In our latest post, International Business Management Student Jonathan Foster shares his journey, tips and time management wisdom developed through his placement search and time spent on placement at global  software giant Microsoft.

Hello everyone!  My name is Jonny, a BA (Hons) International Business Management student and I am currently on my placement year at Microsoft as an EMEA Business Program Manager.

I wanted to write to you all out there who might be on course to find your perfect placement year and to give a little insight into my first 2 months at Microsoft.jonathan-foster

I started my Placement search in November and found my first Assessment Centre to be quite a challenge and wasn’t able to get a full offer – the experience was invaluable though and I learnt how to approach Assessment Centre’s and make the impact I wanted to, on the day.

My key tips for being successful and getting your first offer would be to never give up!

See every Assessment Centre as an opportunity to learn, grow and try new strategies.

Once you’ve mastered this you can then show your confidence and know-how to confidently make all the right moves to make a good impression with the recruiters.

For my role the process involved filling in an online application form and attaching my CV, followed by a personality test, a video interview, a Skype interview based on your ‘mind-set’ and what made you tick, an interview over Skype with the recruiter and then an Assessment Centre. My advice to all those who are looking for a company is try and approach ones you can see yourself having an impact in and which companies you live the values – at Microsoft and a lot of big corporations I found that during my assessment centres, showing you lived ‘their values’ and that you could attach these to real world examples using the STAR approach really made a difference.

‘2 months and counting’

During my placement I have found myself constantly learning and developing both transferable and technical skills. I have found one skill though to be one that I have found myself focusing on and that is time management.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day and it is up to you to make the most of your placement year; to have the most impact and create as many opportunities as you can. I would advise future placement students to see this year not only as a year to earn money, but to see this as a constant adventure where you are continually learning and pushing yourself. I have found time

has been my most valuable and scarcest resource. It can be argued time is our most valuable asset.

The amount of opportunities that will be presented to you during your placement year will astound you and you will struggle to find the time to be involved in a host of different projects and events, whilst also managing your core priorities. I have found it extremely useful by focusing on my most important priorities, my long term goals and trying to identify, meaningful short term goals I must accomplish first to get to where I want to go.

It’s like trying to build a ladder, and to get to the top you need to fill in all of the steps in between – the difficult part is when you have to decide whether you can miss out a step or two to increase the likelihood of you reaching the top before time runs out.

I’ll present to you some top tips in which I have been living under since starting my placement and how developing my time management skills have helped me gain insights into different parts of the business, ask challenging question and getting involved in exciting events and opportunities outside of my core priorities in my role.

Work from your Calendar and not a to-do list:

Lists tend to randomise the order of importance among your tasks. Stick to a scheduled calendar that allows you to focus on different areas. Have time in there for personal development, meetings, reading and replying to emails, time where you need to zone in on tasks to complete them and allocate your time based on what’s in your calendar

To succeed be better now:

Imagine the outcomes of your actions and imagine how the end result will look. You only get out what you put into your work so for motivation, imagine the results and set yourself limitations – you need to have a fine balance in work and ensure that you embrace the imperfect as you can always improve your output later. If perfection scares you to not produce work, embrace the fact there will always be more to do and don’t let this put you off adding your perspective to a discussion and completing a piece of work.

Don’t say yes to every project or piece of work

Time is precious and you must be strategic with the projects and the requests you’ll get from people. I’m not saying don’t help people if you have time and would like to network with these people, but ensure that each commitment you become a part of doesn’t result in the loss of other opportunities – if requests from colleagues aren’t in line with what you want to achieve then I would suggest saying you will be able to do it at a future date or you would show them how to complete it themselves to help unburden yourself from the extra work loads and if this isn’t possible decline the extra work commitments so you can focus on delivering your core priorities to the best standard possible unless you’re able to put extra hours in to complete these tasks.

It’s been a whirlwind of a 2 months and I’m excited to see the opportunities ahead and the impact I will make on my team and the wider business – Microsoft is a fantastic place to live and work and for you to explore opportunities that interest you.

Ask good questions, challenge how people do things, look at ways in which the business can become more efficient and be a true problem solver and most importantly have fun on your placement year.

I hope this has been insightful and helps you on your placement search and placement year, Jonny 🙂

For support and advice to help you gain YOUR ideal placement contact the Business School Placement Team on 0161 247 3711 or come to the Business Placements desk in the Employability Hub on the ground floor of the Business School. 

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!


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