14 Questioning your future

Testing your future involves asking questions, here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from students about Coding their Future. The questions below are currently ordered by popularity on mentimeter.com.

Which way now figure by Visual Thinkery is licenced under CC-BY-ND

Figure 14.1: Which way now figure by Visual Thinkery is licenced under CC-BY-ND

14.1 How much experience and how many personal projects did you have prior to applying for jobs?

Not all employers will expect you to have lots of experience or projects at this stage, but any that you do have will help your application stand out. It doesn’t have to be paid experience: Volunteering, getting involved in competitions as a competitor or organiser will help, see more suggestions chapter 5 on Experiencing your Future.

14.2 What is the application process like for the placement program?

When you find an employer and you have been accepted onto, how do you register it with the uni?

See the wiki wiki.cs.manchester.ac.uk/index.php/UGHandbook23:Main#I:_Industrial_Experience

14.3 How often did you get rejected?

Rejection is a normal part of job hunting, you need to learn to live with it and not take it personally, see section 11.4.10. You only need one job offer!

14.4 When should we start applying for placement or internship?

The best time to start applying is September and spread your applications throughout the year.

The time of year you apply will determine what kind of opportunities are available, see section 11.2.9. Big employers tend to close their applications anytime between September and December. If you’ve not found anything you like by February (say), you can change your job search strategy and look for opportunities with smaller companies.

If you’re serious about finding a placement, keep looking for a placement as long as possible. Some students find placements in August to start in September, see Brian’s story in chapter 32.

14.5 How many placement students receive a return offer for after graduating?

The University doesn’t currently collect data on how many students get return offers, but a placement (or internship) is a bit like a long job interview. If they like you, it is likely you’ll receive an offer to return when you graduate.

Nationally, across the UK, around 50% of students go back to their placement for graduate position.

14.6 Is it possible to land a placement without any prior experience?

Yes, see 14.1

14.7 Average pay?

Pay varies by sector, location and role, anything from minimum wage upwards, see section 11.4.6

14.8 How much help do you get from the university when applying?

Your University can help you but ultimately finding a job is your responsbility, not the University see 1.5.

Talk to your peers, make use of PASS, your network (see section 11.2.5) go to careers fairs, put yourself out there, see Jonathan’s story 29.

Speak to your employability tutor and careers service. If you’re a Manchester student, keep an eye on the Wednesday Waggle.

14.9 What is the pay for the meta internship?

See section 14.7

14.10 Did anyone get an internship outside of the UK?

What was the process like? Did they pay for accommodation and flights ect. or was it up to you?

It is possible to do a placement outside the UK, but it takes more organisation and there are more checks the University has to do to approve your placement.

You may be offered a relocation package, but it depends on the employer.

14.11 Did you find that majority of IE students got a placement?

There are lots of opportunities out there, but there is lots of competition too. Here are some challenges you might face:

  • Running out of time
  • Underestimating what is involved
  • Not doing enough applications, optimising quality at the expense of quantity
  • Doing too many applications, optimising quantity at the expense of quality

That said, if you’re serious about finding a placement, you will be able to get one. Lots of students from Manchester do, in Computer Science over one hundred students get placements every year.

14.12 How much responsibility real work do you get?

This varies with employer. This is a good question to ask your interviewers after they ask you Do you have any questions for us?

Some employers give placement and internship students internal projects that never see the light of day. Other employers will throw you in at the deep-end and see how you get on. It depends on the employer.

If you’d like more responsibility you should ask for it, but you might have to prove yourself first and earn the trust and respect of your manager on smaller side projects first.

14.13 How to find opportunities at startup companies?

Startups are harder to find because you are less likely to have heard of them and there are lots of them, compared to bigger employers.

One way to find out about startups is to go to local events, see 11.2.4 and Jonathan’s story. Your University may well be involved in spinning off companies from R&D they do.

See the startup sites listed in section 11.3.2.

14.14 Did your employer have a well structured training program?

One of the advantages of working for bigger organisation is they will often have established training programs you can take part in.

Startups tend to be a bit more seat of your pants style training, which can also be valuable.

Whever you work, you should always ask for training, how much training is available will depend on the employer.

14.15 How did you prepare for coding interviews {#qcode}?

See 13.2.3.

14.16 What kind of projects/portfolio/skills do I need to secure an AI/ML industrial placement?

Open source, see e.g. hackathons, will all help.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are such big growth areas, that some employers insist on Masters or PhD. You may find it impossible to get into these with a Bachelors degree, but it depends on the employer.

Gradcracker now lists AI jobs at gradcracker.com/search/computing-technology/artificial-intelligence-jobs

You can also find plenty by using Google job search google.com/search?q=machine+learning+internship

14.17 How did you sort out accommodation? Was it stressful? When did you sort it?

If you’re lucky, your employers may help you find accommodation, they might even be able to put you in touch with other students employed by them for a flatshare.

But like finding the job, the accommodation is your responsbility to sort out, which can be stressful. E.g. finding a place to live in London might be more expensive than you are used to

14.18 How to negotiate payment if it is not shown on the employers website?

Many employers drive a hard bargain and will try to pay you the minimum they can get away with.

So, know your value (see section 11.4.6) and prepare to negotiate. Learn how to negotiate better, see for example: How To Negotiate Salary After a Job Offer

14.19 If you get an offer early on, should you hold out for a better company? How long do you have to accept it?

It’s complicated, see Declining an Accepted Job Offer: How To Do It Gracefully and section 13.4.

Carefully read what a contract says about cancellation. More competitive employers will tell you their job offer expires after a period of time (e.g. 2 weeks is common) thereby forcing your hand. What you do after you’ve accepted is down to your own conscience.

14.20 How to prepare for Video Interview?

What are must-do and what are things that we cannot do? It’s a good idea to:

14.21 Do we need to prepare for all commonly asked questions?

Any preparation you do is likely to

  • Make you less nervous
  • Help you answer questions better

See 14.20

14.22 What makes an Intership or placement stand out on a CV or in an interview

ANY internship or placement that you’ve done before you graduate will make your application stand out when you’re applying for graduate jobs or graduate schemes when you finish your degree.

14.23 What was the most useful thing to have during the application proces?

That’s going to depend on where you’re applying e.g. 

  • Not all employers use coding interviews, so grinding leetcode and hackerrank will be less valuable with those employers
  • Small companies tend to have much quicker and simpler recruitment e.g. one interview rather than four (say)

14.24 Where do you look for the majority of the roles to you apply for

See chapter 11, and particularly 11.3.1.

14.25 How much did having a LinkedIn profile help?

With some employers, it can help to have a digital profile on LinkedIn or github, but it isn’t a requirement, see section 11.3.3.

There are plenty of good and valid reasons for not wanting to be on social media. Despite its uses, social media can also be:

  • privacy invading
  • a huge time sink
  • hostile to women
  • hostile to minority groups
  • detrimental to your mental health

Despite these considerable limitations, I choose to use LinkedIn because it is one of the easiest ways to keep in touch with students, colleagues and collaborators.

You might find it useful too, but it isn’t compulsory to use them .

14.26 For the big competitive companies like Google, Meta…etc. what sort of experience do I need?

The more competitive the company, the more experience they are likely to expect because they can pick and choose from lots of highly qualified applicants.

If you don’t have much experience, it might be time to think about how you can get some more, see chapter 5

Another way in to the job market is to start with smaller employers, see section 5.3.4.

14.27 Do I need to send the contract to University?

The contract of employment is between you and your employer. Some contracts of employment are protected by Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs),

If you are able to share it, you’ll be asked to do so in your myPlacement application.

14.28 How do you recommend we balance our studies while also applying for placements?

It’s tricky, especially in second year when the workload is heavy.

A good strategy when you are busy is to “ring-fence” some time each week to do job applications and stick to it, see section 11.2.10 and Amish’s story in chapter 23.

14.29 What is the deadline to change to a degree with IE?

The deadline to transfer onto (or off) Industrial Experience is the end of August.

14.30 How difficult is it getting back into student mode?

Many students return from placement to do a stronger final year because they can apply the skills and experience acquired that can help e.g.

  • Personal and social skills like time management
  • Technical knowledge that can be applied in a final year project for example

One exception to this is Maths students, for some people, getting back into University maths when you’ve not done any for a year can be challenging.

14.31 Moving location for a placement?

What did you do about social stuff since you didnt have uni life and events? Is it not a bit isolating being on placement?

It can be, you have to start all over again like a fresher. When you return, some of your fellow students will have graduated, but here are lots of students out on placement, so you’re not on your own.

If you find a job in Manchester, see git.io/manc that will be less of a problem.

14.32 Did you write a cover letter?

Its worth writing a covering letter, even if nobody reads it, because if nothing else, it gets your elevator pitch right. The three questions your answer in a covering letter are all likely to come up in an interview anyway, so having thought about and articulated your answers means you’re more likely to come across well in an interview.

Some employers read covering letters closely, see section 8.14

14.33 When does the placement year start?

Anytime between June and September. Minimum is 9 months, most are 12 months, some are 15 (extended).

14.34 How do you learn how to program?

I feel I know nothing!

That might be impostor syndrome.

By the end of second year, you know the fundamentals. You’re not an expert, but you know enough to start your career. Computing is a profession where you are constantly learning because technology moves quickly. Stay in school, see section 20.8.

14.35 Should you wait until you have more things to put on your CV?

Should you wait to apply or should you just apply as early as possible/

This is a balancing act, applications take time that could otherwise be spent bolstering your CV.

If you don’t apply, you won’t be invited to interview. If you wait until you have experience, you’ll miss a load of deadlines.

14.36 Can you do other summer internships before/after placement

Yes, see section 5.3.1.

14.37 Is fintech worth going into

Fintech is a significant sector in the UK, with lots of opportunities.

14.38 How much leetcode on average did you do?

Your time is limited. Both leetcode and hackerrank can help you prepare but you won’t have time to do them all. Maybe focus on a set amount of practice every week?

14.39 How did you choose between multiple offers.

See section 13.4

14.40 How bad were the technical interviews?

Coding interviews can be hard, but you can prepare and you get better at interviews (both technical and non-technical) by doing them, see section 13.2.3

14.41 How important is your LinkedIn profile?

It can help to have a digital profile, but employers shouldn’t require it.

If you don’t mind having information about yourself in the public domain, linkedin is a good way to talk about projects, experience and certifications that you can’t fit on a one or two page CV, see section 11.3.3.

Github is also good for this purpose too.

14.42 For international students, when you paid again for IHS, Did you get the fee you paid earlier back? ]

see www.studentsupport.manchester.ac.uk/immigration-and-visas/immigration-healthcare-surcharge/

14.43 What do you use myplacement for?

And when do you use it? see section 14.2

14.44 How much do first year marks effect applications?

First year marks are a factor, especially for more competitive opportunities.

If you’ve not performed as well as you’d like in first year, you might choose to distinguish between your achieved and expected degree classification

14.45 Do you need to satisfy all the requirements mentioned in a job advert?

Its rare for a candidate to satisfy everything on job spec, see section 11.4.3.

14.46 Which cities should we be looking at for placements?

Big cities have more opportunities. Manchester has plenty see git.io/manc, London has even more.

The wider you cast your net (geographically speaking) the more opportunities you’ll find

14.47 What percentage of students recieve placements through the uni rather than applying themselves?

There will be a limited number of internships and placements at your University. E.g in Manchester.

  • Imago
  • ResearchIT
  • Kilburn internships (advertised around May)

14.48 Will all of these vacancies be shown on career connect or do we have to look outside of it?

So careerconnect.manchester.ac.uk is good, but you should look elsewhere too, see 11. Each website has advantages and disdvantages, so its not a good idea to just look in one place.

14.49 How did you prepare for the application process? Did the Uni help you a lot?

For Manchester students see the pathways

See the checklist

14.50 How do you showcase your passion for technology when you don’t have much coding experience

Personal projects, hackathons, open source, doing courses in your spare time (coursera etc) all showcase your interest.

Your time is finite resource, but anything technical you manage to do over and above the basic requirements of your degree will help your application stand out..

Try not to burn out, see section 3.5. 🔥

14.51 What are your interview questions

see chapter 13

14.52 What sort of questions are asked in technical interviews?

See section 13.2.3

14.53 Did any of you have experience with companies making reasonable adjustments for disabilities?

Were the companies helpful?

That’s a good question to ask in interview.

14.54 What was the gender split like in your placement environments?

Varies with employer.

Computing isn’t know for its gender balance and diversity, but things are slowly getting better

14.55 Is it okay to postpone sending application to a company while your improving your CV?

Once the deadline is closed, you won’t be able to apply.

14.56 Will there be a careers fair?

Yes, there are two you might find useful:

14.57 Should you focus to apply to a big company or a small company to get more experience

There are advantages and disadvantages of each, see e.g. section 5.3.4.

14.58 Did anyone use chatGPT with writing things such as cover letters, emails…etc?

Yes, but automated applications can sometimes be detected.

14.59 Could you take holiday during your placement?

Or were they quite controlling about hours

In the UK, employees are entitled to paid holiday, see www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights

14.60 How many offers did you get?

The number of offers you get is likely to be proportional to the number of applications you make (and how strong a candidate you are)

Its quite common for people to receive more than one offer.

14.61 Do you have to do the placement before your third year or can you do it after

a placement has to be your penultimate year, see wiki

14.62 Summer internips or year long

See section 5.3.1

14.63 Will you find a job for me?

The University can help you in various ways, but it is your responsibility to find a job, see 1.5.

14.65 Does IE count towards my degree classification?

In Manchester no, but it does appear in the title of your degree, and therefore your degree certifite e.g. 

  • Either BSc Computer Science
  • Or BSc Computer Science with Industrial Experience

14.66 Do I have to write a report?

Yes, but it is short see wiki.cs.manchester.ac.uk/index.php/UGHandbook23:Main#I:_Industrial_Experience