Hi, I’m Nirodha (Niro) and I’m currently a civil engineering student on my placement year. I’m just going to use this space to be open and candid about my experience so far and hopefully this series will give you a more insightful view on what a placement year entails.
Openly I’d like to admit that a 9-5 job for 5 days a week seemed quite daunting at first. I was used to late night study sessions, unhealthy sleeping patterns and feeling fatigued for the most part of my first two years at university. I wasn’t prepared for real life in the slightest but I realised that I had to implement some structure in order to get the most out of my placement year. I knew that it would be challenging but rewarding at the same time and taking the right steps to prepare makes a hell of a lot of difference.
Months before your placement
Keep your CV up to scratch, making sure all of your information is updated and that you record down any relevant work experience or achievements to make you stand out from the crowd. If you’re having trouble with articulating or expressing yourself, the Employability & Careers Centre has lots of free resources to help you, including Surrey Pathfinder which you can find on SurreyLearn under the ‘My Services’ tab. After drafting your CV you could set up a meeting via Quick Query on Surrey Pathfinder to have your CV checked by a careers adviser. Surrey Pathfinder is a digital hub with 24/7 access. There are interactive development tools including psychometric tests and online interview simulators as well as career tips to help you, they even have an app that you could use on your phone or tablet so take advantage of it!
The next thing would be to set up a LinkedIn account and whilst you’re at it, brush up your social media so future employers don’t see your slips from citrus nights or cringy posts from 2014 (first impressions count :D).
Practise your interview technique, make sure you come across genuine and approachable. It’s completely okay to be nervous but remember to smile and give a good handshake. There are plenty of videos on interview tips on Surrey Pathfinder and once again, your careers adviser might come in handy if you want to practice a mock interview.
Weeks before your placement starts
Now’s the time to start getting into the habit of waking up early. If you’re anything like me, I often struggle to fall asleep at a reasonable time (natural insomniac :/), I’d suggest going to bed 10 mins earlier every day until you’re able to wake up early and not feel extremely tired. You’re going to feel a lot more productive when you’re well rested.
Something that I glazed over was work attire. What is the company dress code and do you have enough to cover 5 working days a week with the odd laundry wash in between?
It’s also worth checking how you’re going to be getting into work. How long is the commute? Are there seasonal tickets that could save you some money? Does the company contribute towards your commute financially?
Days before your placement
The working world can be very busy and if your commute is quite long, you’ll struggle to find some time for yourself. I’d suggest meal prepping for the week during the weekend. This saves a lot of money from having to buy meal deals and can also ensure that you’ve put some thought into what you’re putting into your body.
The resources I use to keep my placement on track
Keeping a work diary is essential and can also help trace your memory when writing up your work experience in the future. It’s also a good way of tracking your progress and ticking off any goals you wanted to achieve throughout the year as well as ensuring that you keep up with deadlines and meetings.
Along with this, keeping a personal diary also helps with your organisation. I kept a virtual one on my PC that was synced with my work diary and I would log in when I would have appointments, gym sessions, meetings with friends and general holidays. It would then give me reminders of when I had something coming up.
To conclude, I know how daunting it can be to look for a placement and it’s important to note that there are going to be challenges. Try to stay positive and organised and know that you will eventually get there!