Uni // Applying For A Fashion Placement Year

Like a lot of fashion students, last year I had to go through the stress inducing and emotional process of applying for an industrial 12 month placement as part of my University degree. When I first accepted my University program in International Fashion Marketing, I was naive to believe that everyone just gets a placement and it was a certainty as part of the course. Only in my second year where I was going through the process of placement applications did I realise how wrong I was

My application journey

To learn that on average, only 60% of students are offered a placement struck me with panic; will I be good enough to be offered a placement? what will happen if I can’t find one? What happens if I graduate and I have to go against people with this experience that I failed to achieve? To think my future and success in the industry could very well rest on me succeeding in finding a placement and getting such vital experience before I have even finished my second year definitely added a lot of stress, not only to me, but to everyone in the same situation with the same thoughts running through their heads. You are suddenly competing with the people you sit with, go out with, maybe even live with; you can feel everyone’s determination to be the ones to get the job.
As soon as I started my second year, it was drilled into us to apply for everything that comes through, build portfolios, practice assessment tests, thoroughly research the companies and do everything in your power to stand out from other candidates. You are literally thrown in at the deep end. Not only do you have to do all this, but you have to concentrate on uni work, maybe even hold down a job and try to get some work experience on the side to increase your chances. It does spread your time very thinly, do I spend my day filling out this application form and completing online tests in the hope that I get an interview or do I spend this spare time doing the report that counts towards my degree?
When you put your time and effort into making your applications as passionate and impressive as possible, sometimes having to go through multiple choice questionnaires, written interview questions, and several online tests before you even get a telephone interview, let alone a face to face one you begin to think will it really be worth it? As many people will know, for companies to not even let you know you were unsuccessful and to hear off other students that they have been contacted for assessment centres is very disheartening and you do think you have completely wasted your time and could have done that report or revision instead.
But then, there’s that glorious moment when you get that email that says you’ve been invited to that interview, you feel you have finally got a real chance! I must have applied for about 15-20 roles and out of it I got 1 video interview, 1 interview and 2 assessment centres.
My first assessment centre was in January last year, 3 months after starting applying for roles. the group tasks went well, but once I was by myself I crumbled, what were the answers they wanted me to say? how have I lead people? how have i persuaded people to choose my ideas? I became hesitant and waffled, I just didn’t know how to answer these questions as I had been solely researching about the company and didn't even think about my own skill set. Of course I didn't proceed any further with that interview process. A few weeks passed and I had a video interview for a company, having to talk to a webcam naturally with a question flashing up on the screen was very unnerving, no interviewer to bounce off and read their reactions, although you were allowed 30 seconds to prepare an answer. I am naturally very shy and introverted so I know this inhibited me in these interviews, I have the knowledge and determination to be an ideal candidate but I just couldn’t put this across in words, I just wanted to be given a chance to prove myself properly and not based on how I could answer random questions.
A couple of months passed and I was getting no responses from applications and started to panic, maybe I would be in the 40% that just don’t get a placement? Should I have just gave up then? I was determined and tried to keep positive, I changed my tactics and decided to try and source my own placement as well as apply for ones advertised, hoping I would have a better chance applying at smaller companies.
A few weeks passed and  In the space of a few days I had a PR interview and a marketing assessment centre lined up, as well as a work experience week and a possible sourced placement with a buying office in the process. First of all was my PR interview, I live in Manchester and travelled all the way to London for it. The 'interview' itself involved a 10 minute group task and a 10 minute interview. I spent a week putting a portfolio together for them to haphazardly flick through it, could they really pick someone based on this short amount of time? After everyone had been interviewed they then chose 4 people they wanted to interview again in front of everyone who they didn’t want, including me, by this time I was just expecting to be automatically rejected.
A couple of weeks passed and I was emailed by the buying office with my sourced placement forms, finally! All I needed now was for my University to approve this. A couple of weeks later was the start of my work experience with the buying office and I still hadn't heard off my University, will they approve it? what shall I say to the buying office when they start asking if its been approved? Anyway, I got on with my work experience and loved my first taste of working in a proper industry related role, a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of computer work, but very very interesting!
Finally last April, 7 months after I first began applying for my placement year, i finally got that email off Uni that I had been craving “you are now officially allowed to accept your placement”. That weight of worry and anxiety that I had been carrying around for months had finally been lifted off my shoulders and was ecstatic that my efforts had finally paid off. I could finally relax and didn't have to continue applying whilst having to revise for my end of year exams and no longer have to face the uncertainty about what I will be doing the following year; do I still hold out for a placement or do I sort out my living arrangements for final year?

My advice

I have now been on my placement for nearly 7 months and I can't believe how time has flown! To think this time last year I was preparing for my first few interviews is crazy, but I'm so glad that it's over and done with, I really didn't enjoy the stress looking for a placement year brought me at all! I just hope that when I graduate that this year will really help me to stand out and give me better career prospects than if I had just gone on to my final year of uni. I know at this point there will still be 2nd year fashion students who face this uncertainty and my advice to you is don’t give up yet! there are still so many opportunities out there and you have to keep on trying. I didn't secure my placement until April and I've been there where I've felt like giving up and accepting the fact that I won’t be getting a placement and come through the other side and soldiered on. A lot of companies will not have even advertised their placements yet and a lot wait until April to work out how many placement they are financially able to offer! Don’t just rely on the advertisements the University provide, email companies if they provide any paid placements, not just retail brands but PR companies, marketing companies and independent brands, they will be wanting fresh young influences on their brand! I sourced my own placement in the end so I would highly recommend emailing companies you have an interest in working with and see what they can offer you, you won't know unless you email them.
It may sound weird but twitter is an excellent resource, there are many pages that advertise placements  and paid opportunities such as https://twitter.com/Fashion_Workrm and https://twitter.com/ukfashionintern so it’s worth having a look! Brands sometimes even tweet about their own placements, so make sure you follow a variety of retailers, PR and marketing companies and continue to check their websites for job and placement updates. Even if you are not successful in gaining a placement, there are still so many work experience opportunities that companies offer, every little helps and you can end up with summer placements and work experience weeks, fortnights and months, which will rapidly build up your experience. 
I would also suggest you to practise your interview techniques and anticipate questions that will come up and prepare your answers in advance. You can even practice the numerical and verbal tests  that are often used at assessment centres on http://www.shldirect.com/practice_tests.html. Also work hard on building a varied and interesting portfolio to take with you on interviews, this could include examples of written coursework, visual boards, trend analysis, design development, blog posts, collaborations with companies, articles you have written and anything else that could showcase your skill set for the particular role you are applying for.
You will succeed in securing a placement if you are willing to work damn hard for your dream and to keep on trying and never give up, there are always experiences and internships on offer, you just have to seize that chance and say this will be your time to shine. 
I hope this post offers an insight into the application process and the ups and downs that it entails, if you have any questions about my own experiences I am always here :)
Good luck guys, I know you can do it,
Amie xx

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  1. This was so helpful, thankyou! I'm studying international fashion promotion (also at MMU :)) and I'll be going through this process next year so I'll be keeping these tips in mind. I'm hoping to get a placement around Liverpool so I can live at home too, which probably means sourcing my own placement, eeek.


    1. I found sourcing a placement actually a lot easier than going through the general process, maybe because it was more personal than going through all the standardised tests. If you ever need any advice closer to the time just let me know Allie :) x

  2. This was so helpful to read! Thankyou! I'm studying Fashion Management at Nottingham Trent and I'm just going through the application process right now and it's very stressful but reading this post has made me feel so much better! :)

    Char x


    1. Hi Charlotte,

      I'm glad that this gave you a bit of a boost with regards to finding a placement, I only got mine around easter, so even if you haven't found one yet, there's still so much out there! A lot of places don't advertise until the new tax year so they can see how much they have to spare, so if you haven't found one yet, don't give up! :) x