Hi, I’m Olive and I am currently on my placement at the University of Surrey’s Employability & Careers Service as a Student & Employer Engagement Assistant. It feels like time has flown by since I started, so I thought I’d share my experience so far…
Settling into my role
In the beginning, I found starting my placement slightly intimidating. You feel a bit thrown in at the deep end, having to quickly learn the ropes for all the platforms and systems you’ll be using.
I felt like an imposter at some points, because it really felt like I wasn’t qualified enough to be working here (even though technically you don’t need to be qualified on a placement). Although I found there was a couple times where a pep-talk on the phone with my mum helped me a lot. Sometimes, when you feel like this it’s best to talk things through with someone you trust.
It also helped that everyone here was really friendly and welcoming; offering me training if I was stuck on something, or by just being very supportive of me and my development- which was exactly what I wanted out of a placement.
After the first month, I felt as though I was finally getting the hang of things and no longer feeling so out of place.
What new skills have you developed?
Since working in the careers department, I’ve built up a new awareness of how to digitally market events on social media, having been a part of many different campaigns and events. I’ve learnt how to use and design on a website called Canva to create promotional material for different social media channels, then also learning how to schedule the posts using different websites.
I’m currently learning how to code so that I can help with website amendments, which is really interesting- it’s something I’ve wanted to try doing for a while to see if I enjoy it. Not only is this a useful skill, but it’s also something cool to put on my CV.
How do you find working compared to studying?
At first it took a bit of getting used to. Suddenly working 9-5 can be a bit of a shock to the system, although because the first couple of weeks were so busy, I think I settled in and got into a rhythm pretty quickly.
It’s quite nice having different things happening on different days for my placement, I like the variety. It’s not just an office job, I get to work at different types of stands or support with different events going on- which makes it more interesting.
I also quite like being able to come home and not have to do any work. With uni work it felt like I couldn’t switch off; I was constantly thinking about all the revision/work I could be doing all the time, so it’s a nice break from that feeling honestly. Plus, I have no exams for a year!
Placement highlight so far
A highlight so far was being able to see my design for the Festival of Employability campaign all around campus! It was really cool seeing it randomly pop up on digital screens and thinking “Oh I made that”, as well as hearing positive feedback about the design.
Tips for placement applications
My main tips would be to start applying early. Make sure you tailor your CV and cover letters to each application, thoroughly researching the companies to give you something to talk about and show that you’re interested. A good way to do this is through having a look at their LinkedIn profile to see the latest things they’re up to, then mention it (if relevant) in your cover letter.
I also found it useful to have a word document full of examples of my competencies- something suggested to me from doing the Employability Award. For example, having a couple of examples of when I showed strong communication skills or when I’ve worked well in a team. Then you can demonstrate the types of skills they’re looking for in an interview.
Finally, don’t get put off if you don’t get interviews to start with. Job applications do take some practice, the careers service have some great resources to help you and are very supportive, so please do reach out for help. You can email them on email@example.com, or come along to one of their drop-ins.
What are the benefits of doing a placement year?
A placement year has so many benefits. Not only does it increase your employability, but it also plays a role in your character development. Overall, I think the confidence you gain from just having a year in industry really helps to prepare you for the real world outside of studying and assignments. It’s definitely something worth doing if you can.