It seems like only the other day I was beginning my placement at Nationwide. It’s gone so quickly but been an amazing experience! Looking back over my placement so far here’s some of the main lessons I’ve learnt:
- Step outside your comfort zone– Everyone has to do things that they don’t feel comfortable with, but by pushing your boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone you give yourself the opportunity to grow and progress. Eventually you become comfortable doing the things that you didn’t before!
- Be ambitious – Set yourself goals. It can be easy to overlook development, so setting yourself realistic goals helps you to keep focused, push yourself and have an aim to work towards.
- Be self-aware– Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and there’s always going to be areas which you can improve on. By being aware and knowing your weaknesses as well as your strengths you can make the most of what you’re good at and work on areas which you’re not.
- Be flexible and open– There’s always going to be things thrown your way which you don’t expect, but being flexible and adjusting to change can be really important. Being open to different tasks can give you the chance to learn new things and in the long run can mean that more opportunities come your way.
- Be positive– Having a positive attitude and being enthusiastic goes a long way not only in helping you achieve your goals but also in the impression others have of you.
- Be friendly and approachable– Being friendly and approachable not only helps you build relationships but also means you have more people willing to help and work with you.
- Be honest– It’s always best to be realistic and honest about what you can do and how you feel.
I’ve now been on my placement for 7 months, which has flown by! It’s amazing how much you learn and I really think the benefits of doing an industrial placement are endless. Here are my top eight reasons for doing an industrial placement:
- Career experience – Gaining hands-on experience in a professional working environment is invaluable and gives you an insight into career possibilities. It’s completely different to university life, but if you are prepared to immerse yourself in the working environment you can learn a lot about the business and yourself. It has made me focus more on my career goals and ambitions as well as motivating me to do well in my academic work.
- Employability prospects– It can be a real challenge getting the graduate job you hope for, and by developing skills and gaining experience within a business you are putting yourself in a much better position to succeed. Employers are not only looking for academic achievement but work experience, so an industrial placement can give you an edge over other graduates.
- Exploring career paths – It’s hard to know what business area you want to follow a career in. For me doing a placement has given me much more clarity in the direction I aim to head in. While being on placement I’ve had opportunities to shadow in different departments, getting to know which areas might suit my preferences. It’s been a great way to get exposed to different possibilities and to gain a wider business understanding.
- Personal development– The experience really makes you grow and develop in so many different ways. Along with the skills you develop, I think it really helps you grow as a person; I feel I will be a more rounded individual by the end of my placement with much more confidence. It’s also made me more reflective, and I’m more aware of where and how I need to improve.
- Employment opportunities– A lot of employers recruit for their future graduate roles using internships, so it’s a great opportunity to impress and potentially have a graduate position secured.
- Networking– Whilst on a placement, you meet a variety of different people from graduates to skilled professionals with years of experience. Everyone is different and interacting with colleges with such diverse roles and interests has been a real learning experience. A placement is a great chance to make valuable contacts, as well as learn from the people you meet.
- Applying for graduate jobs– After undertaking the daunting task of finding a placement last year, I feel much more prepared for when the time comes around to apply for graduate schemes. Throughout the application process I noticed how important it is to be involved in extracurricular and other activities outside of academic life. Having done a placement you have many more examples of responsibilities, performance and skills to enhance your applications.
- Apply what you’ve learnt in the class room– As much as you learn at university, putting it into practice is completely different. Doing a placement is the perfect opportunity to do this and gives you a different experience and outlook to bring back to your final year at university.
PS, a lot of placements pay!
Starting my placement, I really had no idea what to expect! But I’ve learnt a lot over the last few months, and here are my top tips so far…
Ask lots of questions– People don’t expect you to know everything when you start and everyone’s been in your position at one point or another, so ask as many questions as possible as you’ll learn faster and be better off in the long run. When I first started everyone used a lot of acronyms, and I had no idea what most of them meant! But it was definitely worthwhile asking when I didn’t understand something and people are usually more than willing to help if they can.
Don’t forget about development– I know when you’re really busy it can be easy to put development needs behind you for a while. But try not to do this, as it’s really important and will benefit you in the future. I’m lucky as my manager is really encouraging about development and I have weekly one-to-ones with her to talk about projects and get feedback. It’s also a great way of knowing their expectations of you, keeping on track and up to date with what’s going on, as well as talking about performance.
When I started applying for placements, I had no idea what to expect and didn’t really know that much about going through the application process. Now looking back there are a lot of things I would have done differently, and I’m really grateful to have gone through the experience (I feel much more prepared for applying to Graduate Schemes now!).
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that you should start applying early, not only because many of the bigger companies close early but to have time to get a feel for the process. It is beneficial to apply to some of the less competitive placements first; gaining invaluable experience on what companies look for in applications, how assessment centers work and how to prepare for interviews. All of this puts you on a better footing for when you are applying to placements that you’re really keen on getting!
When I first started looking for the placement, I made the most of the career services at Aston. They’re there to help with CV and Cover Letters as well as mock interviews. This is really worthwhile as they have some great advice and can really help you improve before the real thing. Some companies, including PWC, offer mock interviews, which isn’t something I made the most of at the time but I’m sure is a really great opportunity! Aston also have a lot of Career Fairs, which is a great chance to meet representatives from organisations you may be interested in and ask some valuable questions.