideas as soon as I received assessment requirements. Don’t leave it until the deadline, you will be required to reflect on your placement experience and trust me, it becomes a complicated task to remember how it all started!
Tip #2 Create a plan!
Plan out the time slots for assessment work and specify what exactly you will be doing during each of the slots. This will help you to stay focused and ensure you will get everything done before the deadline.
Tip #3 Ask for feedback!
You are not alone. Assessment tends to create this feeling of panic inside, but your placement tutor and co-workers are there to help! Don’t be shy to ask them for professional advice, or feedback on your assessment work bits. Remember, if you don’t ask, you won’t get an answer!
Six months flew by and even if it seems that there should be nothing new to learn on my placement, surprisingly, there are a lot of opportunities to gain and improve skills even further!
I hope you all have already received your interview and assessment centre invites! Happy New Year and let’s get the ball rolling again!
Placement is not just about adult routine and long-term projects. It is also about skills, communication, joy and passion for your work! It helps you to understand if you are following the right path, which is extremely important and will definitely help you to identify your future career perspectives.
Instead of the third blog post, I have prepared a quick vlog for you about a day in the life of a placement student, revealing behind the scenes of the Marketing Department at Aston Students’ Union and introducing my amazing team!
New post = new lessons!
On my 4th month as marketing assistant placement I can now say that I am actually developing certain skills (yass) and enhancing my personality traits at the same time. I started getting the idea of what I enjoy doing and what my future career perspectives may be.
*Personal achievement*: I have finally pushed myself out of my comfort zone, stopped worrying about other people’s opinion and started asking my stupid questions lol. (I use the phone now, even though I hate it) #GreatSuccess
- When you have been told to volunteer.
- Similar to the moment when you’re busy but your mom asked you to help her out and you can’t say no despite not wanting to do any of that.
“Do you want to hand flyers around? *assigns you to the task without waiting for your response*”
When you’re a placement student in the company you will be given a lot of small easy tasks that would seem to be pointless and citing Chris’s first blog post “below your intellectual capabilities”. Well, what do we expect? Oh yeah, sure, companies should trust all the budget and the most important project to a person who just joined them and hasn’t even finished University yet. Just think of it as a group work at Uni: if from day 1 you’re solely responsible for the most complicated task, something is wrong… most probably the company you work for doesn’t exist…just like your Uni group mates’ teamwork skills.
My fourth advice: Always agree to whatever the task is you’re given. (you have no choice anyway lol) Even if you won’t learn much, you will maintain a good relationship, which is extremely important for many reasons. Later on, they will call you ‘hardworking’… (maybe)
I have been really lucky to visit Brighton for the Comms by the Coast conference, which was all about tricks and tips digital marketers can use nowadays applicable to pretty much any industry.
Despite all the interesting information I gathered from the conference, it wasn’t the most outstanding memory of my first ever trip to Brighton! I will describe it using 10 hashtags: #Seaside #WetVans #WarmWater #Pier #Gambling #Chris_DontKickTheBaby #George_DontRunAwayBossman #Aran_StopTheCarInTheMiddleOfTheMotorway #CarpoolKaraoke #FUN
My fifth advice: don’t list the alcoholic drinks you hate, just name the ones you like! In case someone else is buying the round.
Joking… This is indeed important when your team can’t memorise that one drink you like, but not the most valuable lesson learnt. Here’s the one: Use any opportunity to travel as well as spend time with your team outside of working hours. We live, we learn!
As a placement student, you will be facing some difficulties with the way you should approach the task, because of the lack of skills or knowledge. That’s absolutely fine! You’re here to learn!
Don’t get upset straight away and scream ‘It’s impossible!’ like if you’re trying to find a seat in the library during the exam session.
The struggle is natural! That’s how I’ve learnt about podcasting, writing CSS codes for the website and design works, using InDesign and Adobe Illustrator software. Since I am the only student on this placement position, I’ve been super lucky to work closely with the experienced professionals, writing down step-by-step all information about the operations I couldn’t manage on my own. (However, I’ve tried to replicate the trick in Photoshop Chris *the designer* showed me, but I failed, so I still do it in my unprofessional way – if it works, it works!)
The sixth advice: get involved! Even if you think that these skills are unrelated or not useful for your niche, still learn as much as you can! You never know, when you’d need it! Don’t hesitate to ask experienced co-workers for help, even if you have your own way of doing stuff, they may save you some time showing the most efficient and accurate way of completing the task.
Placement is an exciting time and it will massively benefit you in the future, so don’t miss any chances given, use them to the full extent!
I will leave the Freshers’ Week stories for my next post and let you continue with your applications for all these placement positions (You have already started applying, right?)
I believe that considering placement positions according to their ‘prestigiousness’ is an extremely outdated perspective. Overestimating brand name and underestimating your personality and preferences is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made!
I started applying relatively early and by the time when I secured my placement position I had already submitted more than 60 applications and received more than 40 declines. #sadlife
I was very stressed about receiving declines from huge companies with famous brand names. Here’s my first advice to all second-year students: don’t panic! If you were not invited to the assessment centre of an elite company, that doesn’t mean you’re less gifted than all other students, it means that there is someone else, who suits THEIR requirements better.
I ended up mainly choosing between JLR and Aston Students’ Union. JLR is an amazing company, but ignoring all advice, I went for something that I believed suited my personality and lifestyle the best!
That was definitely the best decision I could make!
My first days at placement were great, ignoring the fact that the only name I memorised was my boss’s name – George (his name is the most important one, right?). The team was nice and just one moment was suspicious at that time: why everyone keeps asking me about the way our marketing team behaves? It became clear when I heard Aran ‘I can’t pronounce your surname’ Khan’s jokes. (Sorry matey)
On a serious note, I could say that I have gained a lot of support from my team as well as additional benefits such as free lunches, work trips, free courses, marketing events, days off, access to licensed software, equipment and all rooms at the building.
At the first staff meeting, we had an ice-breaking exercise. I still have no clue how our ‘tallest tower’ turned into a giraffe, but I had to promise George that I am a better marketing assistant than an engineer.
The second advice is right there: networking! networking! networking!
If you have no clue how to approach the task, turn the situation in your favour; crack a joke and use your opportunity to build a relationship and learn from your mentors and co-workers!
That morning me and digital marketing manager (Aran) were waiting in the office for George to surprise him with the Birthday cake when we received a message about the building being blocked since there is a BOMB downstairs! Turned out it was the random student, who ran into the building and left his suitcase with shirts and socks on the ground floor until he is back from the shop.
WARNING! Never leave your suitcase on its own in the Aston Students’ Union building, unless you want the security to know the colour palette of your panties.
I use this story as a metaphor for my third advice: don’t put your decision making on hold for too long!
We all want to grab the best placement ever, but you could miss out on a great opportunity while waiting for your dream company to reply. In the worst case scenario, you may get rejected by the dream company, and live to regret waiting to hear from them. Don’t wait until the bomb explodes, make a decision and act!
Impact and changes
My placement position allows a lot of flexibility not only in terms of time schedule but also in the way I can approach tasks, which suits my management philosophy perfectly. I can literally go crazy with my creativity!
Loose organisational structure and smooth hierarchy make me feel like if I am a friend to my team rather than a co-worker. I am always encouraged to share my ideas and initiative, which so far lead to great changes.
Since I am the only placement student in the whole marketing department, I can easily track my progress as well as I feel that my opinion is heard and taken into consideration, impacting decisions of the organisation.
Responsibilities and results
In my first week, I had a one-to-one meeting with managers, asking what my expectations are and helping me to set placement goals. Therefore, my responsibilities are based on the experience I would like to gain. So far I have worked on many digital marketing projects, including the website and social media strategy development, improving my communication, event planning, content writing, designing, photography/videography skills.
For the first months, I have learnt a lot and I look forward to the future progress. If I will have something to complain about, I will make sure to share it with you, but hopefully, everything will be as smooth as it is now! #tobecontinued