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“My experience, advice and tips for securing a placement”

By Shivika Gupta, Jamshedpur, India, MBA.

Team Leader, Student Services at South Essex College.

I looked at many jobs during my placement search as finding a one-year fixed term contract as per the MBA handbook can be challenging. A lot of posts want permanent members of staff and so you have to be prepared to look at many options and try different routes. I was actually offered a job at global company, Barclaycard, as they have their head offices in Northampton but I could not accept it as the contract was a permanent one. The turning point for me was when one of my professors suggested to look out for jobs which are vacant on account of maternity cover as they tend to be for a fixed period of 1 year to 6 months and to be honest that suggestion saved me!

I have always valued academia. I worked as a part-time Graduate Tutor at the University of Northampton in the Marketing and Entrepreneurship faculty during the academic part of my Master’s. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the education sector and so finding a job advertised at a College really excited me. The job I found was for a Team Leader for Student Services at South Essex College. I knew I had some transferable skills from my role as Graduate Tutor so I did not hesitate to apply. One thing led to another and I ended up with an interview in front of a panel of 3 senior leadership team members of the College.

The interview lasted for around 1 hour and 30 minutes. It was quite a grilling session. 30 minutes of it was for a written test where I had to plan a made-up event for a given theme. I had to plan out the most favourable time for the event to take place to get maximum student attendance. I think the trick to remember if you have to face something similar is there was no perfect answer, they are looking for your ideas and how you approach the challenge. At one point I started trembling and thinking I need to get it perfect but the rational side of me took over and I just did the best I could. I had well prepared myself by familiarising myself with the mission and vision of the college beforehand and that ensured me that I had at least two sensible questions to ask at the end of the interview.

The interview was a success and I was offered the job! I started the job in September 2018 and 6 months in I am loving the experience so far.

In my role as Team Leader for Student Services, my main duty is to Line manage 10 members of staff including 8 Students’ Union staff members, an Enrichment Associate and a Sports Associate across all 6 Campuses. Daily tasks also include leading on the planning of events/activities, supporting the Enrichment Team to improve engagement with other departments at the College and producing reports and feedback for the Senior Leadership Team.

The thing I enjoy the most is the professional culture, meeting people from diverse backgrounds and the opportunity to understand different behaviours that will be relevant with my dream of becoming a lecturer later in my career.

Just doing a Master’s and then immediately jumping in the real world can be tricky at times and that is why I believe the opportunity to do a work placement as part of your studies is so valuable. This placement has helped me to test the waters before applying for full-time roles. I am able to apply the modules I had taken on the MBA course previously and this has helped them to make more sense. I have been able to put what we have learnt in a real-world scenario and that has really helped my overall understanding.

My proudest achievement on the placement so far has been being trusted to manage 8-10 staff and leading the events happening across the college campuses. I have learnt that punctuality is key and not just networking with people but building good relationships with colleagues. I find that my culture can be quite direct but being too direct working in the UK is not often welcomed so that has been a learning curve. To prepare for any new opportunity and job in the future, I will be able to revisit all the experiences of this placement year which can be used to give examples during any interviews in the near future and hopefully help me to secure full-time jobs.

As part of the MBA we must keep a reflective journal. This comprises of the key skills developed during this role, important targets met and difficult situations where my approach was weak and how I overcame it.

My advice to other MBA students hoping to be successful in getting a placement would be these four things:

  • Start looking and applying for opportunities within 2 months of your arrival to the UK and prepare a little before flying to UK such as refreshing your LinkedIn profile. The more you can do at an earlier stage the better!
  • Make use of the Changemaker Hub to transform your CV and cover letter. (Very important). It really helped me and they gave me confidence.
  • Make sure you do part-time jobs which will be relevant for your placement year as it will help you answer lots of questions during your interview and standout on the application.
  • Do not only see it as a job, see it as a new learning experience and be honest with the yourself to commit to the work however challenging.

We asked Shivika’s Line Manager, Tracy Espinosa, for an update on Shivika’s progress and she sent us this report:

“Shivika is making excellent progress at the College, she has taken on a very demanding role, ran a successful Student Union campaign and coordinated College Course representatives.  Shivika has been involved in a number of College Enrichment Events and took the lead in the planning of events and activities for International Women’s Day which was very successful.  Shivika’s strong work ethic and organisation and planning skills have contributed to her success here at the College. ”   

If you, like Shivika, are studying the MBA and interested in sharing your experience and tips please contact

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