Harvey Bolton is studying for a BSc in Marketing and has just finished his second year. Having opted for a Year in Industry, he was offered a placement year with Volkswagen in Milton Keynes, starting this month.
“It made sense to opt for a Year in Industry. I’d be earning a real salary for a year while picking up plenty of experience. It also would get me out and about – to potentially move to a new area, meet new people and face new challenges. As someone who has Asperger’s Syndrome, change can be challenging for me, but I’ve always liked to push myself out of the comfort zone.
My Asperger’s led me to my passion for cars. The experts call it a ‘special interest’ but to me it’s just what I love. I know every fact and detail about most cars and have worked for a car dealership in the past driving Bentley’s and Porsches for a living! I knew I wanted to work in marketing, but it HAD to involve automobiles, too.
I know some students were thrown by Covid, which hit in my second year, but in a strange way it helped me. Interviews were moved online, which for someone with social anxiety, was a good thing.
When I found out through the university employability team that Volkswagen were advertising for placement applicants in September 2020, I knew I had to apply. After what I thought was a horrendous video interview just before a nightshift driving lorries for a supermarket, I was so shocked to find out I’d made the final assessment that November.
The employability team were fantastic – they put me in contact with Robert, my student mentor, who had been on the same placement the year before for tips and advice. It was great to bounce ideas around to get my presentation off the ground and prepare for the experience of a group interview – not the ideal situation for someone with Asperger’s. He assured me that I should just ‘be myself’ and utilise my knowledge on cars.
I spent a full week revising and prepping my presentation on electric vehicles and while I was nervous when it was my turn, talking about cars meant I was in my element. When they called the next day to say I was one of 40 national graduates to secure a placement, it was the most incredible feeling.
I move to the centre of Milton Keynes this month to work as a Marketing Assistant for SEAT. I will be assisting the team with looking at the UK market and putting together specifications and things like finance offers. I am sharing a flat with a student who will be working within HR, so I hope we don’t talk shop all the time!
I hope to develop a strong expertise in strategy, problem solving, branding and data science. I also want to further develop my communication skills which have historically been held back by Asperger’s which while challenging, will be a great achievement for me.
To anyone reading this and thinking, do I choose an industry year, I’d say – ‘go for it!’, these roles are not just a tapped on job but real employment opportunities with fair salaries and bundles of experience.
Harvey’s top tips for sourcing a placement
- If you are aiming high start EARLY. The big Footsie 100 firms run their applications from Sep to Dec.
- Do not be ashamed of your work experience – any experience is better than none no matter how insignificant or obscure it might be!
- Rejections shouldn’t hold you back, I had a ton of them! It is competitive but something will come your way.
- A smaller company could mean more experience. I knew I wanted to work in the car industry, but a small local firm might offer more variety and a more challenging role. Do not rule them out!
- Use your first year of university to gain work life experience. There is less pressure on your grades, work during the holidays and get some stuff for your CV.
Interested in finding out more about our Year in Industry Programmes? Click here