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Kickstarting my career with a placement year

During this blog I will discuss my placement year with Rolls-Royce from 2018-2019, the highs and lows.

What and where

I guess some context will help before I babble on about how much I loved my placement year. I was lucky enough to be successful in applying to the Commercial Internship role with Rolls-Royce, based in Derby. This involved two 6-month rotations, one in Commercial Account Management and one in Commercial Supply-Chain. Without boring you with my new found geekiness about aerospace, that’s as much as I’ll say about my job specifics. I was also lucky enough to be given the role of The Intern Network Vice-Chair, which meant I was responsible for organising professional and social events for hundreds of Rolls-Royce interns.

The Intern Network Committee 2018/2019

The process

I always knew I wanted to do a placement year as part of my degree, so that helped me to start preparing early. That’s the best tip I can give anyone, start preparing and apply early! I applied for hundreds of placement year opportunities starting around August 2017 (ok maybe not hundreds but it sure felt like it). Once you’ve done a fair few applications, the process becomes familiar: application, online tests, interview, assessment centre. Another tip would be to hold off on ‘the one’ you have your heart set on until you’ve done maybe 4 or 5 applications. This way you have experience in the process and are more equipped to put the best version of yourself forward.

What does the university do?

Speaking to friends that attended other universities, I have never heard of anyone receiving support like Durham offer (there’s no bias, I’ve graduated now). Durham have a dedicated placement team who are on hand to offer whatever support you need. What I found useful were the Placement Careers Fairs and Graduate Panels where I spoke to employers and started to figure out which jobs interested me.

Rolls-Royce Graduates and Interns at the AGA Summer Ball 2019

The many highs

  • I have made friends for life through the year I spent with Rolls-Royce, I still see the people I met very regularly (COVID-19 aside) and went travelling with some of them in 2018.
  • Getting into a routine and gaining an understanding of managing workload. My placement year gave me time-management skills I thought I already had, that helped me to succeed in my final year of study.
  • Exploring Derbyshire and the Peak District. I have to admit I was sceptical about living in Derby for a year, but being close to the Peak District provided so many opportunities. Along with my colleagues, I walked 21 miles in the Peaks to raise money for Team Verrico.
  • Hosting an Intern Network professional talk with Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East. Everyone at Rolls-Royce wants to meet Warren East, but very few get the opportunity. However, the Chair and I were lucky enough to schedule a professional talk attended by 80 Interns.
Rolls Royce Commercial Team on a charity walk

The low

  • The stress of paying all of my bills alone and living alone for the first time. I can’t say this was always a low as overall I did enjoy this but it was certainly an adjustment. On reflection, I should have lived in a communal house with other interns.

Reflecting on my placement year

I can’t begin to explain everything that I learned about myself and working in industry throughout my year with Rolls-Royce. But I can say with certainty I wouldn’t be in the graduate role I am in now, or be the person I am, without that experience. In short, if you can, do it!

Find out more

About Placement Years at Durham.

Download our latest prospectus here.

Follow our students on Instagram and YouTube.

Natalie Hings

I’m Natalie, a graduate from George Stephenson College with a degree in Business Management (2016-2020). I completed a placement year with Rolls-Royce plc and now work for Fidelity International on their graduate scheme. Please feel free to contact me via LinkedIn with any questions, I’m happy to help!
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