Placement Stories: Jessica’s year at Panasonic UK

We’re delighted to hand the blog over to Jessica Bidmead, a final year Business Management student who spent her placement year as a Business Management and Marketing Assistant at Panasonic UK. As a mature student doing her course on a fast-track basis, Jessica’s experience is a great example of how placement experiences can benefit everyone – even if it’s not part of your plan …

Take the chance on doing a Placement Year – you will be forever thankful to yourself for it!

As a mature student embarking upon my Fast Track Business Management course, I was not looking to complete a placement year – my desire was to complete the course as quickly as possible. However, following a presentation encouraging students to undertake a placement year, I completely changed my outlook on wanting to graduate in the quickest time, understanding the key employability benefits I would get through a placement year.

My ambition to try and obtain a placement therefore did not arise until January, which can be considered as a little late on in the academic year. Although I was keen to secure a placement year, I only wanted to apply if there was one I was really interested in. Luckily I found the Business Management and Marketing Assistant for Panasonic UK which sparked my interest. This allowed me to put focused time and effort into completing my application; I tailored my CV and wrote a role-specific cover letter detailing my suitability and relevant experiences for the role.

The recruitment process consisted of an application, telephone interview and then an assessment centre. The assessment centre involved a group task, numeracy and verbal reasoning tests; presentation and finally an individual panel interview. Through putting my sole time and effort into this one recruitment process, I was successful in securing the position within the Beauty Department at Panasonic.

Initially I was concerned about having to move away for my placement year.

However, many companies who employ placement students take an intake of placement students so you will all be in the same boat! At Panasonic UK, I was one of 13 placement students, which instantly put me at ease knowing there were several other students who would be starting at the same time. Panasonic UK held a Placement Student Orientation day a couple of months prior to our start date which instantly made me feel at ease to meet both the other new students who would also be starting their placements and the current students in our roles. This consisted of an afternoon of fun activities held at Panasonic and then continued with a meal and drinks out in Reading in the evening. We were then encouraged to view houses the following day to begin our preparations for moving away. This was a great opportunity that put all my reservations at rest and left me feeling very confident with my decision and excited to begin my placement.

I am extremely grateful to Panasonic for providing me with an endless stream of exciting opportunities and experiences from day one in my role.

From preparing and attending events, including Salon International, to carrying out Retailer Product Training with Sales Consultants at Harrods, to optimising our online content on Amazon, to managing our Recruitment Process to employ our new placement student, I have enjoyed every second and acquired a vast set of skills and experiences!

I have SO many highlights from my placement year but my ‘Best Bit’ would have to be having the opportunity to attend and have an active involvement in SO many different events and experiences.

A few of my highlights include:

  • Being an active part of the Panasonic Beauty Team’s achievement in receiving the CMD Director’s Award from Panasonic Appliances Europe Managing Director
  • Attending Salon International, directly selling our Professional Grooming Range
  • Attending the annual Boots Conference, educating Boots Sales Consultants on our products
  • Delivering Product Training at Harrods and John Bell & Croydon to educate Sales Consultants on our Prestige Skincare product range
  • Attending the Pure Beauty Awards 2019 in London
  • Optimising all our Online Product Listings for Personal Care on Amazon
  • Actively leading and managing the entire Placement Recruitment Process to employ and train our new placement student

Representing Panasonic at Salon International for all three days of the event was such a unique, challenging and exciting opportunity which I loved every second of. Salon International is an annual Trade Show which provides a bespoke industry destination for brands to showcase and sell their professional hairdressing product ranges to target customers.  It was such an amazing experience to have been a part of and I really loved being able to see all our hard work in preparation the lead up to the event come to life on our stand.

This opportunity provided me with the opportunity to thrive in being challenged outside of my comfort zone in directly selling products in our Professional Grooming range to the members of the Barbering Industry who attended from all over the world. I really enjoyed the buzz and confidence created from securing my own sales and developed and refined my selling techniques over the weekend to overcome the huge language and cultural barriers of many attendees who visited the international show.

At the beginning of Covid-19, I worked from home for a few weeks.

I worked on my work-provided laptop and remaining in close contact with my team and other departments via Microsoft Teams. This worked really well and we all retained good communication and efficiency throughout the company, despite the challenging circumstances.

Due to my role being heavily reliant upon retailer activity, the closure of retail stores led to my workload massively decreasing. I was invited the chance to become furloughed during this quiet period. Panasonic made up the extra 20% of my pay during my furlough period, so I was furloughed on full pay for 9 weeks.

Following my furlough I remained working from home, as our office was still closed, however a phased reopening did begin to occur in the final month of my placement. A key responsibility within my role was training my new placement student prior to leaving my role. Most of our handover had to be completed virtually over Microsoft Teams! Although I initially felt apprehensive in leading a virtual handover for our new student, I embraced the challenge and we both had an enjoyable and successful handover.

Your mindset should be to gain a university experience of the highest quality rather than the quickest route out!

As I said earlier, I initially wanted to do my course without the placement year in order to finish as quickly as possible. I now see how much I would have missed in terms of employability, experience and confidence. Although placement added an extra year, in the long run this will have been invaluable in kick-starting my career upon graduating.

As a result of both my personal experience in securing my placement role, and also in managing our placement student recruitment process at Panasonic UK, to secure our new placement student, it is undeniably the quality of an application which will lead to your success rather than quantity. When shortlisting applications at Panasonic UK, the divide between those applicants who had done this, and those who had distributed the same application to high volumes of companies was very clear. Spending time in tailoring your application to demonstrate your suitability to the skills and responsibilities required for the specific role will highly increase your chances in securing a placement year opportunity.

I also began my search for a Placement Year a little later into the academic year, in January, so it is definitely not to late to decide after Christmas that you’d like to secure a placement year – there will still be opportunities out there, it’s never too late! 

Finally, your Placement Year is what YOU make of it! Make your role your own and be proactive in making the absolute most of the year to get involved with as many opportunities and experiences as you can!

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