Time for another inspiring placement story! This post shares Amy Smith’s (Ba (Hons) Advertising Management & Brand Management) top tips and insights into her placement search, experience of assessment days and interviews, and her current time spent on placement with Disney!
Where are you currently on placement, and what is your placement role?
I am currently on placement at the Walt Disney Company in Hammersmith, London. I am the Media Planning and Presentation Intern for Disney Junior in the Central Eastern European Emerging Markets. When you started searching for placements did you have a specific type of role in mind?
Ever since a child I have had a big love for Disney and my dream was to one day work for the company. But due to the scale of the company and my lack of self-belief I applied for L’Oreal, Rimmel, Carat, MEC and many more… I applied for a visual merchandising role, PPC role, Marketing role and finally my Media Planning role at Disney.
I always wanted to work within the Advertising/Marketing sector and when I applied for my degree at MMU I knew Disney were one of the companies that MMU advertised sandwich year placements for.
Why did you choose the sandwich placement route for your course, rather than the three-year option?
I now know that when I apply for jobs after my degree, I will have a stronger insight into how the industry works rather than if I hadn’t taken the sandwich placement route.
After nearly completing my year’s placement it is apparent to me how invaluable the skills are that you learn as an Intern on a sandwich year, these can be transferred into any job role in the future.
Due to how competitive the Advertising/Marketing industry is and after researching into my degree, I found that experience is key and the more you have the more likely you are to find a job after graduating. This made me more determined to gain a placement within a successful company to back-up my degree.
Approximately how many placement applications did you make in total?
What type of selection processes did you go through for your applications, and what are your top tips for exceling in these?
Tasks – GET INVOLVED! Don’t stand back and let others do the work, even if you’re not 100% sure you’re right, voice your opinion and listen to others. As long as you have reasoning behind your answer you will be credited for your contribution.
Presentations – During my assessment days I always opted to go first to present, I am not the most confident when it comes to public speaking but I wanted to show that I can push myself out of my comfort zone – this really went in my favor when it came to interviews as the pressure had been relieved and I could relax and be more comfortable.
Interviews – Every interview is different but I find eye contact and having the willingness to learn new things is a big factor in your success. Employees know you won’t have much experience at this stage in your degree, so they don’t expect you to know everything.
English/Math Tests – Depending on your role these aren’t normally that hard, just your basic level maths which you will know – DON’T PANIC!
Assessment Days – Be yourself, be confident and always be willing to push yourself to stand out from the crowd, sometimes being nervous/shy can come across as rude.
Telephone Interviews – PREP! I didn’t and failed miserably, safe to say I didn’t get invited to the next round…
During my placement search I went through many stages with different companies such as telephone interviews, assessment days, Math/English tests, interviews, presentations and other relevant tasks.
What type of companies did you have assessment days and/or interviews with? What was your experience of these?
Rimmel – I only made it to the telephone interviews.
– This was the interview that I just crumbled in, I was currently on internship at the Candidate (my Agency Life placement) when the Manager at Rimmel rang me, I hadn’t prepped at all… I knew nothing and therefore when she asked me “What can you tell me about the company?” I went blank!
Carat – Assessment day which involved a presentation, a Math and English test and then an interview.
– I felt a lot more confident going into this assessment day as I already had been asked by Disney to attend their assessment day. It started with a presentation where you had to analyze a campaign, I opted to go first and felt a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I could now relax and enjoy the other presentations. When it came to the test, it was basic math and English, even with maths not being my strongest subject I felt as though I passed all the questions.
However when It came to the interview I felt very uncomfortable at first, as I walked in there were 6/7 managers in one room asking you a wide range of questions from print media to online… It was very hard to answer every individual question and I felt very unsure if I would receive a placement there… surprisingly I did.
The Walt Disney Company – Assessment day which involved a presentation, a range of set tasks and then if you were lucky enough you received an interview in the afternoon.
– Yet again I opted to do my presentation first but this time we couldn’t use PowerPoint, and we had to talk about ourselves… This I found very hard as I don’t do a lot of sports/socials (I’m not boring honest!) so when I had to talk about myself I couldn’t think of much to talk about… Some of the candidates used props, flip charts, one girl even used a pineapple to describe herself!
Next it came to the group tasks, we had 4 tasks which involved teams working together and presenting their findings… For someone who has never worked in the Broadcast Industry this was quite hard as I had never seen a programming schedule or a Media Planning Laydown so I felt a bit useless… However my willingness to ask questions and to voice my opinions whilst listening to others made a real impact with the managers, as they appreciated that we wouldn’t all know these different day to day items.
Finally it was interview time… me and another candidate were lucky enough to receive two interviews and everyone else just one. My first interview went horribly wrong – they asked me a basic question “So who are Disney’s main competitors?” I froze! My mind went blank and I panicked… Luckily I had another interview which worked in my favor as they were the same questions asked in the previous interview so I knew how to answer confidently – this swung it for me and I managed to land myself the placement… I’m not ashamed to admit I cried, yes cried when I received the news… I was so proud of myself for landing a job at my dream company at the age of 19!
What are your top tips for impressing at an interview or assessment day?
Eye contact, ask questions, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone!
Eye contact is really crucial, no matter how nervous you are eye contact makes a huge difference, if you keep eye contact you look far more interested than someone looking down or playing with their hair.
Ask questions, questions show the employer that you’re interested and want to know about them, and working for their company – there are lots of websites which give you tips on questions to ask an employer in an interview, check them out – it could be the make or break for your interview!
Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone is a huge factor, I was the only candidate from up North, which meant I stood out and the Managers knew I really wanted and deserved the placement as I was willing to travel from a little rural town and come to a big city where I knew nobody.
Tell us about your typical working day.
First priority for the day CHECK EMAILS – can be very boring and time consuming, especially when the emails are a huge chain and you read them all, then realize they weren’t for you in the first place. But after this you can then determine your priorities for the day…
Main priority for me is promotion deliveries, we get promotions delivered to us from Producers which we need to check has the channel logo, the durations, languages and that the promotion is promoting what we asked for.
After this it can vary as no day is ever the same in a big company – it ranges from reports, brief writing, collating data, attending meetings, content screening etc.
What have been the highlights of your placement year so far?
I have a lot of highlights but I’d say my top highlight would be attending the Disney Junior conference day – as I look after the Disney Junior channel’s promotions for South Africa, Romania, Arabic, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Turkey (I know – a lot of countries, you’re not just an Intern at Disney – you’re treated as a full-time employee)
At the conference day we got to watch behind the scene footage and watch content for this year and next, we also got to meet some of the big American bosses and they shared their tips for their success.
And what have been the biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge would probably be learning how to do the job role, I had no hand-over so I had to learn everything myself with help from fellow Interns and my Supervisor. It taught me to never give up and not to be so hard on myself, yes I was completely useless at first and got a lot of things wrong, but my determination led me to where I am today, and now I get asked questions directly from Managers and Directors of the company which I find really humbling as they treat me as a valued member of staff, rather than someone they can ask to fetch them a cup of coffee or do some printing…
Are there specific skills that you feel you have developed during your placement year so far? If so, what are they?
How to deal with stressful situations and how to prioritize work… I know we all are stressed in Uni with coursework deadlines but I found work life stresses and deadlines different… With Uni you only have your Tutor on your back if you miss a deadline which then only affects you and your degree. At work there are a whole team of people relying on you to get your work done on time and correctly – I learnt that panicking didn’t solve anything as it ended up slowing me down as I was rushing and getting work wrong. I found being calm and not being afraid to admit when you’re struggling and asking for help is the best option, it means the work can be done twice as fast and can avoid missing deadlines.
Do you feel you will approach your final year differently because of the experience you have gained, and skills you have developed throughout your placement year? If so, how?
Yes, I feel like I have a stronger knowledge in the Advertising/Marketing industry which will help towards my final year. I don’t believe you can have this knowledge at this stage in your degree without a placement year.
What would be your top tips for a student to maximize their chances of securing a placement?
Be yourself – I know it’s cliché but it’s true, as well as looking for someone who has skills and knowledge in the industry managers are also looking for someone who will fit in their team…
Organization – be on the ball, presentations well-rehearsed, researched the company and job role.
Confidence – remember nobody knows you so can’t judge you, put your acting head on!
And finally, if you could sum up your placement experience in one sentence, what would it be?
A dream come true…. (God that’s so cheesy!)
If you would like to secure your dream placement, just like Amy did, get in touch with the Placements Team on 0161 247 3711 to book a 1-2-1 appointment.
We can help with all aspects of placements searching; from initial applications through to preparing for telephone & video interviews, assessment days, or even just to check you are on the right track with your placement search. Get in touch today!