Making the Most of your Placement
So you’ve landed that elusive placement, but, unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop there. It’s not just about having a placement to put on your CV; it’s all about making the most of your placement. Why? Not only could it lead to a job offer after you graduate, but it can help you figure out what you want from your career, help you build a network of industry contacts and help you gain experience in an area which particularly interests you.
Speak up & get involved…
A placement doesn’t mean sitting quietly in a corner, hoping that no-one notices you. You’re here to learn about the company and the industry, so don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues questions, particularly about their own experiences of working in the industry (although, of course, don’t disturb them if they’re frantically busy).
Placements are also a great chance to speak to graduate trainees and get tips on the application process for the graduate scheme. After all, networking is a vital skill and placements are a good chance to hone it. You should be looking to build up a list of contacts. This can help when trying to find a job after graduation.
Don’t chicken out of social events either, and see if there are other areas where you can get involved in the company social life, such as charity work, volunteering and sports teams.
Of course, you shouldn’t spend your entire time chewing off your colleagues ears; it is a place of work after all. Observation is equally as important, as placements give you a unique chance to learn about working in an office, what business practices work and how to communicate with colleagues.
Developing those all-important skills….
The great thing about placements is that they’re a fantastic way of figuring out what your skills are and what you need to work on. Before the placement, you might want to identify a set of skills that you want to develop whilst on the placement.
This means really pushing yourself at the placement. We don’t mean waltzing in on the first day and trying to take over the manager’s job, but making it clear that you’re eager to take on extra responsibility, such as managing your own small project. Show them that you’re looking for opportunities to prove yourself. After all, there’s no harm in asking to get involved with more interesting and challenging tasks, as long as you realise that you’ll also have to do your fair share of the more mundane tasks.
You might want to start on a small level, thinking of ways in which you can improve the organisation on a micro level, such as refining a process or making something more efficient. Don’t be afraid to point out a problem, but make sure you offer a solution.
Be sure to keep a diary or log of your placement. By recording your tasks, responsibilities and achievements, you’ll have plenty of examples to put in your CV and covering letter. Employers are far more impressed if you can demonstrate evidence of your work experience to support your various claims about your skills.
Part of making the most out of placements is examining what you’ve been doing on the placement and how you can do it better. You can always ask for an evaluation from your manager to find out what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. It really is about recognising your strengths and weaknesses and challenging yourself.
The cherry on top…
Some people have even been known to deliver a short presentation to the office at the end of their placement; thanking them and outlining what they have gained from the experience. This might not quite be your cup of tea, but you should always thank the staff at the end of the placement and make sure you say goodbye properly; no slinking out of the office. Make sure you get contact details and follow your departure with a 'thank you' email.