Elements of a great placement

I have often been asked what makes a great placement, and although I’ve not published this before, the list below is a combination of the best practice I have witnessed and recommendations I propose.WorkPlacementsDoneWell Continue reading


Don’t be deterred by contractual obligations

Employers – Are you thinking about starting a placement scheme? Great! Are you worrying about the long-term commitment? Don’t!

Organisations considering running a program of undergraduate placements sometimes worry that it will be a long-term commitment. Such fear can completely destroy any prospect of creating a placement scheme. It’s good to remember that these things don’t have to last forever.

Man Signing Contract

[Image courtesy of forbes.com] Continue reading

Be different – stand out

One of the questions I am most frequently asked when I’m speaking to students, is “How do I stand out from all the other students? We’re all applying for the same jobs, and we all have the same qualifications“. It is a fair question to ask – with supply exceeding demand employers tend to be picky. Very picky.

Be-Different-3 What practical steps can a student take? Actually, it is surprisingly easy. Continue reading

It’s a bit like carrying an organ donor card

Stats from the NHS suggest that whilst more than 94% of us would expect to benefit from a donor organ should the need arise, only 29% of us carry an organ donor card.  Similarly, only 4% of the UK population give blood – a staggeringly low proportion given the personal “cost”.

When unleaded fuel was first introduced to the UK in the late 1980’s, the takeup was very slow.  This was partly owing to the engine-tuning changes which were needed, but even when new cars were compatible with unleaded, the takeup remained stubbornly slow.  It was only when unleaded became significantly cheaper than the alternative, that it began to change, and unleaded sales overtook leaded and diesel.  Drivers could directly feel the benefit for themselves, immediately.

We all understood then, that it was a good idea to switch to unleaded, just like we all understand now, that it’s a good idea to carry a donor card.  So what are we waiting for?  It seems we need to feel the effects of the gain personally before believing it, and deciding how to behave.  The debate in the UK over whether or not we should have an opt-out system (rather than the current opt-in) will no doubt continue whilst we consider civil liberties, rights, information security and such.  But I’m fairly sure that if you told someone who was suddenly critically in need of a donor organ, that they could only receive the organ if they themselves held a donor card, they would sign up instantly.  In this case it’s easy to feel the gain personally, and the resultant behaviour is easy to predict.

Is this why we have so few placements available for students?  Employers aren’t actually feeling any real pain, so they don’t do anything about it?  Can we make it more painful for them unless they create places?  Or, better, is there something we could do which makes them feel the benefits as soon as they create places?  Doing something might be more effective than waiting and hoping for the best.

Gosh, it must be so hard for those at the NHS who encourage us to donate blood or organs – they must encounter so much apathy!  I feel for them.

Footnote – as a result of this, my immediate personal action is to register with both services.  Doesn’t take much thinking about really, does it?

It’s not fair. Let’s just accept that, and determine to make it fairer.

Young people looking for work are regularly faced with the problem of needing experience in order to get a job, but they can’t get a job without experience – the “chicken and egg” situation which we all recognise.

Employers regularly talk of graduates and school-leavers who are looking for work but don’t have any real-world experience.  Again, this is something we recognise.  It’s not unnatural for employers to expect some experience, after all, there are inevitably some young people who have managed to acquire experience “somehow”, albeit probably unrelated to their chosen field.

It’s absolutely not fair, and it can’t be right.  The problem is that we’re so used to the idea that “life isn’t fair”, that we justify this situation to ourselves and take no action to improve it.  The result is that we continue the stand-off, and nobody wins.

Here’s a radical thought…  Let’s accept that it’s not fair.  But at the same time, why not do something to make it fairer?

  • Employers who seek experience in young recruits should also be prepared to offer places where experience can be acquired
  • Employers should offer places on a “no experience needed” basis

This is a little like the idea of “for every tree we chop down, we plant at least one to replace it”Because we value experience, we help create it.

Employers should take a share of the responsibility for creating the experience.

  • It needn’t be costly
  • It needn’t be time-consuming
  • It needn’t be a major commitment

It will never be completely fair, but employers can (and should) make it fairer.