Tag Archives: placementadvice

3 ways to effectively manage your time during placement

Being on placement doesn’t mean that you will be given interesting projects all the time. There is an element of mandate stuff that you will have to do as part of your job scope. Over time, this can get boring and sometimes you will fall into the zone of time wasting activities or even spending too much time reacting to last minute stuff. Here is my secret to how I manage my time as a placement student to be always on the ball and keep things interesting.

Identify what are activities, results or achievements

There is an infinite number of tasks waiting to be done, but what makes a difference in your placement would be how you categorise these kinds of tasks. I have learnt this on a course I attended during my placement which I thought was very useful and I am currently still doing it.

  1. Activities: These are stuff that is like second nature to you. The outcomes are usually within our control. (eg. Sending regular email updates)
  2. Results: These are stuff that doesn’t have an outcome you can control. Success is never guaranteed in these tasks. (eg. Presenting a new system which has been approved by the senior management)
  3. Achievements:  These are the stuff that you want people to remember you for. It is the legacy that you would be leaving in the company and in the minds of your colleagues.

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Managing the inner chimp

Have you ever told yourself that you would start a gym regime but didn’t got around to do it? Or have you ever told yourself that you would focus on getting the assignment done but didn’t get past the introduction?

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 These are signs of your inner chimp at work. All of us has the inner chimp and in order to be productive in our daily life, we have to be able to manage and tame it. The inner chimp is the emotional voice inside of you always telling you to talk the easiest way out or just stay within your comfort zone.

One way that I found useful to manage my inner chimp, is to break my task into smaller 30-minute chunks. By doing so, I find myself being able to focus during those 30 minutes slots without the urge to digress to other task or even feel the need to procrastinate. I usually find myself feeling achieved at the end of the day as I managed to complete my task. Here is an example of how I break down my task.

  • Market Research (1/4): 9am -9.30am
  • Detailed Analysis (2/4): 11am-11:30am
  • Report Compiling (3/4): 2pm – 2.30pm
  • Format Checking (4/4): 4pm – 4.30pm

If you interested in inner chimp concept, you should read The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters! Great book!

Self-Empowerment

For those who have never held a proper full-time job in their lives would be shocked at how much energy is drained from them at the end of the working day. This can take a while to adapt however over time it may become boring and demoralising at times. Hence, it is crucial to be able to self-motivate and empower yourself to keep your energy going!

What I found useful to have is a task checklist. Firstly, give yourself 3 task that you would like to achieve by the end of the week. Each of these tasks should be easily completed within an hour. Next, you should also have a daily task checklist which compromises of 3 tasks that require less than 30 minutes of work each. These should be easily complete before lunch or by the end of the working day! Here is an example of my weekly and daily task list.

  • Weekly Task List (30 minutes – 1 hour)
  1. Calling up supplier X to discuss a potential partnership.
  2. Compiling Excel Spreadsheet to calculate revenue trend.
  3. Researching on potential new features.
  • Daily Task List (less than 30 minutes)
  1. Clearing my emails from yesterday.
  2. Checking if the product X content is up to date.
  3. Printing outstanding contract to be filed.

As small as it may sound, these daily and weekly tasks are my motivation drivers that replenish my work energy and keeps me on task.

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The whos, whats, wheres, whens and whys…

Here goes a post to cover some of the practicalities of moving abroad to do a placement for a year, from the big things like finding somewhere to live, down to remembering to bring plug adaptors.

Accommodation

Originally the other intern and I had planned to live together, either just the two of us or with other students. For flatshares, we got told some sites to consult: leboncoin, appartager, housinganywhere, and some sites to avoid. In theory it seemed simple enough- we both needed to be in a similar area and had a similar budget in mind, however after many solid days of trailing through these sites we had still found nothing. For me the next logical step was to phone estate agencies in Toulouse and ask directly if they had any properties. This in fact proved very time consuming and everyone I spoke to (in my best very polite French) were unwilling to help. Another friend in Toulouse found this to be the case too- they don’t really cater to students, many only do rentals for a year or longer. The ones who were willing to help wanted enormous deposits- 9000€ for a three-month let, which of course had to be from a French bank account.

Thus, a dilemma was born. Paying for accommodation required a French bank account but acquiring a French bank account required a proof of a French address- I couldn’t get one without the other. (See: banking fiasco).

It seemed the only remaining solution was for us to split up and find separate living arrangements. I then resorted to Airbnb, feeling fresh out of other options. I booked flights to Toulouse, made appointments to visit several promising-looking Airbnb properties and went for a weekend-long property search. I eventually found a studio flat in a really nice area, visited it and booked it on the same day. Of course, another advantage of Airbnb is the security in terms of paying rent and deposits, and the fact that you don’t need a local bank account to pay.

Retrospectively, I can say up to this point all has gone well with the logistics of accommodation and would recommend using Airbnb for year abroad accommodation to anyone. In the three-month period I only hit one problem: the night before I was due to move out (how typical)- my flat was burgled. Other than this one-off, the rest of the stay was fantastic.

One thing I did learn is the importance of viewing the properties beforehand if you can. This does seem strange for Airbnb, but when I explained I would be staying for three months, most people were more than happy to show me round, and those who couldn’t kindly gave me the street address, so I could visit the area. This is not only to ensure the property does actually exist, but to get a feel for the area and to see what your journey to work will be like.

Bank

If you’re lucky enough to be doing a paid placement it is common to find that the receiving business will only pay into a local bank account, or if your placement is unpaid a local bank account is still the best way to avoid hefty conversion fees which can mount up if you use an English bank account overseas. This can be a tricky process.

In most banks it’s necessary to book an appointment in advance and take the following documentation with you:

Identification

Birth certificate

Convention de stage

Attestation d’herbegement (signed statement from your landlord to confirm you live with them)

Copy of your landlord’s identification

Proof that your landlord owns the address

After looking into this process and the previously-mentioned catch-22 situation regarding needing a local address, I opted to open account with Credit Agricole’s English speaking service Britline. All the registration is done online, with just a phone call to discuss what services you need, and you can receive all your documentation and cards etc to an English address before you go. So far I can’t fault the service and have found reassuring to know that if I experience any disasters that I can contact them in English.

Another product which came in handy at the start of my placement before my Britline account was set up was a Caxton card. Essentially the same as any foreign exchange card, you can top up the Caxton using a mobile app and convert into any currency you want. The charges are not bad and in some cases you can even get paid into your Caxton account as well. Another bonus is the super-simple registration process and small amount of documentation needed. The Caxton would be a great solution for anyone travelling, not only for stagiaires.

Insurance

Although your workplace and the university should definitely have you covered by insurance for your time away (of course check this), I decided to take out some insurance which would cover my phone, laptop, camera, debit cards, etc while I was away, as well as covering myself in case of illness, and which would insure me and my belongings for any other travelling in Europe during my year abroad. For this I used Endsleigh, who specialise in student insurance, and their Study Abroad Insurance. The policy I opted for was super cheap but covered everything I needed and thus far has been relatively stress-free, which is more than can be said about some other aspects of the move.

Paperwork

One really useful piece of advice I received was to make scans, photocopies and printouts of everything- especially as I had no access to a printer before starting work. This includes copies and scans of your convention de stage, passport, birth certificate, student card etc. As well as this, a set of passport photos was invaluable- I needed one handy as soon as I landed in Toulouse to buy a travel card and since then have got through another four for various bits and bobs.

Potentially forgotten things

  • Plug adaptors
  • Check if your accommodation includes bedding/ towels

I hope at least some of the above advice has been helpful, even if much of it is the same advice which has been repeated by everyone you mention your placement year to.

As always, get in touch if I can be of any help, and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.

A la prochaine,

J