This year I have the option to do up to one year in work placement. My award is a little strange in that the placement for me is optional. If I can’t find one I just transfer to the award that doesn’t require a placement and that’s that.
I initially jumped onto the placement bandwagon with enthusiasm. I’m getting such good feedback from the University that I figured I’d surely be able to find a good placement pretty early on. As time goes on however, I’m not finding this is at all the case.
The biggest problem it seems is me, or more specifically, my living situation. I can’t just up sticks and move like most students can, I’ve got a house and childcare issues. All the best placements for software development seem to be in Reading, Leamington Spa or London, that’s simply to far for me to commute. So I’m limited to the west midlands where the pickings, software wise, are pretty slim.
I polished up my CV and applied to everyone who was looking for something even remotely software orientated. Out of something like 20 applications I’ve only had a couple of interviews. Neither of them came to anything. One gave me no feedback at all and the other one told me to come back in a couple of months and then filled the position that I was supposed to come back for.
It’s like being back on the job hunt, only weirder. Where as before, if I wasn’t completely ignored by employers I was at least treated like a professional. It was assumed that I had the skills appropriate for the job and was occasionally asked to elaborate.
Going for a placement is all together more soul destroying. You still stand just as much chance at being ignored but now the interviewers treat you like, well… a student. I’ve been given full blown exams and hour long sessions of critically assessed programming. It’s stressful to say the least.
In their defence I’ve now had the pleasure of working with a variety of students for a couple of years and have, in that time, managed two group projects. If I was in there shoes I’d be testing candidates as well.
This week I had an interview for a role that I would be perfect for. All of my interests and experience are right on the money and the company is next door to the university. When interview day came I was quite nervous about what potential challenges awaited me, so much that I’d spend the days before pouring over all my past work trying to think of everything that I might be asked about or tested on. I even brushed up in my objective c, c# and c++ just to be safe.
As interviews go however this was about the most normal interview I’ve had since starting my degree. I was a relaxed and respectful and professional conversation. It was all very much, “This is what we do, this is what we want.” “This is what I’ve done, this what why I’m the man for the job.” a very familiar format and welcome relief from what I’ve come to expect from placement hunting.
I used to have a real knack for interviews. My trouble has always been getting my CV through to interview stage, without a degree it’s nearly impossible. There was a time when I could proudly state that if I got through to interview, then the job was mine. I seem to have lost that skill somewhere along the way. Maybe it’s just that I’m up against a higher calibre of competition now, I dunno.
I’m waiting to hear back from that interview them and I’m hopeful. Aside my compulsively pointing out every little bug or imperfection in my apps as I talked about them, I didn’t say anything that would have outright blown the interview. I was relaxed, professional and well prepared the whole way through. It’s nice to come away from the interview feeling good about it for a change. I’ve got another interview on the horizon as well so I’m not readying my award transfer papers just yet.