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Taking on a sandwich placement in a virtual world

In light of the ongoing pandemic, virtual internships are becoming more popular with many businesses, presenting a digital and effective solution to short and long-term needs. Priyen Patel, Business Management and Entrepreneurship student, tells his story of the benefits, experience and opportunities during his ongoing virtual placement with international brand Unilever.

Priyen Patel at Unilever
Priyen Patel at Unilever

What is working virtually at Unilever like?

"It is so interesting – working within a global company means that the work you do has the potential to touch brands and people in other countries/markets. To think that as a placement student, you are given a tonne of responsibility is something that is extremely rewarding."

You’d be forgiven for imagining that the online working environment would prove a challenge. Not so for Priyen as he explains:

"I have a split team who are based in the Netherlands and the UK They are always approachable/happy to help when it comes to work and always available – this is one of the great things about working remotely! We have a great working environment."

A virtual process

I have been able to develop an aptitude for interpreting information, extracting results and being able to report on these

During these unprecedented times, many employers are having to alter their recruitment practices - Priyen experienced this when submitting his application for the role:

"It started with me submitting a blog post pretending that I had been at Unilever for 3 months and talking about my experience. For this, I researched what other placement students, graduates and apprentices had worked on and twisted their experiences into a hypothetical version of my own."

"A month later, I was emailed a link to complete a video interview. It was difficult – it consisted of four scenario-based questions."

Despite the challenge, Priyen was successful.

"2 weeks later, I got an invite to the assessment centre at the UK & Ireland Unilever HQ. This consisted of typical assessment centre activities. It included an individual pitch to a senior member for a business idea, a group activity and then an interview."

Transferrable assets

Like many others, Priyen was then faced with the daunting task of completing an entire placement online.

"The experience has been strange but rewarding - I say this only because I never expected that I would be doing my placement year virtually when I applied,"‘ he acknowledged.’

However, any doubts were quickly allayed: "Unilever made the onboarding experience for me  really comfortable and helped me and the rest of the students to settle in to our roles and team."

When asked about his top three transferrable skills acquired during his placement, Priyen highlighted:

  • Team Work/Communication Skills – "Working with people from different countries/cultures is something I have now experienced on a day-to-day basis."
  • Data Analysis – "Developing an aptitude for interpreting information, extracting results and being able to report on how we can move forward."
  • Commercial Awareness – "Having a better understanding of how a large company operates and how the fast moving consumer good industry operates as a whole."

Take your opportunity

Experience is definitely something employers look at and it gives them the opportunity to teach you skills,

Priyen has the following message for both employers and students considering embarking on a placement journey.

"Definitely go for a placement year! Even though it is an extra year added on, students, you will be miles ahead when applying to jobs compared to people who don’t have the relevant experience. Experience is definitely something employers look at and it gives them the opportunity to teach you skills, whilst benefiting from your talents."

Additionally, Priyen noted that his sandwich placement has given him a clearer perspective on his overall career plans.

‘"I have definitely opened my eyes to how many different roles are within Technology and Marketing – so it has made me aware of opportunities/certain roles that I may want to pursue in the future", he observed.

So, how would he sum up his placement, in only three words?

"Informative, stimulating and fun!"

To learn more about taking on a placement student or on how you can engage with our talent, please contact talent@ntu.ac.uk

  • Notes for editors

Taking on a sandwich placement in a virtual world

Published on 22 January 2021
  • Category: Business; Current students

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