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A placement year student in the supply chain

Nine reasons to do a placement year in logistics and supply chain

Boost your chances of getting a supply chain or logistics graduate job by doing a formal placement scheme part-way through your degree. Plus, find out more good reasons to apply and see our application tips too.
Gain useful knowledge for working in a number of other sectors.

Also known as a ‘year in industry’ or ‘sandwich placement’, an industrial placement in logistics or supply chain is usually completed in your penultimate year of university and typically lasts 12 months. They are often aimed at students studying business, supply chain or an analytical subject, but not always exclusively.

GSK, Siemens, RWE Supply & Trading GmbH, and DHL are a handful of employers that have run industrial placement schemes in recent years and you can see placements being advertised here.

Good reasons why you should apply for a logistics or supply chain placement year:

  1. Gain sector knowledge. Seeing a warehouse at work or witnessing negotiations between retailer and supplier gives you a much better understanding of what is involved in getting goods through the supply chain than anything you’ll read in a textbook or online.
  2. Gain experience of working in a logistics or supply chain environment. This will help you gauge whether you really want to work in this sector, and what roles interest you.
  3. Give yourself a good chance of being hired by the same employer when you graduate. You will have knowledge and experience (see points one and two) and the company will have evidence of your abilities. Former placement students sometimes only have to complete certain parts of the graduate application process.
  4. Increase your chances of getting a graduate job with another logistics or supply chain employer. For instance, if your placement was with a third-party logistics (3PL) company, your experience could help you get a job with a supermarket chain or with a different 3PL company.
  5. Prove you are ‘work ready’ by working full time for a year. Graduate employers in all sectors want evidence that you can work to a fixed timetable and cope with having less flexibility with your time than at university.
  6. Gain useful knowledge for working in a number of other sectors. Logistics and supply chain crosses over with retail, FMCG and engineering, for example.
  7. Meet new people. Placement years can be sociable as well as a time to make professional contacts who you may be able to ask for advice later in your career.
  8. Get a feel for some of the things you like or like less in the company you work for. This will help you make choices in future. Do you enjoy working for a global company with 1,000+ employees, for example, or would you prefer to work for a much smaller employer that only operates in the UK?
  9. Obtain a future job referee, providing you made efforts to have a good relationship with your manager.

(Numbers five to nine are good reasons, even if you you complete the placement and decide that logistics and supply chain isn’t for you.)

Applying for a placement in logistics or supply chain

Application deadlines tend to be between January and March, although some may be earlier or later. Bear in mind that applications submitted first are sometimes prioritised. The application process is likely to be similar to an employer’s graduate scheme. Typically, applicants will complete an online application form, some online tests, and either one or two interviews. Your first interview may be over the phone or Skype. Although more common for logistics and supply chain graduate schemes, some employers include an assessment centre too.

Before you start your application, consider:

  • What appeals to you about a career in logistics or supply chain? Perhaps you’re attracted to the complexity of multichannel retailing, or you really enjoy reducing waste and making processes more efficient. Can you articulate what appeals to you out loud?
  • Why you want to work for that particular company for a year. Research the company and the scheme. Perhaps you are keen on the fact that they’re a growing company, demonstrated by their recently expanded fulfilment network.
  • What examples do you have of the skills in the job advert? You are likely to be new to working full time and new to the supply chain environment so, in particular, think of times when you have had to adapt to a new environment quickly or cooperate with people with a different background to you.
  • Could you afford to do the placement? Most placements are paid, but you still need to look into whether the salary would cover rent and living costs for the year. Then there are unpaid placements – do consider it very carefully and know your rights before applying to an unpaid opportunity.

Applications advice for placements in logistics and supply chain

You still need to demonstrate good written communication skills, even if you’re applying to work in an operations environment for a year. Most work environments involve emailing and writing reports; plus, bad spelling and grammar makes a bad first impression. Get someone with good attention to detail to look over your application form or CV before you submit it. See the red box for more help from TARGETjobs on application forms.

Interview advice for placements in logistics and supply chain

Employers want reassurance that you will adjust straight away to the working environment from being a student. Arrive in good time, looking smart, and make small talk with your interviewers and members of staff who show you around. See the red box for more help from TARGETjobs on interviews.

What have you got to lose?

Whether you get it or not, applying for a placement placement year in logistics or supply chain is also a good way to practise the application process, ready for when you apply for graduate positions.

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