In this article we speak with two of Aspect’s 22-23 placement students. Jemima Denton and Joshua Olufsen share their experience of a placement year, advice for those looking at the option of a year in industry and the impact a placement has had on their career plans.
What made you decide to do a placement year?
Josh: A placement seemed like an obvious choice to gain some real-world experience before I left university. I hoped it would provide me networking, experience, and workplace skills to prepare me for life after university and put me a step ahead of the competition. I also believed it would help me transition to working life, as this step seems to be hard for many students post university.
Jemima: I chose to do a placement as I wanted to gain specific industry experience that I could use during my degree and then in a graduate job. Placements provide the opportunity to put theories and textbook learning into practice. They are also a great opportunity to develop transferable and soft skills that are valuable in any workplace and that you don’t necessarily learn at university when studying.
What business area is your placement in and what responsibilities do you have?
Josh: I have been in the Finance team as a Finance Assistant. My core responsibilities are managing the Accounts Payable function of the team. This role provided me with great autonomy, which was a fantastic learning experience. Managing my own function within a team allowed me to become a real professional and gave me the sense that the work I was doing was impacting not only our team but the wider company - something I do not feel is common in other placement roles.
Jemima: My role is in the Compliance team. I help maintain the firm’s Compliance Monitoring Procedures as well as oversee the personal account dealing policy and the gifts and entertainment policy. I help produce monthly and quarterly compliance certificates for clients and regulators whilst completing various other monitoring tasks.
How did the process work when looking to source a placement opportunity?
Josh: The University of Bath has a placements board where they advertise opportunities. From here you can read and learn about the roles on offer and apply accordingly. For Aspect, I applied using my CV and a covering letter, and shortly after had my first interview with Aspect’s Recruitment Manager. From here I had three further interviews with the Financial Controller, Head of Finance Business Automation and finally the Director of HR.
Jemima: My university had a webpage where they posted relevant job advertisements and we also had a course-specific placements officer who was there to help with the process. Applying for placements was similar to applying to any other job: CV, cover letters, assessments, interviews etc. You could also source your own placement either through family or friends or different job websites. It is important to make sure you are proactive in seeking out opportunities as the approach can be different dependent on the university you attend.
What advice would you give to others considering a year in industry?
Josh: My advice would be not to be overly obsessed with the type of role you are going into, but more the company and the area of industry. A placement year is an opportunity to get exposure and a foot in the door to companies and industries that may have higher barriers to entry and more competition after university. Therefore I would focus more on this than the specifics of the work you are doing, as you have to start from somewhere and you will get great visibility across a business if you select an industry you are interested in.
Jemima: I would say apply to anything that sounds interesting! You’ll get the most out of the year if you’re somewhere you genuinely want to be. Also, make sure you utilise all the opportunities available to you throughout the year, whether that’s attending training sessions, networking events or just chatting to people in the office. One of the biggest benefits of a placement is the exposure you get to professionals across every part of a business.
What support does your university offer during the placement?
Josh: My university was always on call to answer any questions we may have over the year, along with some socials for placement students throughout the year. To pass our placement we had to provide responses to multiple competency forms which allowed us to track our progress.
Jemima: My university placements team have reached out at various points in the year to check in and see how I’ve been getting on and were there to email if I had any issues. Before starting my placement, they provided several presentations on sourcing housing and managing finances which was very useful. We are also required to complete a self-assessment at the beginning and end of our placements, to set ourselves goals and track our progress.
Has doing a placement helped inform your future career plans?
Josh: Yes, my role with Aspect has allowed me to gain a clearer understanding of the investment management industry and the range of opportunities available. It has also provided me with a network of connections to try to gain a head start once out of university. I would highly recommend a placement, especially if you get the chance to join a firm like Aspect.
Jemima: Yes, I would say that my placement year has helped influence my future career plans. I’m keen to continue a career in financial services and this year has taught me about the wide variety of opportunities and job roles available in the industry. I’ve very much enjoyed my placement at Aspect and look forward to the next stage of my career after I finish my degree.