31 July 2023

5 Things I’ve Learnt During My Placement Year: Expectations vs Reality 

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Hey! I’m Anna, the Placement Student at RateMyPlacement. As my placement year comes to an end, I reflect on all the things I’ve learnt both personally and professionally. Here are all the things my second year self would’ve never expected to learn when working in industry. 

The handover

Every company is different when it comes to training and assignments. So make sure you’re aware of this before starting your placement. You don’t want to go into it blindly. 

Expectation: My expectation on this wasn’t too solid. But I was expecting to be able to do everything from day one. 

Reality: Your placement provider will definitely want you to get stuck in. But they don’t want to overwhelm you either. So it’s likely they’ll ease you into your programme slowly…

If you’re given a handover from the previous placement student, make sure you’re asking them everything you can. Curiosity shows interest. And interest shows you care. 

Self confidence and imposter syndrome

As a self proclaimed extrovert, this wasn’t something I thought I’d be writing. However, it was a big part of my placement (including getting over it!)

Expectation: You’ll be just as confident at work as you are in real life.

Reality: It’s easy to have some imposter syndrome when working with people who’ve done this for years.

Honestly, embrace it. It’s the best thing you can do. Admitting that you feel a little out of place helps others help you. Plus, most people feel it, including the most senior. 

Having a mentor really helps as you can share how you’re feeling in a more personal setting. Plus you can ask questions and come up with processes for building your confidence.

Building professional connections

The experience of joining a new company as a placement student is a unique one, and it feels like everyone and their mum is telling you to network. 

Expectation: You have to impress and network with people at a hardcore level. And if you don’t have at least 500+ connections on LinkedIn, you have *failed*. 

Reality: The best part about networking is that you don’t really have to try (okay maybe a little bit). But working with people is networking. You’ll meet and work alongside new faces who can potentially provide great connections.

The most important part is remembering who to reach out to in the future when you need a helping hand. Whether it’s a reference or LinkedIn recommendation, your colleagues are here to support you. They want to see you thrive.  

Here are 8 steps to creating the ULTIMATE LinkedIN profile.

Prioritisation and saying no

When you start a placement, you’ll have multiple responsibilities and tasks to complete each week. This can sometimes feel a little overwhelming.

Expectation: You need to say yes to everything and get everything done on time, no matter how long it takes.

Reality: Although you should work to the best of your ability, sometimes it’s okay to say no to new tasks. Explain that you have a heavy workload and people will be understanding. Quality over quantity! 

Getting a diary is key to being organised and prioritising workload. Plan out your days, and don’t be afraid to physically block out time in your calendar if things are getting busy. That way, you can keep on track with everything.

Work-life balance

When you nail this one in your placement, you’ll find that everything else falls into place. 

Expectation: You won’t know too much about your company culture until you’ve settled in and watched how others engage with the business.  One rumour I’d heard was that if you take your holiday, it looks bad!

Reality: Your work will want you to take time off and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is important for your wellbeing, and ensures maximum success in your role. 

Whether it’s an extended lunch break with a friend or a midday yoga class with your colleagues, if it helps you feel better, it has our vote.

Watch below to discover what a day in my life was like!