Why industry placements are so important for business students

placement student at work

With support provided by your university and an employer, a placement can provide valuable experience for your future career

As a business degree student, an industry placement can be a golden ticket to gaining relevant work experience before you’ve even graduated. 

We asked Lancaster University Management School’s careers team and two fourth-year students to share their insights on working in a placement, and how doing so might boost your future career.

Learn how to ace interviews

When looking for a placement, students will often apply for a range of opportunities - sometimes 10 or more. That’s going to give you stacks of practice on how to apply for jobs, and you can expect lots of support along the way.

“Participating in placement interviews is similar to the application process for graduate jobs,” says Rory Daly, head of careers at Lancaster University Management School. “So you’ll get familiar with all their elements and develop key employability skills.”

Kishan Kotecha is in the final year of BSc Management and IT (industry) at Lancaster. He worked as a business products support analyst intern at The Walt Disney Company for his placement, and says his careers service was crucial in helping him prepare.

“Their practice interviews and the use of [simulation tool] Interview360 really increased my confidence, and they gave me tips on how to conduct myself in a large organisation,” he says.

Experience the world of work

A placement allows you to work at graduate level within an organisation, with the advantage of having both academic and pastoral support from your university before, during and after. You are classed as a full-time employee, so you’ll also benefit from a salary to match.

Rosie Logue is studying BSc Business Management at Lancaster. She completed her placement year as a human resources industrial trainee at Toyota.

“A good placement allows you to gain experience in your role, but also exposure to a wide variety of different teams in a business,” she says. “This can really help provide clarity in terms of your future career.”

Develop your talents

Along with taking on real responsibilities, a placement year will help you develop industry specific knowledge, plus skills such as critical and reflective thinking, problem solving, creativity, team working and commercial awareness.

You’ll also encounter personal development opportunities which align with your studies and career interests.

“My placement taught me to take on new challenges, including volunteering and giving back,” says Kishan. “I learnt to grasp opportunities and make the best of them."

Rosie says she was provided with many opportunities that contributed to her personal and professional growth.

“I honed skills that not only prepared me for my final university year, but also put me in a much stronger position for entering the graduate job market.”

two people having a conversation

You’ll be ready for life after uni

Once your placement is complete, you can expect to feel better prepared to start your career, with a better understanding of the sectors and opportunities available in your chosen industry. 

Applying and interviewing for graduate roles could also become easier, as your new skills have strengthened your CV and you have experience of the typical recruitment process.

You may even have a graduate role already lined up, says Noeleen Hammond-Jones, deputy head of careers (work related learning) at Lancaster University Management School.

“Many of our students are offered roles by employers because of their placement performance,” she says. “You can then focus completely on their final year academic studies.”

Be prepared for challenges

That’s not to say that industry placements don’t have their daunting moments. Firstly, you may be moving away from your university, friends and family, often to somewhere unfamiliar.

“I felt quite isolated from my university friends at times, almost all of whom were in their final year,” says Rosie. “However, I quickly made strong friendships with the other placement students at the company, and we formed a strong support network.”

You can expect support from your new employer as well.

“Many employers create a network for incoming placement students, so they can get to know each other and the organisation before they start,” says Rory. “If there isn’t one, students could reach out to their HR team and offer to support this kind of initiative.”

A minor challenge for Kishan was learning corporate language and procedures, something Noeleen says can be helped by fully engaging with the company’s induction programme and asking relevant questions.

Invaluable and rewarding

Working in an industry placement can provide you with a career headstart after graduation. Rory advises asking potential universities about their level of placement support before applying for a course.

“Many have faculty-based placement teams, ensuring there is specialist knowledge available for your chosen sector,” he says. 

“If you would rather work for a smaller employer, investigate the university’s relationships with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). In Lancaster University Management School we work with regional employers to create bespoke placements only available to our students.”

Finally, check whether the placement is integrated into your course’s curriculum, and is recognised in your qualification. 

Some institutions offer ‘a year out’ but it may not be properly supported: many employers only recruit students whose placements are a formal part of their degree.

“Overall, I found my placement year to be invaluable and rewarding. It exceeded my expectations,” says Rosie. 

“Go into yours with energy and enthusiasm, be inquisitive, and bring new ideas to the table. Have confidence that you can make a real difference!”

Our partnership with Lancaster University Management School

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) is one of the longest-established business schools in the UK and home to a thriving and truly international community. 

We are a triple-accredited research-intensive business school that combines world-class research with excellent teaching and high levels of student satisfaction. We welcome students and staff from more than 180 countries and have a presence in 24 countries, including campuses in China, Germany, Ghana and Malaysia.  

We challenge and support our creative staff, students and partners to realise their ambitions as they experience a transformational journey that leads to real impact on whole industries, societies and economies.  

Lancaster University is among the best in the UK, and has been the top university in the northwest of England for more than a decade.

To find out more, visit the Lancaster University Management School website.