Category Archives: UK Placements

Blog Series (6): The Ending

Everything eventually comes to an end, as is my placement. I am now preparing to complete my handover, any campaigns that need to be tied and of course promoting my role for the next placement student. The time goes quickly so make the most of it, I am happy to say I feel as though I have made the most of my placement, I’ve taken part in various campaigns and also been given the chance to manage them on my own as well as, being able to gain some experience on Photoshop, WordPress, Hootsuite, being given full access to our social media accounts, learning how to update and manage the Careers+Placements website and app.

I have taken part in away days, I’ve been able to visit Aston Villa Stadium, gone on Christmas meals and lunches, meetings with key players around the university and had the chance to meet the Vice Chancellor of the university. My placement has taught me how to network, how to build my confidence up for a graduate job and let’s face it as a university student this has been my most productive year of all.

The end is near, a little dramatic but it truly is, I feel ready to transition back into university and feel far more confident knowing that this will be my final year, before my placement I was always unsure, slightly lazy, had ambition but didn’t know how to exactly get to where I wanted, but now I feel as though I’m ready to get that degree and move on. I want to work as I have seen the benefits of working, like anything you will feel stressed or overwhelmed but that’s just life, and you will get through it.

Placement search can be hard, off-putting and difficult but if you find the right placement for you, then all that hard work will pay off, working for the Careers+Placements department at Aston has been a great experience and I can only hope the next bunch of placement students enjoy their placement as much as I did and remember, if you don’t manage to get the role that I am currently in, then don’t stop searching, ask for feedback on your interview and application process and learn from it.

 

I the ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student have come towards the end of my journey.

Good luck to you all, I hope you find the placement you were looking for!

City Year Testimonial

I am Nasima Akter and I proudly serve on Team Imagination at Ormiston Forge Academy in West Midlands.

A 20 year old undergraduate, psychology placement student, from the area of Birmingham. I attended Holly Lodge High School where I also completed my A-Levels, at which point I acquired a huge passion for teaching and learning, especially for the social science subjects. To the extent that, I would tutor my fellow peers in my sixth form – I delivered lessons to my psychology class and, produced and marked past papers by my peers, under the supervision of the teacher. This furthered my interest in pursuing a Psychology degree at Aston University when I came across City Year whilst searching for placements during my second year. City Year was the only organisation that appealed to me during this process, as I loved every aspect of it, and I eagerly wanted to be a part of this. My fear during this point was that if I do not get this position, I have nothing to fall back on (I only applied for this one placement!) because this was what I excitedly wanted to do; it ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in a placement and what I intend to go into in the future. After I graduate, I aim at completing a teaching degree for higher education and teaching young adults. I believe City Year has provided me with the right skills and mindset, as I have gained an immense amount of unforgettable experience during my placement, that will only be of support in the future.

Being at school every day brings new experiences and memories that I am certain I can take and keep forever – whether it’s a nice comment a student made, or events established by myself and the team and the message it leaves behind – our legacy.

During my time at school, I had the chance to attend trips with the students in different years and that helped them understand my role and become familiar with a new face around the school. My team and I, organised a charity drive on behalf of the school, which was a success, to the point that the local community acknowledged this and contributed with passion and gratitude. We also organised a bake sale that raised £150+ in one day! One student brought in 100 cupcakes – surely that’s something to remember and be proud of!
Working here gave us the opportunity to do a lot to help the students and the school, with exciting ideas every other day: designing and creating murals, organising clubs.

However, challenging situations is something nobody wants to experience, it is a thing we need to learn to overcome as individuals and a recurring challenge I faced was getting across any point or message to the students. The reason why this was hard for me was because being such a short person around almost every student who is taller than me, it was scary approaching taller and older year group students (even teachers sometimes!). However, with time, I built a relationship with many diverse individuals and a problem I once had that was always a bother, soon disappeared.

This led to many successes I became a part of and a success which has always assured me that, yes, I can do this. I can make a difference, was regarding a student I mentor – one with very poor attendance. By working with her on a one-to-one basis, I addressed this issue and helped improve her attendance rate. From the experience of shadowing and working alongside the pastoral team at the school who deal with attendance daily, I learnt how to appropriately provide regular interventions making her aware of how this negatively impacts her curriculum. She was understanding of this and made a promise to me “I’ll keep a promise to you Miss Akter, that I’ll come to school every day and I don’t break my promises”, which till this day she has kept. As her City Year mentor, I am proud of the positive changes she has made and the amazing impact it has had on her behaviour and curriculum, and this will help shape her attendance and behaviour during her GCSE’s.
As a volunteer mentor at City Year, it brings its good and bad moments, but in my case, a lot of good moments has outweighed any bad ones, which I am grateful for! Being in contact with students, most likely the same ones every day, means they have the chance to get used to working with me and so when it comes to a point when I am not there, they ask. They ask again and again for me to attend their lessons, they want me to only work with them, they place trust in me and they become happy upon seeing me anywhere during the school day. I love the bond I have created with the students and will surely be one of the most remarkable things I will miss when I leave. Many students were inspired by me and this motivated me to not let them down, so I always thrived for the best so they too can succeed, with and without me.

During the year, I had the opportunity to attend networking events with City Year business partners such as The Challenge and NCS. As well as this, I had the chance to present at an impact breakfast, to a room crammed with 40+ business investors, some who know and others who didn’t know anything about City Year and the purpose. During this breakfast, I spoke about the school I am based at, and the impact we have had in the school so far, mainly the impact on attendance. This was an amazing experience and helped with my presentation skills and speaking at a balanced pace. Finally, another event I had the privilege to be part of, included the City Year dinner which involves an evening with investors and young people who are keen to find out more about City Year and become a part of this grow.

Although City Year is about helping students from different backgrounds, it is also for our own development and I can proudly say I have learnt through experience how to lead especially, and effectively. Anyone can lead, but it means nothing if there is no confidence in yourself but doubt, and this is what I overcame – I believed in myself, and had passion every time I spoke. This was shown through leading an extra-curricular sports club for the students as well as planning and delivering morning sessions to a group of students in year nine. From the training we receive every Friday, it helped me placed down the theory of what I learnt to reality during school and have always proved to be effective. Especially, because I am terrible in Maths, that quite often I would inform others I’m more likely to hinder a person’s progress than aid it! But, after receiving training on Maths and how to deal with situations, allowed me to observe what to do next and how to tackle this, from which I gained transferable skills on adapting and suitability.

Overall, I have come a long way battling through struggles I have faced, whilst gaining experience and new skills at the same time, as well as with my team members, with whom I’ve created relationships with that will not cease to exist after we have finished our year of service. Working in a school that’s based in a small community, made us all, in fact, become part of a close-knit community; where everyone knows each other and now about City Year and the bigger picture of why we are there. This has provided me with a sense of purpose; I know I am always welcome back here, and I know what I wish to do, which is to help young adults become integrated into society and have a sense of purpose and value. Being in a school that entails cultures and backgrounds different to what I have grown up around, furthered my knowledge and understanding of other cultures and perspectives. As well as this, I have broadened the mind of many students who are ambitious to learn. They were keen to learn about fasting in the month of Ramadan and some were inspired to experiment and try fasting for a day. This goes to show how eager they are to learn about different religions and traditions and accept individuals wholeheartedly.

City Year has motivated me to get involved in work like this; volunteering in other organisations etc. and quite specifically, it has inspired me to volunteer with ex-offenders on a mentoring programme.

If I can make a change in one person’s life, that is one more person who may decide to bring a positive change to someone else.

 

Blog series (5): 6 months in …. The halfway line

Disclaimer: This post is an edited version of my previous post (6 months in) I am now way past the halfway line!

It seems like only yesterday I was on Aston Futures searching for a placement, yet here I am almost 6 months into my Placement Year, half the year done! Already I have begun preparing myself for my assignment and believe you me, it’s not as easy as you think it would be. When going on a placement at times you can feel disconnected from the university. Regardless of working in my place of study, for the longest time I have felt disconnected. This is not a bad thing, this is just a part of me growing up and working hard. It may come to a time where you feel as though, your placement has somewhat matured you, for me, this is exciting as I feel I have finally developed the mindset I need to delve into my final year.

6 months into my placement and I have established a range of skills, I never thought I could develop until after graduation, I have built up my confidence and self-esteem considerably and I have now learnt to trust myself more than any other person in this world, in the world of work, you are relied upon and in order to really succeed, you must also rely on yourself first and foremost to get the job done.

As the New Year approaches, I can truly say that my placement has made me proud of who I have become and the best part is that I still have 6 months to go. During this time, I have taken part in a range of networking events where I have had the opportunity to liaise with other employers and colleagues, I have contributed to several important meetings and will soon have the chance to chair a meeting of my own. I have also contributed to a few ‘employer away days’ where the team gets together to discuss progress, issues and future campaigns. This by far has been one of the most engaging factors for me, as during this period you are required to think critically about all that has been achieved in the past and how this can be improved in the short/long term. During this period of time you are required to analyse and communicate effectively with other members of the team, it is during this point you come to realise that in order to provide a seamless service, it is essential the team takes time away from the office to brainstorm and discuss a range of innovative ideas to
bring about great change.

Not only have I learnt a range of new things I have also met some great people and made a tonne of new memories with some new friends. Working in an environment where you are joined by other placement students not only provides you with the moral support you may need, but it just makes the placement all the more fun and interesting. As we all study at Aston I have made friends on my course who I never knew of before and the best part is that we can all help each other with our assignments! The past 6 months have been a treat and I cannot wait to come back in the New Year to see what it may bring.

Remember, don’t be afraid of success, now is the time to push yourselves, now is the time to really do great things – The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Stay tuned to read about coming to the end of my placement journey next Monday.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

Blog Series (4): The first day

 

Disclaimer: Take this with a pinch of salt, your day could be a little or very different! 

I got the ‘Yes’ in May and started in July which was still a little time away, I was nervous, to say the least. I got on the train and made my way to Aston, when working as staff the environment completely changes, you are no longer that student who gets late for their lectures, or who walks into the Main Building only to walk back out, you are staff and as staff you are required to be there on time, well dressed and ready for the day.

It is likely that your manager will greet you when you come in and help you get settled at your desk, you will then be taken around the department and be introduced to your colleagues, don’t worry if you forget names,  soon all will be familiar, after all the handshakes and formal introductions you will be taken back to your desk.

At this point, things get real, real quick! You’ll be given a timeline of plans and comms that the team have been working on, what you need to work on and what your targets will be. You will be given a handover, for instance, I will create a handover document for the next placement student so they know how I did things, what they need to do and just to give them that bit of advice from placement students to placement student and then you will be given a fairly easy task to help you get familiar with the role.

Oh, and of course you will be given your log-ins, an email account, a staff card and just to warn you, they do not give you a chance to smile coherently for the picture, so be sure to have your ‘I’m ready for a picture’ face on at all times and you will also need to create a message for your voicemail … mines is dreaded, thank god no one really calls me!

The first day was great I did not feel too overwhelmed, as I was eased into the role, at least for a good month! They really do give you the time to settle, you are also given a ‘buddy’ which is another colleague in the department who you can talk to if you do not feel ready to approach matters with your manager or do not know how to.

The first day now seems like a blur, I do remember feeling lonely, however, as I had not befriended any colleagues at this point and my friends had not moved back to university, it was a lonely time at the start as other placement students had not yet started either. However, in due to time I have met the best placement students, staff and made some great friends, make sure to integrate with your team and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your placement colleagues.   

Your first day will be great, it will be normal to feel nervous, but just remember like with anything you’ll adjust and feel at home before you know it!

Stay tuned to read about my journey 6 months in this Thursday

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

 

Blog series (1): The application process

Hi there, my name is Zahra and I am currently working as a Marketing Assistant for Aston’s Careers+Placements zahra image 11department. Stay tuned for my blog series every Monday & Thursday to help YOU land my role, for your placement year!

Don’t know what’s worse when applying for a role,  the interview or the application process? For me it was the application process, as it can be a daunting experience, it can put you off a job before you’re even given a chance, it can even make you feel incompetent for the job, but if you do it right, then you can really give yourself a fighting chance to stand out from the crowd.

When applying for a role it is likely that you will be asked to submit a CV and Cover Letter, remember you can always get this checked before you apply, by uploading your documents on Aston Futures for your Placement Coordinator to check, this is exactly what I had done before my placement search began. But that’s a story for another time.

When writing up a CV specifically for marketing make sure to highlight ‘relevant’ details, get your thinking hats on or better yet use google to help you identify exactly what skills and qualities you need to work in marketing, once you have done that think about the skills and qualities you do have, and I bet you there are plenty and use that to highlight how you can contribute to the team.

Instead of just listing your skills and qualities, if you have space why not add a sentence to highlight how you have demonstrated the skill or quality in the past. For instance, the most common skill/quality that is listed in most CV’s is ‘effective communication skills’, brilliant, if you have that but so does everyone else or so they claim, if you do have ‘effective communication skills’ how do you know? Communication can come in the form of speaking and writingbrilliance, have you worked in a Call Centre? As a Sales Assistant? Do you blog? Tell us how and remember you don’t need to list every skill or quality, you need to highlight the one’s that make you stand out and are relevant to marketing, be a little different and don’t just stick with the most common skill/quality, do your research!

Another tip would be … and believe you me this is overlooked, take a look at the job description and pick out key buzz words from that description, 9/10 times if a job description is written well, employers will put in keywords that they want you to use, they are literally telling you exactly what they want to see in your CV and Cover Letter!

Be a little creative. Your Cover Letter, is a glimpse into your personality, from this employers, are able to see where your passion resides. When applying for a role at Aston be sure to mention what campaigns you have come across, how familiar you are with the department, if you are part of a society, do you follow their social media? Don’t forget to also mention what campaigns interest you in general, like any other employer Aston does not expect you to only be interested in Aston, we understand you have other interests, don’t shy away from those. Do mention how your modules may contribute to your role in marketing, but be sure to explain how or why, fair enough if you have covered marketing as a module, but what skills did you gain, or let’s say you haven’t, have you worked in a team or given a presentation if so pop that in.

And last, of all, do apply! If you are interested in Marketing then this is the role for you, I have learnt so much during my time here at Aston, it has prepared me well for a graduate job and has given me the confidence to do what I really want to do. Stay tuned, to read about my interview process and tips next Monday!

The ‘not so chronically lazy’ placement student.

Interested in this placement position? Head on over to Aston Futures and use the Job ID – 20885 to apply!

You think teaching is easy? Think again!

People who say teaching is the easy option need to come and do their placement in a school and have their eyes opened. As a placement student in school I’ve assumed the role of a teaching assistant, helping out in lessons with either less able or disruptive students. Unlike most teaching assistants I have specialist subject knowledge and can really challenge some of the students to learn more than ‘just enough to get them a pass’ which is what many students seem to aim for.
I’ve been on placement 3 months now, and have already learnt a great deal about teaching in general, and these are the things I would share with anyone looking at doing teaching after they graduate like I am.
1. Never show weakness – I’m pretty sure the students can smell fear on you. In my first week I was told that I have full teaching rights and to give out detentions if I feel they are needed. But I was not confident enough to do this and discipline properly, and they could tell I was new. As the weeks went on and I grew in confidence and learnt how to speak to the kids they learnt that I meant business! Now, they do listen to me, and if I set a detention, I’m not bluffing but mean it.
2. Children are nosey – No matter how many times I’ve told them I’m a university student, they always ask if I’m a real teacher. They ask how old I am, if I have children and if I’m married. Most of the time, they’re asking these questions because they’re bored or they just don’t want to learn. Don’t fall into the trap of answering these questions, as they’ll always find more to ask. I did like making them guess my age until one year 11 student said I looked 30… being 21, this was NOT what I wanted to hear.
3. They will not do as much work with a cover teacher – FACT, and I remember this from when I was at school. To even the best behaved students, cover teacher = easy lesson. Sometimes, just getting certain students through a lesson with a cover teacher without any other teachers having to remove them is an achievement, even if all they write is the date and the title.
4. Small arguments will be the end of the world for year 7s – In year 7, there is a huge difference in maturity, and it’s very obvious. Some students still think that, like in primary school, arguments will be sorted by the teacher, but most teachers don’t have time to monitor every small friendship issue. They will sort it in the end. They will learn.
5. You will not just be a teacher – As a teacher and especially as a form tutor (Which I am to a year 7 group) you assume the role of many other people. You’re a parent figure to some children with difficult home lives. You give advice and guide them in things that happen outside school. You council students who are struggling with friendships or find school life difficult. You’re a doctor, trying to decipher when a student is ill or ‘ill’ because they don’t want to do a test. And alongside teaching your main job is that you are a role model, teaching students not only the curriculum, but how to be a good person and how to grow into a good adult.

Applying for My Placement

For a long time I had considered continuing my education and qualifying as a Speech and Language therapist, but as it is specialised I was not sure whether it would be the right path for me. So, I decided to try my best efforts to secure a placement within the NHS under a Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) department.

Finding a placement in SLT and not being on the course was difficult, I must have contacted every SLT department, in every city, from Leicester to York and none would take me on. I attended one of the placement fairs at Aston’s Student Union and there is where I made my first contact with a Speech and Language assistant from Birmingham Community Healthcare (BCHC). She gave me a brief overview of the role and this coincided with the research I had done pushed me into applying for a student placement with BCHC.

The time between contact and receiving an interview was just under a few months and I considered this opportunity as my last shot so, it was pretty nerve wrecking. The nerves did not by any means end there, as there was little information about competencies and previous student interviews with SLT, there was only so much I could prepare for the interview.

I was interviewed by a therapist and an assistant who were really friendly and the first few questions were generic interview ones focusing on skills such as communication and team working. There were a few scenario based questions that did catch me off guard but it was just a case of applying the skills I had to the role I was applying for.  When I left the interview I felt that I had babbled on too much and did not do well, so it was to my surprise when I got a phone call later from my interviewer saying I had secured a placement!

10 TOP TIPS TO FIND YOUR PERFECT PLACEMENT

1)   Use all sources for your search

There are so many places you can look for placement options, so don’t just presume Aston Futures is your be and end all. Use ratemyplacement.com, e4s.com and indeed.com. You can also branch out further, and use family friends and social media to try and find connections for businesses that may not necessarily advertise their Industrial Placement vacancies.

2)   Don’t rule out your own area

Although some people would hate the idea of moving back home for a year after living solo at University for two already- don’t rule it out as an option. It can save huge amounts of money on living costs and accommodation…and you even get your evening meal made for you!!! (Who can resist that, I ask!?) Living at home can also create ease for you, with your home friends around, new friends to be made at your new job and possibly even more mobility if you have your own car or can borrow one at home. It’s a great idea to just Google large businesses in your own area, and have a scout on their careers pages or drop an email to see if they offer any placement positions.

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3)   Be prepared for the various stages in application

These days, companies like to throw all sorts of application stages at you. Below are the possible stages you could be asked to complete before getting to an assessment centre:

  • Large online form to include all personal info e.g. qualifications, interests, CV and Cover Letter upload
  • Simple cover letter and CV upload onto an online site
  • Online personal questions e.g. ‘Give us an example of when you have achieved personal goal.’
  • Online Psychometric and Mathematics tests (they are so hard so do your homework before taking them!)
  • Phone interview
  • Automated or live skype recorded interview
  • Face to face interview
  • Trial day at the workplace (not as scary as you may think!)
  • Assessment centre- this usually includes both group and individual exercises

4)   Apply, Apply, Apply…

My advice would be to apply to as many vacancies as possible and keep your options open. Providing that the vacancy is still relevant to your chosen course, you should ensure that you are applying to as many as you can, and as early as you can. I started from September, and that certainly helped me, as I was in no mad rush to get a load done at once, and all of the stages were conveniently spaced out throughout the year, so I wasn’t stressed when exam and coursework submission period came around. It might be a good idea to give yourself targets of applying to around 3 or 4 a week around September-December, to help yourself keep on track. It may also be important to read thoroughly through the job specification before applying. Not only because this can significantly help with the applications themselves (because they usually contain the answers that employers are looking for), but also because it is important to restrict yourself to only applying to ones that are relevant to you e.g. if they require certain skills, degree channels, unrestricted mobility or qualifications. This will save you a lot of time…and the disappointment of rejections.

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5)   Be savvy with your application questions

Applications are known for being very tedious, monotonous and time consuming, and you’ll therefore be delighted to know that there are some corners you can cut very easily, in order to reduce your boredom and avoid being driven crazy. The main top tip I can pass on, would be to ensure that when answering your personal questions during the application process, make sure you’re adding each question and answer to a word document as you’re going along. This is because a lot of the questions from different companies can give you the same, or very similar questions, and so this will save you a lot of time and effort writing up the same (or similar) questions again. A lot of your answers can often also be reworded and repurposed for different questions. Just make sure you change the company or industry references to apply to the specific job application.

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6)   Have a spotless CV and Cover Letter

Keep both your CV and Cover Letter relevant and short! An employer may only spend around 5-20 seconds looking at each applicant’s document, and so it needs to capture them straight away, and also be very easy to digest. To help you, use subheadings and online examples as inspiration to keep yours tip top! In the CV itself, make sure you sell yourself and take pride in your achievements- convince them to give you that interview! Then once you’re done and before sending it into the Aston Placement Team, ask a trustworthy person to check over it to ensure it is of quality, or even compare with friends to see if there is anything you have missed.

7)   If you aren’t sure…ASK!

If you’re looking for a placement or to study abroad, or even if you are unsure about the placement search or application process- do not be afraid to drop the placement team an email at absplacements@aston.ac.uk or pop into their office in the Student Union. No question is too silly! Be sure also not to leave things too late, as application processes can close early sometimes (particularly for study options abroad), and you don’t want to miss an opportunity!

8)   Be Prepped for Assessment Days!

They aren’t anywhere near as scary as you may think! In fact, a lot of the time Assessment Centres are presented informally and can involve engaging activities- so don’t be worried if on is approaching. However, there are a few things that are worth taking with you to ensure you are fully prepared…

  • Your printed CV
  • A notebook and a couple of pens
  • Lunch (it may not always be provided)
  • Printed background info on the company (to refer to if you forget anything)
  • And of course, it is still very important to look presentable and ensure that you are ‘geeked up’ on all the necessary info too.
  • Most importantly- make sure you bring yourself!! Don’t try and be someone you aren’t, it will show through in interviews, and actually is much better to be relaxed

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9)   Don’t be disheartened

It can be very frustrating getting the dreaded phone call or email…’Unfortunately we have decided not to process your application further…’ But please do not be disheartened!! Keep your spirits high and make sure you keep on applying to other options, as you never know what is around the corner, and only means that you are simply not what the employers are looking for- which doesn’t in any way mean that you are not what a different employer is looking for!

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10)               Don’t be afraid to put yourself out of your comfort zone

There are many aspects about getting a placement which may place you outside of your everyday comfort zone. From interviews in unfamiliar places, to meeting a wide range of new people, or answering questions on the phone or conference call. Do not be afraid or put off by pushing yourself to do these things, visit new places and take pride in meeting new people or having new experiences. After all, it is what a placement is all about.

Goodbye Birmingham, Hello, um, Home?

So when I started applying for placements, I didn’t really think about the reality of it all. I knew I wanted to come back home, to save some money and be closer to my friends, boyfriend and family. Throughout my time at Aston, I’ve always struggled with homesickness, so this seemed like the obvious choice. The easy option; how hard could it be?
Well, the answer is quite. And now I’m homesick for Birmingham – here are the top 10 things I miss about my 2nd home and favourite city!

  1. Uber – this sounds like a strange one, but my town doesn’t have Uber, and every time I use a regular taxi I now complain about the fact it isn’t Uber. I miss its convenience and its safety and hoping soon that my town finds its way into the 21st century.
  2. New Street – I miss being connected. From my local station (which only has one line) I can get to either Birmingham or London. From New Street, I can get anywhere. I’ve had so many tearful goodbyes there and seen it rebuilt into the architectural beauty it is now.
  3. Shopping – alongside our beautiful station we also got some new shops to compliment The Bullring. Forgetting a birthday is never an issue when I have pretty much any shop I could ask for just a 10 minute walk away.
  4. Not needing a car – don’t get me wrong, having my own car is a lifesaver and I need it to get to and from my placement every day. But I really don’t like the fact I have to pay for it. I now 100% understand why people moan about paying for parking, the cost of petrol and rush hour. I also really miss walking everywhere!
  5. Independence – Living on my own for 2 years has made me so much more confident, and now that I live with my parents again there are certain things I really miss. As a family we’ve always tried to eat dinner together, but I do really miss cooking for myself and having whatever I like to eat. (But I’m so glad I can enjoy Mum’s roast dinners again!)
  6. Flatmates – I learnt a huge amount from my flatmates. I learnt so much about different cultures, religions and ways of life. I also learnt to negotiate who was taking out the bins out, a really useful life skill.
  7. Learning – As much as I’m learning skills on my placement, I’m not learning academically. I miss lectures that really made me think and want to do my own research.
  8. Concerts – Birmingham has a really good music venues, my home town has, well, none. Being able to go to gigs and concerts and not have to rush to catch the train home was one of the best things about living in a city.
  9. Friends – although I’m at home, and have my friends here, I also really miss all my friends I made at university. Some are also on placement and some have carried on into their final year, but I know I really have made some friends for life at Aston.
  10. Coming home – I miss getting excited to visit home. I miss packing a suitcase, trying to find a seat on the train and being picked up from the station. But now I get to be excited to go and visit Birmingham, my favourite city!

Every placement has an end, but in life every ending is a new beginning

Hello all!

Hope you are all well and good! In all honesty, I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news.. but my placement has unfortunately come to an end. I never imagined my time would come to an end so suddenly, but it seems if you keep yourself occupied long enough, you won’t even realise where time has disappeared to! It’s truly sad to see the placement coming to an end and especially saying the final farewells (the part I find the hardest!). The way I see it, it’s all part of the learning process and I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I have been given. I was always on the fence about choosing a career in clinical psychology, but I feel I have a much clearer idea now.

As this is my final blog post, I will give the most credible and honest (believe me when I say this) feedback about my time as an honorary at BSMHFT. I will give you a breakdown of the service, what I did on a day to day basis, the psychological interventions that you will encounter and important tips to remember if you are one of the lucky ones working in a CMHT setting as part of your placement year!

Community Mental Health Team (CMHT):

The core function of CMHTs are to provide assessments and interventions for people experiencing moderate to severe and enduring mental health problems. The diagnosis criteria includes psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression,  bi-polar disorder and OCD. People can only be referred to this secondary care service by their GP or a primary care service such as IAPTs (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) or BHM (Birmingham Healthy Minds). To accomplish and complete shared objectives, a CMHT is made up of professionals from different disciplines including Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Support Workers, Occupational Therapists and Nurses.

Responsibilities:

➔ Shadowing assessments and other members of staff: I was given many opportunities to sit into assessments which measure a persons suitability for psychological therapy. During this, the clinician usually requested me to make notes from which I could make a formulation (see below). As you’ll be working in a multi-disciplinary team, you will be able to shadow other team professionals such as psychiatrists, occupation therapists and support workers.

Writing formulations and case histories: Throughout the year, I was involved in planning service user care programmes. Following an assessment, I would use the 5P formulation (Predisposing, Precipitating, Presenting, Protective and Perpetuating factors) to organise the notes and present them to the clinician. Also I was given the task of completing detailed case histories which required reading through their past history and summarising the information into one easy to read document. Both helped in making a decision whether the client should be taken up for therapy.

➔ Facilitating group programmes: At my CMHT, I was fortunate enough to participate in a depression group programme. Here the service users were provided with therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness) in a group setting. My role as an honorary assistant was to write up progress notes, scoring measures and facilitating mindfulness exercises.

➔ Attending meetings: On a weekly basis, I attended multi-disciplinary team meetings which involved discussing about team caseloads. Here different professionals would offer their own insight into how best resolve managing a service user. Also on a monthly basis I attended business and depression group programme meetings.

➔ Conducting audits: As an Honorary Assistant, you will be required to complete an audit during your placement time.  This will involve you collecting and analysing data from the database and trying to identify anomalies that shouldn’t otherwise be there. Once complete you will have to report back in the meeting.

➔ Maintaining databases:  At the CMHT, the psychology team will have their own spreadsheet database which allows clinicians to track referrals to Psychology. As an Honorary Assistant, it will be your role to keep this spreadsheet up to date by entering referral dates, appointments attended and assessment forms received.

➔ Aston CPD programme: On a weekly basis you will be given training on topics relevant to your placement. These will be facilitated by clinical psychologists based on their speciality. Topics will cover basic formulations, psychosis, and research methods.

➔ CORE/Scoring measures: During assessments, service users are required to complete questionnaires. These are used to assess the severity of the individuals problems. You will come across measures such as Becks Depression Inventory, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire.

Psychological Interventions offered in a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) setting:

Out of all psychological therapies provided, you will see that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will be administered quite frequently and is the first choice of therapy by Psychotherapists. There are interventions which focus on relapse prevention and early warning signs. Here therapists focus on making coping strategies which can help clients handle their symptoms and identify signs of relapse. This reduces the number of clients from becoming admitted to hospitals. A powerful and newly emerging therapy known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive therapy (MCBT) which aids in preventing relapse of depression, especially in individuals with major depressive disorder.

Therapy specially designed for treating patients with trauma related symptoms such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. Individuals who may suffer from chronically suicidal thoughts and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be offered Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Behavioural Activation therapy is often used to encourage individuals to develop positive behaviour that they would usually avoid doing.

Things you need to remember:  

➔ You will most likely feel overwhelmed  when encountered with word terminologies and areas of psychology which you might not be familiar with. Don’t worry you will pick it up without realising but don’t be scared to ask others if you are unsure! They know you are a placement student and would be happy to answer all your questions.

➔ This placement year will be a steep learning curve, expect to make mistakes, but make sure to learn from them!  Through my own experience I would highly recommend carrying a diary and making good use of it. Placement staff will begin to trust you when you can prove you can work by yourself and show self-initiative. As the placement progresses you will be given more and more to do!

➔ Before sitting in on an assessment to see a client, it is useful to read up on their background history. This will help you know what to expect!

➔ You will only gain shadowing experience if staff are aware of who you are! Try and get yourself known within the team by attending meetings and any other social events.

➔ You will have been assigned a placement tutor who will give you useful advice throughout the year and will be happy to talk to you about any thoughts, issues and most importantly your systematic review.

➔ You will have regular contact with other Aston placement students and will be attending weekly training sessions provided by the NHS. Make good use of this time to address any worries you may have with your peers.

➔ If you have any issues that you wish to raise don’t be afraid to speak up. Both the placement and Aston university want you to make the most of this year but also at the same time want you to enjoy it thoroughly.

Disclaimer: You will be expected to complete the minimum 150 days which will require you to work full-time unpaid 4 days a week. Remember don’t count the days, make the days count! Once you have finished for the day you have actually finished; you will not be required to take any work with you home. This leaves your evenings and weekends completely free!

It’s been a pleasure blogging my placement experience to you all! I wish you all the very best in life and hope I have been of help! Whenever in doubt remember:

“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs!”

Ali