Making a strong impression while on industry placement can help open the door to graduate opportunities after leaving university.
That’s exactly the position Sam Hutchinson, a BSc Computer Science graduate at Hull, found himself in after he spent a year working with telecoms leader BT while studying at university.
Sam joined BT at its research and development headquarters in Suffolk as a software engineer, and examined the use of Cloud-based technologies to provide better broadband services to people living in remote, rural locations.
The year with BT has helped shape Sam’s future career after leaving Hull, and he has now joined the company on a prestigious graduate scheme.
“Gaining professional experience might impact your employability and success going forward”
Sam said: “The most important thing I learned from my placement was communication.
“I reported to managers with differing technical backgrounds, so it was imperative that I explained technical concepts from my work in a way which would make sense to them.
“When I also needed help from a member of my team, it was crucial that I clearly explained any technical issues that I couldn’t solve independently by searching the internet extensively.”
Sam said his eyes were first opened to the possibility of completing a year in industry while he was studying at sixth-form college.
He learned that gaining professional experience within a chosen field can improve the chances of finding work after university.
Sam was also inspired to take up a placement year after discovering students who complete industry years often achieve better grades during their final year at university.
He said: “I began looking (for a placement) around the beginning of my second year of university, when all the large enterprises such as BT open vacancies for their placements.
“I had searched online using websites such as RateMyPlacement, Prospects and talent.io to apply for industry placements. I also went to careers fairs hosted in partnership with the university to organise interviews with local companies in Hull too.
“I utilised the careers service at the university, booking myself onto CV/interview workshops being hosted by them as well as doing my own research outside of scheduled university hours to help significantly brush up my CV and interview technique.”
“Year in industry massively shaped my career decision”
Sam joined BT’s Software-Defined Networking (SDN) platforms team while working at the telecoms firm at its R&D headquarters, Adastral Park.
The team is responsible for the infrastructure which allows broadband connections for BT’s wholesale customers.
After completing his placement year with BT, Sam successfully applied to re-join the company on its technology graduate programme.
Sam said his year in industry had “massively shaped the decision,” and also cited opportunities within BT to further his education through professional and post-graduate certificates.
“Gaining professional experience might impact your employability and your success going forward,” Sam said.
“You can also use the year in industry to consider what you’d like to do in your final year in terms of module choices and your dissertation.
“My dissertation has spun off from my year in industry at BT.”
“My advice would be to consider yourself first”
Allowing yourself plenty of time to look and apply for placement years increases your chances of securing a role with a company you feel passionately about.
Sam added: “Begin looking early on in your second year as that’s when a lot of employers will open for job applications.
“Also, the earlier you apply in the process the better chance you have of securing a placement as companies will be slowly filling their spots as time goes on.
“A lot of students shy away from going for industry placements because it means they forfeit the opportunity to graduate alongside their friends or spend another year of university with them.
“My advice would be to consider yourself first.”