Q & A with Chris Conlan, Placement Student

Q &A with placement student Chris Conlan

Chris Conlan joined the Bespoke HR team in September 2023. We chatted to him to find out more about the role, what he enjoyed most and his advice for other businesses looking to hire placement students.

Can you tell us about your placement year and your degree?

I am studying Business Management with Human Resources at the University of Surrey. As part of my course, I chose to do a placement and secured one with Bespoke HR. I must admit, originally, I underestimated the work I would have to do outside of my placement at the university. I am required throughout the year to fill a report which you do at certain time points. I have to have three meetings with my placement tutor and at the end of my placement I will have to do a final report and presentation.

How did you discover the placement and what attracted you to the role? What were you looking for in a placement / from an employer?

I found the placement on the website ‘Rate my Placement’. I was attracted to the role because I was interested in HR from my time at university and it was a field I could see myself working in and my skills aligned with. I was looking for a smaller business because it can be less daunting compared to a much larger multinational business. I was also looking for somewhere where I could make a difference, so I chose Bespoke HR.

What made you choose a small business? Did you have opportunities with larger businesses also?

I chose a small business as sometimes in other organisations you can get lost, almost like a small cog in a big machine. I wanted to make an impact and learn as much as possible so I opted to go with a smaller business for this stage in my career. I did have opportunities with bigger businesses but picked Bespoke HR over them.

How did you find the interview process? What should / could employers do to make help students feel at ease?

My interview process was smooth and the process was easy to follow and I felt informed of what the business does and what was required of me. Employers do need to remember that a lot of students will have never been to an interview before so making students feel at ease is important. Be friendly and inviting. Remember interviews should also be about attracting the student to come and work for the business, so they need to sell the business. Sometimes I found some other interview processes to be very long, which is surprising for the positions that students apply for.

Can you tell us about your day to day work? What have you been involved in and how have you found it?

It’s hard to say what a typical day would look like because it’s a very dynamic environment. I have been involved in a large amount of employee relations issues and have been able to learn a huge amount through minute taking. I also was able to handle my own projects that I could present at team meetings and I have been given a level of responsibility that is hard to find in other organisations. My other jobs may also include general work and assisting the Ops/HR team with any admin work that is required.

What can you tell us about your experience? What have you learned during the past year?

I have learnt how an office environment works and just get my head around working for the first time. I have had to adapt going from the life of a student to one that is employed full-time and that has been a change! I have learned a lot about employee relations issues and the employment law specifically relating to HR issues. As the office is small, I’ve been able to absorb all the conversations that were happening around me and to learn just by listening in to other conversations. I have developed my social skills and also professional skills, even down to the smaller details such as wording an email to a client. I have found my time here has shaped me into a better person, not only for my career but personally as well.

What would you say to businesses considering offering placement students roles? What do you think the benefits are for them / what would they get from it?

I think placement students can offer you fresh and new ideas coming from a university, and an attitude that is completely open to learn and develop. Businesses have the opportunity to shape their student completely. Having had a year working for a company, a student can form positive relations with the business and are more likely to come back after their studies if that is something the business wants to offer. I recommend every business hires a placement student!

What are your plans once you graduate?

I do not know for sure yet. I was thinking about going travelling, but on the other hand getting a job hopefully in the HR field.

Can you offer any more tips for employers hiring placement students?

From my experience, it is remembering that it is their first time in employment. They may make mistakes. Many things are second nature to anyone who has worked in a business, but it’s completely new to someone who has never worked in an office job before. Make sure you get the most out of your placement students and make them feel welcome. If they are happy then they will be happy to contribute as much as they can to the business. Be approachable and make them feel included. It goes a long way for someone who like me was very nervous to work in an office job for the first time. I think management does come down to the type of business and the student’s level of responsibility. They may need to be managed more closely if they have a higher level of responsibility within the business. I think offering your support and for the student to know they can and where to ask for help is the most important for me.

“I would say that overall, it has been a vital experience and everyone, if given the chance, should go and do a placement. It has helped me grow professionally and personally and given me a better insight into what I may want to pursue in the future after university. I have made good friends here and had a better time than I expected. To anyone who is not sure or are too scared to do one – just do it!”