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Preparing for Placement
 
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When you enter the world of work, it will be necessary for you to communicate with colleagues, and others, in a clear, concise, and professional manner. This is an important skill regardless of the ...

When you enter the world of work, it will be necessary for you to communicate with colleagues, and others, in a clear, concise, and professional manner. This is an important skill regardless of the means of communication. For example, in addition to the inevitable report writing that will be required, it will also be expected that you are professional in your telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings with others, able to work as part of a team, make decisions and cope with tight deadlines.

As undergraduate engineers, many of you will be undertaking a work placement as part of your course requirements. The intention of this handout is to provide you with a global picture of the placement process with more detailed information on certain areas such as interviews and Curriculum Vitae (CV).

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    Preparing for Placement Preparing for Placement Document Transcript

    • Preparing for Placement Handout Dr. Glynis Perkin, G.Perkin@lboro.ac.uk Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (engCETL) Contents Preparing for Placement Handout.................................................................................1 Preparing for Placement................................................................................................2 1.Introduction.................................................................................................................2 1.1Benefits of a Year in Industry...............................................................................2 1.2Choosing your Placement.....................................................................................2 1.3 Finding your Placement.......................................................................................3 2.Practicalities...............................................................................................................4 2.1 Curriculum Vitae..................................................................................................4 2.1.1 Guidelines for a good CV..............................................................................4 2.2 Application Forms................................................................................................6 2.3 Covering Letters..................................................................................................7 2.4 Recruitment Procedures......................................................................................7 2.4.1 Interviews......................................................................................................7 2.4.2 Psychometric tests........................................................................................8 2.5 Terms of Employment..........................................................................................8 3.Important Considerations.........................................................................................10 3.1 Prior to Commencing your Placement...............................................................10 3.2 During your Placement......................................................................................10 References..................................................................................................................11 Credits.........................................................................................................................12 Please note that this resource is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation and is part of five workshops on Key Skills for Engineering Undergraduates. The workshops are:  Working in Groups – 90 - 120 minutes  Technical Report Writing - 90 minutes  Oral Presentations – 90 - 120 minutes  Sourcing Material and Writing a Literature Review – 90 - 120 minutes Please note there is also an introductory document providing general instructions on the workshops. © Loughborough University 2009. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.
    • Preparing for Placement 1. Introduction When you enter the world of work, it will be necessary for you to communicate with colleagues, and others, in a clear, concise, and professional manner. This is an important skill regardless of the means of communication. For example, in addition to the inevitable report writing that will be required, it will also be expected that you are professional in your telephone conversations and face-to-face meetings with others, able to work as part of a team, make decisions and cope with tight deadlines. As undergraduate engineers, many of you will be undertaking a work placement as part of your course requirements. The intention of this handout is to provide you with a global picture of the placement process with more detailed information on certain areas such as interviews and Curriculum Vitae (CV). 1.1 Benefits of a Year in Industry There are many benefits associated with undertaking a year in industry as part of your undergraduate programme. The number of UK graduates is steadily increasing so, when you graduate, it will be advantageous to demonstrate that you have been employed as a placement student. Most companies who are seeking to recruit graduate employees are more likely to employ those who already have industrial experience. Additionally, the company you are undertaking your placement with may offer you a permanent position and even provide a bursary while you complete your course. After completing your placement you will have gained an insight into the roles of employees in different jobs and indeed different departments; with this knowledge you will be well placed to decide on the career path you wish to pursue. On a more general note the time management and interpersonal skills that you develop in the work place are likely to be of benefit to you during your remaining time as an undergraduate. 1.2 Choosing your Placement This is often an overlooked area in which there are many factors to consider. Individual circumstances, background and aspirations will determine the most important criteria. For example, for an individual who ultimately wishes to gain employment with a particular company their main priority may well be to obtain a placement with this company. For others there may be considerations such as location, salary or a particular role within a company. It may be that the priority is to obtain any placement. This might be the case if obtaining a placement is a compulsory part of your undergraduate programme. 2
    • 1.3 Finding your Placement There is help and support available in your quest to obtain an industrial placement. Your department will have staff to assist you to find a placement and your Careers Centre will also have information on vacation work and placements. Other useful sites on the World Wide Web include Graduate Prospects and Target Jobs. There are several stages in the application process and there are many undergraduates seeking placements. By paying careful attention to the practicalities (see section 2) such as your CV you can improve your chances of obtaining a placement and obtaining one quickly. 3
    • 2. Practicalities This section will look at ways in which you can enhance your prospects of obtaining a placement and also look at the skills that employers are seeking. 2.1 Curriculum Vitae Loosely translated, curriculum vitae means the course of your life, however, this does not mean that you have to include your life history. It is a document that will detail pertinent information about you to a prospective employer. It is imperative that your CV is professional; therefore you will need to spend a considerable amount of time working on it. Not all employers require a CV; there is a growing tendency nowadays of many companies reverting to the use of an application form. There is a wealth of information on creating CVs, covering letters and attending interviews available at Loughborough University Careers Centre. Also available on the web site are several examples of CVs, including a one-page placement CV. 2.1.1 Guidelines for a good CV Your CV is primarily a marketing tool; it is a vehicle through which you can communicate pertinent information about yourself to a prospective employer and hopefully interest this person. Before rushing to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to computer keys) you must do some preliminary work. There is a lot of freely available information on how to write a CV, for example, in textbooks and within your Institution. You should also check whether your department has produced any guidelines on writing CVs. There are several styles of CV, however, the two most frequently used are: i) The traditional CV This is often referred to as chronological and, as this name suggests, it follows a logical order. After sections containing personal details and contact details it will list your educational qualifications followed by your employment history. These are both presented in a reverse chronology, i.e., your most recent employment is listed first. Other information such as your hobbies, interests and referees will also be included. This style of CV tends to be less time consuming to write than a skills-based CV, however, it does not have as much flexibility and it is more difficult to match your skills to a particular job. ii) The skills based CV. The skills based CV gives you more scope to match your skills/ experience to those required for a particular position. Additionally you may include a personal profile of yourself, which should be a strong 'selling point'. The aim is to interest the employer and make them feel that you are the person for the job. 4
    • Regardless of the style of CV you adopt, it is still possible to gear your CV to a particular vacancy. One way to do this is to read both the job specification and the person specification thoroughly and then underline or highlight all the important key words. When you write your CV (matching it as far as you are able to the requirements) use as many of these key words as possible. Unless you are applying for an academic position your CV should typically consist of no more than two pages, printed on one side only. Once you have produced your CV, you will need to update it frequently to show new skills you have gained or qualifications you have obtained. The following information needs to be included on your CV: • Full name • Address, both home and term time if relevant • Telephone number(s) • email address • Education, mention modules or projects that are relevant to the vacancy • Employment history, including voluntary work • Referees It is also usual to include your date of birth; once you have included your education history and employment history an employer can work out approximately how old you are. Since 2006, legislation prohibits employers from age-related discrimination. Under education you do not need to list all your individual GCSE subjects and grades, you are reading for a degree therefore these qualifications will not be of great importance to a prospective employer. It is appropriate to write, for example: • 9 GCSE’s grades A* - C including Mathematics and English Regarding employment history, it is not only paid employment that is important. For example, if you have been active in the student union, in your halls of residence or in a sport-related capacity this is likely to be of far more interest to a prospective employer than your vacation work in a supermarket or factory, unless of course you are trying to obtain employment with a company you have already worked for. Another important point is that you must ask potential referees if they are willing to provide you with a reference if required. This is common courtesy and it is important that you do not list anyone who has not agreed to act as a referee for you. As well as academic qualifications, employers also look for a range of personal attributes; whilst many of these might vary from job to job there are others that, at undergraduate and graduate levels, will definitely be sought. Some examples of these personal attributes are: • ability to make decisions and solve problems • ability to work in a team • ability to communicate effectively • willingness to learn. It is your own particular strengths that you need to demonstrate on your CV; your strengths will ultimately suggest the most appropriate career path. 5
    • You can also make use of action phrases and action verbs to enhance your CV. Some examples of action verbs: achieved, designed, identified, and produced. Examples of action phrases, which of course will be linked to your particular strengths: consistently achieved ..., solely managed ..., determination and drive to ensure timely completion of... Your CV must be inviting to read. This means that it must be well laid out, it must not appear cluttered, and it must not be fussy, i.e., lots of different font styles and sizes. You should avoid lengthy paragraphs of text - one way to do this is to make use of bullet points. Ensure that if you use any abbreviations you first define them, for example, International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE). It is imperative that your CV is grammatically correct and does not contain any typing or spelling mistakes. Once you have produced your CV it is a good idea to ask a friend to proof read it and comment on it. Your Careers Centre is also likely to provide help with CVs. When printing your CV make sure that you use good quality paper and a good printer. If you need to send a covering letter (see section 2.3) use the same paper for the covering letter and your CV to ensure your application is professional in appearance. As mentioned earlier, when you apply for a job you will need to tailor your CV to demonstrate how well your background matches the requirements. It is therefore important, especially if you send off several applications, to remember which version of your CV you have sent to each company. It may be helpful if you keep all information relating to each job application in an individual folder. 2.2 Application Forms Although it is essential that you have an up-to-date CV, many companies who changed their recruitment process from the use of application forms to that of CVs, have now reverted to using an application form. In this way they can ask the questions that are important to them. Most companies use on-line application forms. It is possible to practice completing on-line application forms using select simulator. The same care must be taken regardless of the application process. It is important that your grammar and spelling are exemplary and, in the case of a handwritten application form, it must be neat and not have any crossing out or correction fluid on it. The best approach is to take a photocopy of the form or, in the case of on-line applications, print the form. Ensure that you read all the small print and any accompanying guides for completing the form. For example, you may be requested to use black ink. McBride (1996) contains a very informative chapter on job application forms with some humorous examples of mistakes that applicants have made. 6
    • 2.3 Covering Letters If you are sending your CV to prospective employers either in response to an advertised placement or speculatively in the hope that they have a vacancy you will also need to send a covering letter. Your covering letter provides a brief (no more than one side of A4) opportunity for you to 'sell yourself' and should encourage the person reading it to read your CV. It is your chance to make your application stand out amongst what may be hundreds of others. If you are applying for a particular position ensure that you address the following points in your letter: • the position you are applying for, where you saw it advertised and the reference number if one was given. • match relevant areas of your expertise and personal qualities to those required. • why you are interested in working for the organisation • when you are not available for interview (i.e., examination dates) If you are sending your CV out speculatively then it is important to determine the name of an appropriate person in the organisation so that you can post your CV to him or her and personalise your covering letter. A covering letter should be completed using a word processing package unless you are instructed to include a handwritten one. 2.4 Recruitment Procedures The recruitment procedure may necessitate your participation in one or more of the following: psychometric testing, personality questionnaires, delivering an oral presentation, role-play, group work, in addition to an interview. Sections 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 provide information on interviews and psychometric testing. 2.4.1 Interviews Interviews may be conducted by one person or a panel of interviewers and may be held on campus, at the employer's business, at an assessment centre or by telephone. Detailed information on interviews, with examples of commonly asked questions and a sample programme for an assessment centre interview, may be found at Loughborough University Careers Centre. There are many ways to prepare for your interview; six suggestions are given next. i) Make sure that you know exactly where you are going and how long you need to allow for the journey. Ensure that you leave enough time to take into account congested roads or failure of public transport to arrive on time. Most people are nervous at the prospect of an interview and you do not want to 7
    • increase your anxiety levels by being in danger of arriving late. You MUST arrive on time. ii) Decide what you are going to wear and check that it is clean, in a good state of repair and fits well. You should dress smartly. iii) Undertake practice interviews with a friend or friends. This way you can generate questions and decide how you can answer them to the best of your ability. iv) You should have done some research on the company. Prepare a few pertinent questions that you can ask at the interview to demonstrate that you have some knowledge about the company. v) Be prepared for unusual questions. vi) Take your certificates, module marks and evidence of completed project work with you in addition to a copy of your CV and your completed application form. It is important to remember that you are on show for the whole time you are at the Company or Assessment Centre. If there are any social events, such as evening drinks with recent graduate employees, it is important that you treat this as part of the interview even if you are told that this does not form part of the selection process. It is not a good idea to grab as many free drinks as you can - your behaviour will be observed. At the end of your interview remember to thank your interviewer. 2.4.2 Psychometric tests Psychometric tests are frequently used by employers as part of their recruitment process. They may be paper-based or completed online. There are two main types of these tests, the aptitude test and the personality test or questionnaire. These enable an employer to determine how well you match the requirements for the job both in terms of matching your strengths to the job requirements and your personality to that required for the job/team or company. There are many tests available on the World Wide Web. For example, SHL offers advice on assessment procedures and has practice tests available for you to try. A word of warning: do not try to guess the profile that the company is looking for. Some of these tests are quite lengthy with similar questions posed in subtly different ways, it will be apparent if you have not been honest as the results will show a high level of inconsistency. 2.5 Terms of Employment It is important that you clarify a number of points before accepting the offer. You need to be informed in writing of the length of your placement, the location of your placement, your hours of work, your salary and your holiday entitlement. You also 8
    • need to know to whom you must report on your first day and to whom you will report directly when you have taken up your duties. You should also be given a job description. 9
    • 3. Important Considerations Before you start your placement and during your placement there are aspects that need consideration. 3.1 Prior to Commencing your Placement One important consideration is the cost of accommodation in the area of your placement. There will be a significant difference between the cost of living in the South of England and that in the North of England. If your placement is in or close to London then due to the high cost of accommodation close to central London you may find yourself living well outside the city and this will inevitably incur high commuting costs. There is also the time that you will spend commuting to be considered. Make sure that you attend any pre-placement sessions organised by your university department to ensure that you are as well informed about the placement process as you can be. 3.2 During your Placement Remember that you have probably obtained your placement as a result of other students successfully completing a placement at the company. It is important that your performance in the workplace is exemplary. This will obviously be of personal benefit to you, you may be offered a permanent position and ideally you will want a good reference from the company. Unsatisfactory performance may result in the company not taking placement students in the future and it will also reflect badly on the company's image of your University and may even prejudice them against recruiting graduates from your Institution. It is also worth keeping in mind the fact that your employer has invested both time and money into your placement position. Murray and Wallace (2001:10) aptly head a section in their publication on industrial placements as "The Partnership - Company, University, Student". First impressions really do count, so before your first day determine how long it will take you to get to the workplace. Arrive punctually and appropriately dressed throughout your placement. Remember that you are an employee and behave like one. This means getting on with the job, showing initiative, being professional and responsible. Keep a written record or log to help you with your placement report. Work undertaken during your placement such as presentations and reports, provided they are not confidential, provide evidence of your achievements. If anything does go wrong, speak to your supervisor as soon as possible and if necessary your placement tutor – do not just walk out. Finally, enjoy your placement, develop your skills and identify any areas you need to focus on to become more effective. 10
    • References Graduate Prospects – graduate recruitment specialists. Available via the World Wide Web at: http://www.prospects.ac.uk/cms/ShowPage/Home_page/Jobs_and_work_main_men u/p!eglLpk (accessed on 13th April 2010). Loughborough University Careers Centre. Available via the World Wide Web at: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/service/careers/section/careers_service/welcome.html (accessed on 13th April 2010). McBride, P. (1996). CVs and Applications. Hobsons Publishing plc, Cambridge, UK. Murray, P & Wallace, R. (2001) Good Practice in Industrial Work Placement. LTSN Physical Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, UK. Select Simulator – preparing you for online applications. Available via the World Wide Web at: http://www.selectsimulator.com/ (accessed on 13th April 2010). SHL - practice assessment tests. Available via the World Wide Web at: http://www.shl.com (accessed on 13th April 2010). Target Jobs – graduate jobs and work experience. Available via the World Wide Web at: http://targetjobs.co.uk/graduate-jobs/ (accessed on 13th April 2010). 11
    • Credits This resource was created by Glynis Perkin, Loughborough University and released as an open educational resource through the Open Engineering Resources project of the HE Academy Engineering Subject Centre. The Open Engineering Resources project was funded by HEFCE and part of the JISC/HE Academy UKOER programme. © Loughborough University 2009 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. The name of Loughborough University and the logo are the name and registered marks of Loughborough University. To the fullest extent permitted by law Loughborough University reserves all its rights in its name and marks which may not be used except with its written permission. The JISC logo is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence. All reproductions must comply with the terms of that licence. The HEA logo is owned by the Higher Education Academy Limited may be freely distributed and copied for educational purposes only, provided that appropriate acknowledgement is given to the Higher Education Academy as the copyright holder and original publisher. 12