I always knew before going to University that a professional placement year would greatly enhance my experience and employability when graduating. To the extent that it has I could not have predicted! Obviously it was not all sunshine and roses, the application process alone can be enough to make you give up on the idea, so perseverance is crucial to be successful. Once you receive the, what seems at the time, elusive job offer all of the hard work and hours of applications become a distant memory.
I worked for a small organisation based in Horsham, thinking that a small company would offer more responsibility and have more personality than a large organisation. Working in a team of around 10 people allowed me to create relationships with each person, and a year on, I am still in contact with them. Although I thoroughly enjoyed working in this tight knit environment it was a difficult start. I struggled to find the direction I needed to keep busy and felt slightly disengaged because the office was so busy itself. But looking back this was just all part of the experience, bringing me up to speed and preparing me for more responsibility. Towards the end of my placement, I had freedom to express my ideas and created my own accountability which made it difficult to leave and go back to University.
I felt less at the mercy of the organisation, which you can find working for a corporate organisation. One of my friends did their placement year at a global organisation and found themselves working 70 plus hours a week and occasional weekends without being paid overtime. She found that work was ruling her life and grew resentful of the company.
So if you are in the process of applying for a placement or even considering it, a word of caution! Think carefully about the type of organisation you ‘think’ you want to work for and remember that an interview can tell you as much about a company as you tell it about yourself.
I would recommend doing a placement year to anybody regardless of what course they study. It gives a sense of what the real working world involves, positives and negatives, it can help define a career path even for someone with no idea of the industry or sector they want to work in. It also gives employers the opportunity to work with enthusiastic and driven students looking to prove themselves as valuable asset.