Category Archives: Charlotte Walker

‘What are you going to do for placement next year?’ ‘ummmmm…’

How you choose to spend a placement year can give rise to weeks of deliberation. Do you work or study? Do you stay in the UK or go abroad? If you work then what company do you work in? What aspect of business do you focus on?

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As a professional in indecisiveness, I remember this struggle well, and as I enter the last quarter of my internship I thought it may be useful to share the three main reasons why I believe if you are considering a year in industry then you should go for it.

 

Basic work experience is crucial

For many of us, we start University with no previous work experience within a business. I had always wondered what people do when they spend 8 hours a day looking at computer screens. What are they doing for that long? What actually happens within a business?

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The basic understanding of office functions is extremely valuable, and it has been really interesting and insightful to have a taste of the 9-5 office life.
This experience is just as crucial to employers as it is to the interns. Workplace experience can help graduates stand out from the crowd, as not all students can graduate with a years’ experience of working under their belt. In fact, last year, 59% of graduate hires for the Top Undergraduate Employers comprised of previous placement students and interns.

Clearer idea of your potential career

Work placements are a good way of ensuring you will not end up on a graduate scheme doing something you don’t like.
You will either enjoy your role or realise it is not the role for you. Either way, you learn what you do and don’t enjoy, which is important as you never really know what area you want to specialise in if you haven’t tried it out.

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I went into my placement at IBM with the idea of gaining a marketing role as I thought that was what I wanted to specialise in after University. However, I have learned over these months that design and innovation is what really motivates and interests me, so I can now tailor my graduate job searching with this in mind. Without taking a year in industry I may never have known how much I really am inspired by innovation.

Embarking on a year in industry provides you with an opportunity to explore other aspects of the business, aside from your role, to see what areas are your strengths and weaknesses. I have taken part in a variety of intern competitions and shadowing at IBM to try out as many aspects of corporation as possible, and the experience and insights I have gained will massively impact my career choice.

Fun!

I was worried when selecting a work placement over a study abroad placement that it wouldn’t be as much fun because I would be missing the ‘Uni lifestyle’. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

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For most internships, you move to a new city and often flat share with fellow interns so there is still the opportunity to live with people of your age or make new friends in the area.

Aside from this, you are learning every day in a corporate environment that is new to you. It is hard to not have fun in an environment where you are learning new things each day and still have the opportunity to spend your evenings how you choose – exploring a city, spending time with your friends, meeting new people. I currently live with three IBM interns and the balance of a professional environment on weekdays and exploring London together on weekends is really fulfilling. It is also reassuring to know that in this life scenario, you are surrounded by people, particularly the interns, who are in the same boat as you, with the same academic and career interests, so no matter how different you think you may be, you will always find things in common.

 

I would never have gained the friends, knowledge and experience this year had I not have taken a work placement. All in all, it’s been a great experience and one which I know will benefit me throughout my career. My advice? Go for it!

 

Welcome to my first placement blog!

Hi, I’m Charlotte and I am currently on placement with IBM, working on the Barclays Integrated Account. This internship is my first taste of a ‘real’ job in business and so I knew it would be a learning curve from the outset, but I perhaps underestimated the gradient of this curve! As I approach the half-way milestone of my journey with IBM I felt it was a good time to reflect on what it is that’s allowing me to make the most of this opportunity. I wanted to share some of the key things I have learnt throughout this process so far:

Ask

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The importance of asking questions when you don’t quite understand something or need a bit of clarification on a matter cannot be underestimated. This seems like an obvious one as it has been drilled into our heads throughout student life but we are still reluctant to do so, especially when in the workplace environment. I was reluctant to ask questions at the beginning of my placement simply because “I didn’t want to seem stupid”. Ironically, it was stupid to have that thought process. You’re not expected to know or understand everything the first time around. Good employers will respect questions, and clarification enables you to complete the task. This is especially important when you are a newbie to an industry – as many of us are during our placement year.

Say yes

Say yes to everything (well…most things)! It is not guaranteed that you will get your dream role for your internship, let alone even know what your dream role is yet, so it is down to you to take initiative and dip your toe into as many parts of the company as possible. I have found the best way to do this so far is by saying yes to the array of opportunities that are there around you. Whether this is participating in Lunch and Learns, networking events or intern competitions, it enables you to experience a different kind of work to your primary role, expand your network, and you never know, you could end up winning the IBM Intern Customer Journey Project 2017!

 

 

Listen

It can be quite (very) easy to zone out during meetings or office conversations when you are new to a company. Initially, I found it difficult to keep up with the IBM terminology – it really is a different language *considers adding bilingual to LinkedIn profile*. Listening is learning, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn from the experienced business people around you. Aside from meetings, just listening to everyday conversations around the office really helped me to understand the workplace dynamic. Office chat has enabled me to learn more about my team members as people, rather than just colleagues. How to interact with people in this way within a work environment is something that is different with everyone and important if you believe this year is as much about the networking as it is about the work experience.

Extra Learning

Not only are they jargon-filled, meetings are extremely fast-paced. Conversations didn’t wait for me (the audacity) and so I had to be on my game to keep up with them. Extra-curricular education has been essential to this. Keeping up with the latest news in the industry and business practices makes such a difference to settling into your role. Fortunately, IBM has a learning platform where you can take courses and badges to educate yourself on emerging technologies, if you have access to anything like this then I advise taking advantage of it. Aside from this, taking initiative and learning about what your team are working on will not go unnoticed. It shows that you care about what you and your team are involved in, which goes a long way.