As soon as I found out that Charlotte Godley, one of our students, had landed a placement at Airbus Industries I made a mental note to ask her to do a Rather Useful Seminar on her experience when returned to the department. Today she came along and gave that seminar.
It was excellent.
Charlotte started with reasons why you should take a placement for a year. (it just makes you all round more awesome) and reasons why not (it is hard work, and you might get out of step with chums in your cohort who will graduate just as you come back). Then she spoke about the best way to get a placement. I think her approach really boils down to three words.
Have a plan.
Having a plan means things like finding out about a company and tailoring your CV and accompanying letter to chime with what they do. It means thinking about the kind of questions you might get asked at interview and coming up with some really good questions of your own for the company. It means preparing for careers events and making hit lists of companies to target. But most important, it means giving some thought to what you really want to do in your future.
A placement is a great way to find out if you really want to work in a large company, or write Python programs, or travel the world in a van solving mysteries (my favourite). It is also a great way to learn the ways of work, where suddenly everyone around you is not the same generation as you and everything stops at 5:30 leaving you exhausted but looking for things to occupy yourself with.
Charlotte gave a very good description of these issues and the fact that there were so many detailed questions at the end of the session was a testament to how well the material had been delivered. She has put her slides up on her blog, and I've asked if she wouldn't mind doing a screencast of the deck, as I'm sure it would be useful to all our students.