Laura Ougden is a BSc (Hons) Business Management student at the University of Plymouth. Here she shares her experiences, top tips and advice on the benefits of a placement year, after spending 12 months working on placement at Volkswagen Financial Services (VWFS) in Milton Keynes.
Putting the theory into practice
I found the placement, like the majority of the placements I applied for, on the ratemyplacements website. LinkedIn was also a valuable source of potential contacts. The application process included an online application, a video interview and an applicant day. For this, I had to pre-prepare a 10 minute presentation on 'why I wanted to work for VWFS' . This was then followed by an hour-long group task and a 30 minute interview, so it was a very in depth process!
When I left, they had to create a new role to take on my workload.
As a Fleet Business Performance Undergraduate, I predominantly worked with three different teams in the Fleet Department: Fleet Finance, Reporting, Quality and Insights and Fleet Pricing and Planning. The majority of my work came under the Pricing and Planning Team where I worked on ad hoc reporting for the sales team (forecast, margin and budget analysis), audits (tactical spend and procedures) and also taking ownership of the month end reporting for our company MFS (MAN Financial Services).
I didn't fully know what area of business I was interested in
The placement was structured on a rotational basis meaning I had the opportunity to work within four different teams. This suited me as I didn't know what area of business I wanted to focus on once I graduated so it enabled me to decide which disciplines I liked or hated in preparation for applying to graduate schemes.
When researching your own placement, I would recommend looking for a scheme that has been perfected over many years, like the one at VWFS, as it provided me with a real opportunity to develop my skill set with training in applications and transferable skills.
“ A day in a life
Each day was different, which I loved! I had no mundane and repetitive tasks meaning that I had the opportunity to work on a host of different projects. I would tend to come into work in the mornings and have a project given to me by my manager. This could be a month's worth of work, or a project that could be turned over in a day. The scope also varied from ad hoc reporting to taking ownership of a project that meant controlling the input of new system measurements to enable better departmental reporting.
I relished the challenge of being given projects which truly made a difference in the workplace rather than doing the small jobs I had expected to be given as a student. The biggest benefit hands down has to be these two things: firstly, the drive it gives you when going into your final year; I was at the library everyday hard working, and secondly the experience it gives you on your CV when applying for graduate jobs. Not only this, but in some cases like myself, you can leave your placement company knowing that you can potentially walk straight into a graduate role.
I was making a difference, not just making the tea!
It sounds obvious, but do your research on the company before applying. Companies can spot a generic application letter instantly so include some facts and information about the organisation and respond to any requested application questions.
Look deeper - try to find things like company values and prepare answers for how you align with them. From my experience companies love that!