History and International Relations BA
Why did you decide to undertake a professional placement year?
I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to enrich my CV and gain life and work experience. I knew a lot of people that had previously gone on placement and gained so many skills from it so was really eager to apply for one myself.
Why did you decide to apply to CBI?
I knew I wanted to do a placement in the political sphere and when I saw the job description it matched my passion for European politics. I was also intrigued at the prospect of undertaking a placement in another country, and therefore the fact it was in Brussels really excited me. The CBI are also held in high regard by both business and government and therefore I jumped at the opportunity to work for them.
Do you have any top tips for succeeding in the application process?
I think the key is to only apply for something you are passionate about, as this passion will definitely shine through in the recruitment process. Make sure your CV is job specific and application or cover letter highlights that you fulfil all the skills the employer is looking for. Then just make sure you are prepared for interviews and assessment centres, utilise the careers service as they are extremely helpful with practice interviews and application tips.
What kind of duties and responsibilities did you have in your placement role?
I worked as a Policy Advisors intern so closely followed EU legislation, helped write position papers on behalf of British business and represented the UK at the European umbrella organisation BusinessEurope. I also attended meetings with European policy makers, round tables and networking events across Brussels. I specifically worked in the energy, environment, digital and innovation sectors and therefore became a point of contact for the London office for these sectors in European policy.
What did you expect from a placement before you started and what actually happened?
I expected to learn a lot but not be given as much responsibility as I was in fact given across the year. I was viewed as an equal and even did jobs instead of my line manager which made me feel like a valued member of the team.
What was your biggest achievement during your placement?
My biggest achievement during the year was organising and running a two day event for director level participants to educate them on how to interact with the EU institutions especially post Brexit. I booked high level speakers such as the British Commissioner, Julian King, MEPs and a Financial Times Journalist and we even hosted an event in the European Parliament. The event received excellent feedback, ran smoothly and I gained lots of high level contacts from it so it was a really rewarding experience.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on your placement?
Probably living abroad was the biggest challenge, I didn’t know much French and it was a new experience being in a new and foreign city. However, the city is awash with interns so I quickly found lots of people that made my year comfortable and enjoyable.
Were there any key projects that you worked on during the placement year? If so, what did they involve and what was the outcome?
One of the key projects I worked on was lobbying on the EU’s next research programme Horizon Europe on behalf of the CBI’s members. The key objective was to make sure third countries will have the opportunity to be involved in the programme as the UK may become one after Brexit. We met with lots of MEPs, individuals in the Commission and were very vocal at BusinessEurope with the British position. By the end of my placement there had been lots of amendments tabled supporting our position by MEPs, although the final piece of legislation has yet to be ratified hopefully our work will put the UK in a good position for European research and innovation.
What new skills did you learn on placement?
Across the year I gained an immense amount of skills, probably the most important one was confidence, before the placement I really struggled with public speaking, talking on the phone and generally having confidence in my own ability. However across the year I did three 20 minute presentations and led a session for university students and would now saying speaking is one of my strengths. I have also learnt that taking initiative is of immense significance, employers are always looking for someone going the extra mile and thinking of new ideas and I would say I have massively improved in being able to build on workplace situations. The final skill I have really improved on is being able to skim and summarise reports and events a lot more efficiently. Our work was always more useful for members if it was reactive and therefore this meant sending summaries within an hour of a speech or report happening.
How will doing a placement benefit you in your final year/ the future?
The work I did on placement has actually inspired my dissertation topic on the geopolitical impact of the energy transition for the EU, and I will use a lot of the research I did when working at the CBI in my final piece. The work I did in the energy has also influenced the fact I want to work in energy sector in government affairs in the future, a career I would have never considered before I went on placement.
How do you feel the organisation has benefitted from employing a placement student?
I think I brought a different perspective into how to do certain things in the office and lots of ideas I came up with across the year have now been implemented.