17 August 2021

Life After the Lecture Hall: How Work Experience can Ease the Blow

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So, what are your plans after university?

The question every student just loves to hear.

Whilst parents, lecturers, and even friends may not mean to pile on the pressure, there’s something about this loaded question that’s sure to set off alarm bells in almost every student’s head.

Dreading the thought of leaving uni? Join the club! The idea that three years of adventure, independence, and living with friends is coming to an abrupt end will likely leave you feeling like you’ve slammed into the real world, real quick. But it’s ok… keep reading to hear why.

Too many options?  Try before you buy!

In England, students choose their degree subject at the age of 17 – an extremely young age to make such a big decision.

By the time you graduate at 21, your career aspirations and goals will have probably changed, and that’s totally normal. How can you be sure that a certain career or industry is for you, if you’ve never really experienced it?

You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first – choosing a career shouldn’t be any different.

One of the many reasons students choose to complete a year in industry is the fact that they get to experience not only the start of a new career, but potentially a new city and new people too.

If you’re having second thoughts about going into the industry you’re studying, you might decide to go down a completely different route and choose something that’s not within your degree discipline.

Just like Shoaib, RateMyPlacement’s former placement student, you could end up finding your passion in an industry you hadn’t even considered.

 My degree had no direct career attached to it. I had friends who studied Geography and went into Law, Accounting, Civil Service, Teaching, and even the Performing Arts. So, a placement year seemed like an ideal thing to do, to help me decide what kind of things I’d enjoy. I used the year to trial and test an industry I was interested in but wanted to learn more about. It really helped me cement my choice and I went back to university with a much clearer vision of where I wanted to end up. I did a geography degree at uni, but now work in marketing. And without a placement year, I might have missed that opportunity.

Any experience is good experience

Going to uni used to be rare, but now it’s the norm.

It’s estimated that 40% of school leavers now choose to study a degree, compared to just 14% in the 1980s.

So, it really goes without saying that a placement year makes you stand out in a very crowded market…

The fact is, whether you love or loathe your placement year, you won’t regret it.

You may have heard one or two stories from a friend who didn’t have the best placement experience. It was nothing like they expected. It was hard going. They didn’t like their boss. They worked long hours. Granted – this doesn’t sound fun.

But, you can still say they have learnt something! And, even if they didn’t (or claim they didn’t), at least they know for certain that industry is definitely not for them. 

Realising a certain industry, career path or profession isn’t for you is probably something you’d never have known this early on in your career if you hadn’t taken the leap of faith in choosing to do a placement. 

One giant leap is all it takes

Looking out for your future self 

This is one of the few times in life that you’ll get to trial a career and see if it’s for you – you might not get this chance again, so don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Contemplating whether a placement is for you? Think about how the experience will benefit you in the years ahead – from helping you get into a good routine during final year, to gaining skills you didn’t even know were missing. 

Placement years can also really help improve your chances of getting a graduate job when you finish University.

Across all of the Best Student Employers on RateMyPlacement, 46% of their placement and internship students from last year came back as graduates! Not only this, but any experience you gain during your sandwich year can help you in future job applications and interviews.

Choosing to do a placement year can feel just as scary as it is exciting, and that’s a good thing – because without taking the risk, you’ll never reap the rewards.

Having been on placement for the last 9 months, it’s crystal clear to me that every task I complete – no matter how big or small – allows me to gain knowledge, skills, and confidence that’ll stick with me for the long run.

Ultimately, a placement will make graduation seem less daunting, and will help you figure out not all, but some, of the answers to every student’s least favourite question when entering the world of work.

This blog was written by Beth Williams, Marketing Placement at ProspectSoft.

ProspectSoft’s award-winning placement scheme opens for applications in October 2021 for 2022 entry. To find out more and apply, click here.