It’s summertime and the odd patches of sun in Britain are causing our great nation to strip off and bare all, but do you know what the students in the know are doing? They’re brushing off their work attire and knuckling down to a summer placement. Why? Because if you want to land that graduate job, doing a summer placement is a great way to improve your chances.
What is a summer placement & why should I do one?
Summer placements are the love child of a summer internship and an industrial placement. Whilst a summer internship might only last a few weeks, a placement has got summer covered. Lasting between ten and 12 weeks, many companies use summer placements as a sort of extended job interview, inviting the best candidates back to take a role with the company after graduation, or fast-tracking them in the graduate recruitment process.
In short, summer placements are an excellent way of gaining great work experience, getting a foot in the door of a company, improving your commercial awareness, developing technical skills and building up contacts in your industry of choice.
What sort of companies run summer placements?
The kind of companies offering paid, structured summer placements tend to be large and medium-sized companies, usually offering roles in business, sales, engineering, science, marketing, law or financial services. You can find out which large graduate recruiters offer summer placements and vacation schemes by browsing our employer profiles.
Some research institutes and universities also offer summer placement opportunities for students studying STEM subjects in the form of lab placements or summer studentships.
How do I apply for a summer placement?
The responsibility of finding and applying for a summer placement lies in your hands, but there is plenty of help out there. You university careers service should be one of your ports of call and plenty of universities have a dedicated placement team too. You can also have a look at the AllAboutCareers placements job board for more opportunities.
Make sure you research companies properly and find out exactly what the placement will involve. When looking for summer placements, you should consider: the company (the size of it, the location, the level of support it offers and its ethos), the sector (do you want to work in a particular sector or in a particular department of a large business?) and the particular skills that you would like to develop.
The application process usually involves filling out an online application form on the company’s website or sending a CV and a covering letter. If your initial application is successful, then you’ll probably be invited for an interview. Alternatively, depending on the size of the company, you could be invited to an assessment centre.
There can be intense competition for places on summer placements and most companies will have a stringent set of academic requirements that you’ll have to meet, such as a certain number of UCAS points and a certain standard of academic achievement at degree level (e.g. have achieved a 2:1 so far), so always check to make sure you fit the criteria.
If you have some more informal work experience in the bag already it might help your application, as will relevant extra-curricular activities and voluntary work. Employers often ask for a set of skills and for evidence that you have them, so those sorts of things will give you good ammo to answer the situational-based questions that you might be asked you in your application.
You’ll probably need to apply well in advance, as plenty of companies close their deadlines seven months or more before the placement starts.
Will I be paid?
The good news is that most summer placements at large companies will be paid. Unpaid summer placements, if they are not part of your higher education course, are illegal. For more information about this, read our Know Your Rights article.