8 September 2023

Five tips I Would Give To Any Student Starting Their Placement Year

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It’s now been almost a year since I started my placement year at ProspectSoft, and as much as experiential learning is a crucial part of self-development, looking back there are some things I wish I’d known that little bit sooner.

If you’ve managed to successfully secure yourself a placement year, then my guess is that you’ve probably done a fair amount of work experience already.

Remember that getting onto a placement scheme or Business internship is highly competitive, so have confidence in your ability to succeed.

How does your degree help on your placement year?

Your university degree will provide you with theoretical knowledge that will be invaluable throughout your placement, but there are certain things that can only be learnt through working in an industry – or advice from someone who’s been there themselves!

So, to help you maximise your potential as early on as possible, I’ve come up with five tips that I wish someone had given me when I first started my placement year.

1) Get involved in a placement year

This sounds like a bit of an obvious one, but going into work with a positive mental attitude will make all the difference to your work ethic.

At the end of the day, a placement year should be designed to help you learn as much as possible, meaning you return to university a more employable individual.

The best way to do that is to embrace every opportunity that comes your way and challenge yourself, even if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Not only will this assist in your personal development, but your eagerness to learn will genuinely impress your colleagues.

Teamwork can make a dream work

2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you first start your placement, it can be a bit intimidating asking someone a question, especially if they’re a more senior member of staff, but trust me, no one expects you to know all the answers straight away.

12 months into my placement, I still find myself asking questions and learning something new nearly every single day.

The biggest piece of advice I would give is, if you’ve asked a question, take notes when your colleague is explaining the answer – that way, you always have somewhere to refer back to if the question comes up again and this time you’ll know the answer!

3) Keep a list of everything you’ve achieved

A year is a long time and when it came to starting preparation for my university return day and tutor visits, I soon realised that there were many opportunities and personal achievements that I’d completely forgotten about!

The likelihood is that you’ll learn more during your placement year than you thought, so I would recommend keeping a note of all these successes so that when you come to update your CV and fill out graduate applications, you’ll have no end of examples to use.

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4) Feedback is a gift

This year, I found my appraisal with the ProspectSoft sales & marketing director to be a really useful exercise in helping me self-reflect on all that I’d accomplished throughout my placement.

It feels great for all of your hard work to be recognised, and it certainly made me feel valued and appreciated as a member of the team.

But I also used the appraisal as an opportunity to ask my director which areas he thought I could improve in; much like in academia, I think it’s just as important to be aware of areas that need development as it is to know where you are excelling.

Feedback is the gift that keeps on giving

5) Network, network, network!

In today’s society, everything is geared towards social media so it comes as no surprise that businesses are doing it as well.

I would definitely advise using social media to build your business profile, particularly LinkedIn, a business-oriented social media tool where you can engage with your professional network.

When I first started at ProspectSoft, I didn’t even have a profile on LinkedIn and now I’ve got almost 400 connections. Again, this all helps in returning to university a more employable individual.

Starting a new job can be a daunting time for anyone, but armed with these tips, fresh ideas and an eagerness to learn, you’ll be in the best position to start making an impact early on.