Just smile and wave!
Name: Mario Ramić
Course: BSc International Business and Management
Placement Position: Product Strategy and Pricing Intern
Location: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Chichester, UK
What is the point of a placement?
Ok, let’s assume you got a placement and you finished your first few months there. If you are not a completely useless human being you will probably find yourself confident in your daily tasks and in a pretty comfortable routine. Then a question might creep into your mind. What is the point of all this? Am I really learning or am I just existing in an office answering email and practicing to become the world champion of small talk? Since it is winter (a fact that makes it 10 times harder to get out of bed) you need to motivate yourself. Thankfully, you don’t need to actually use your brain to think of reasons why. That’s why they (don’t) pay me to write this blog. So here are the 3 main reasons I thought of:
1) Learn by exploring
If you have no personal development plan yet, make it! You can find out more on how to create it in my last post. When you’re on your placement you have the opportunity to find out which area of business you like the most because you can see how it’s done in real life. At University they teach you the theory, here you can experience how it’s done in practice. You can explore the various departments and business units within your company. Explore and see what you like. Since you have no experience (hence, no real value to the business) you don’t need to limit yourself only to projects relating to your department.
2) Unique selling point
Every successful business has its unique selling point. It has that one thing, area, department, feature, etc. that separates them from the rest. Find it and learn how to do it well! For example, my company has the greatest ability to create a sense of luxury connected to the brand. If you work for Toyota, try and learn how kaizen works, if you are in a consulting firm you can learn how to solve various problems in a team setting. The point is, learn what makes the company you work for special and how their employees achieve that.
3) Don’t do “networking” – just hang out with people like a normal human being
The mistake I saw most interns and graduates make was going into “networking mode”. This mythical state of oversensitivity to other people’s jokes, permanent fake smile and the attitude of an abandoned child screaming for attention is what some of the “ambitious” interns and graduates consider to be the holy grail of placement year. This gets easily noticed by every manager (or person, for that matter) in their vicinity. You come across as fake and obnoxious, usually. I was very lucky to have gotten a mentor that is excellent at networking and the main thing that I learned is that he never seems like he is trying to do networking. Rather, he is trying to make people laugh and have a good time speaking to him. Always remember that you need to provide value to the person you are speaking to. Because you are an intern, the chances of using status as your value are very slim (no manager has so far been impressed by my title “The Great Product Intern, Slayer of Excel and King of Pie Charts”). Instead, you can provide value with your intelligence (always share your ideas, they will really respect you if you manage to improve something) and humour. Finally, even if you don’t really do well at networking, don’t worry, if you don’t see yourself in the company you did your placement in, you won’t need to network much anyways.
Thank you for reading through another one of my blog posts, you are a true inspiration since I don’t even read them after I write them.
Make a plan!
The first month of your placement will be exciting! You will constantly get to know new people and will be on your toes in order to leave the best impression with everyone. You will learn an amazing amount of information within a short period.
And then the second month comes…
At a certain point during your second month you will wake up (sober) and throw your phone into a wall in a desperate attempt to stop the alarm going off. You will realise the fact you’ve been avoiding… you’re an adult now!
You knew this was coming. You’re in the adult world now, which means you have responsibility to both society and yourself to define what kind of person you want to be. You need to make a plan!
Since you have to go to work every day you won’t have much time to party and go wild. This gives you a great opportunity to improve your life and figure out what you want to be. I will give you 4 simple steps I took, and an example of what I do.
Step 1. Create a Personal Philosophy
This seems like a completely unnecessary step but believe me, it is the most important one because this will help you stick to your plan. Write down 5 things that you would improve in the world if you could. From those things you can deduct what your values are. Next, start building your personal mission statement around those values. Your philosophy needs to answer one fundamental question “What do I want to contribute to society?” This will lead you to act altruistically instead of just acting in your own self-interest.
The hard truth is that you will inevitably change the world, your actions will affect the world around you whether you like it or not and you are the one who can decide whether these changes will be the ones you want or if they will be random.
Step 2. Set Goals
Now that you know how you can affect society in the long term, you need to set goals in the short term. Think what you want to achieve within one year. Write down all the things you would like and then pick 3 (or less) most realistic goals. For example, I am trying to read 40 books, perfect my German and improve my physical capabilities so that I get in the best shape of my life by the end of my placement.
Step 3. Identify actions
Now you need to analyse your goals and identify specific weekly/daily actions to achieve them. In my case, to read 40 books per year, I listen to audiobooks while commuting, which easily gets me through one book per week. In order to practice my German I constantly read news articles on BMW’s intranet and speak to German colleagues. Finally, to get into great shape, I go to the gym 6 days per week (appx. 45 min strength and 30 min cardio) and I cook every night for the next day as well as avoid alcohol to make sure my nutrition is aligned with my fitness goals.
Step 4. Establish a routine
Now you need to break your activities down into hours and fit them into your weekly schedule. In my case it looks like this: I wake up at 7am, finish work by 5pm, go to the gym, come home by 8pm, cook until 9pm, watch Netflix until 11pm and then get angry at myself for not being able to fall asleep until 12:30am.
Step 5. Follow the routine.
If you’re like me, then you like setting ambitious goals. This can often be overwhelming. The most important thing is to follow through even if you are tired, because then you develop a habit. Don’t quit if you fail. It’s ok to fail; just remember to get back into the routine the next day. Remember the first step and why you are doing it. If it helps, visualise yourself 10 years in the future with your dreams coming true.
In the hopes that you find this text useful, I will leave you with a quote I read from a book written by the founder of PayPal and famous Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One “All of us have to work toward a definite future… that can motivate and inspire people to change the world.”
Hello Aston! My name is Mario Ramić and I’m studying International Business and Management. I am currently doing my placement year as a Product Strategy and Pricing Intern at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in Chichester, UK.
I will be blogging about my placement experience for the next year, hoping to give some useful advice to all the second year students trading their nights out for long evenings of filling out boring placement applications.
Since this is my first post, I would like to reflect on how I got where I am right now and try to give you some advice on what I’ve learned while doing (and observing other people doing) countless applications, interviews and assessment centres.
Advice #0) Polish the basics.
Seriously, before I give any other advice, just remember to polish your CV and write a generic cover letter about how interested you are in company x and how their product x appeals to you on a deep personal level (think of it as a love letter). Also, you will need to make a lot of applications and follow through on them, so I suggest making a professional sounding email account just for placements.
Advice #1) Have some fun!
As you will learn through this blog post, placement search is a stressful period in every Aston student’s life, only comparable to the stresses of deadlines and Tesco closing. This means that you will need a serious amount of banter and caffeine to get through all the rejections. My suggestion is grabbing a meal deal at Greggs (they have stronger coffee) and going with your mates to the library for the specific purpose of applying for placements. This not only gives you support with rejections but can improve your knowledge of what companies want you to say if your friends passed that stage. Plus, you can make fun of all the dumb questions companies will ask you.
Advice #2) Don’t get frustrated!
When I started applying for placements, I thought getting a good placement is like scoring a penalty – everyone gets it and you really have to be unlucky and/or incompetent not to get one. After applying for a year and seeing some extremely intelligent and hardworking people not getting them, I realised it’s more like scoring a goal from 40 meters while blindfolded and with a broken foot. What I mean by that is that it is about 80% luck. You will see some people with the intellectual capacity of a drunk chicken get great placements early on, while some really bright people will struggle to get them until the very end. This will make you wonder if the whole recruitment process is just completely random and will make you want to go to Gosta instead of the library. This is the worst thing you can do! And here is why…
Advice #3) Quantity over quality!
I mentioned that getting a good placement is 80% luck…well, kind of. While assessment centres and later stage interviews are something you really need to prepare for, the first applications are basically a lottery (unless you need to do tests). So approach this problem statistically – every ticket you put in the lottery increases your chances of winning. Everyone I know that got a respectable placement did over 100 applications. Don’t worry if they are not perfect; one of my friends once accidentally sent a cover letter he wrote for a different company from a whole different industry and still managed to pass to the next stage somehow!
Advice #4) Smile and wave.
After using this advice I was flooded with assessment centres. By March, I had final stage interviews and assessment centres with the likes of Morgan Stanley, Fidelity, Microsoft, SAP, HP and many more. In the first few, I tried so hard to show how good I am that it blew up in my face. Every time I would go to an assessment centre and talk about reading a book every week or trying to analyse their business model I would get rejected and the job would go to the quietest person there. Thankfully, I learned my lesson. As soon as I adopted the behaviour of a plant (just sitting there and not doing much), I started getting job offers left and right. I still don’t know why that is the case, but every challenge will leave you with some mysteries.
Advice #5) Networking!
Not much to add to the title of this paragraph, just pop out your Linkedin and try to add everyone you meet, from the cleaning lady to the CEO. (Although, try not to be annoying, do it with class).
I hope that everyone that reads this finds it useful at some point. Good luck in your placement search!
Until next time!