Life as a Placement Student in 2021

Covid has changed the way we all now work, whether that be online university learning as a student, or working from home instead of the office. Whilst the pandemic restrictions are slowly easing, students may still be feeling uncertain about starting their work experience this year, and understandably so.

It’s been a strange year, but you can still make the most out of your work experience and thrive whilst on placement!

In this blog, we chat to Beth, Marketing Placement at ProspectSoft, to find out what it’s really like to do a placement in a pandemic..

What was it that initially attracted you to ProspectSoft and what's your favourite thing about working there?

The huge level of investment they put in their placement programme! It's not every day that you come across a company so clearly dedicated to developing students both personally and professionally - not to mention they are the most awarded SME in the UK.

After conducting further research, it became clear that their young and energetic atmosphere - alongside the opportunities available to placement students - was something I couldn't miss out on. 

My favourite thing about working for ProspectSoft has to be the people - I'm very lucky to be surrounded by a team that are both supportive and inspiring!

Since starting my role as Marketing Assistant, I've taken on so many amazing opportunities. I've led the entire recruitment process for ProspectSoft's next intake of Commercial Placements, which has allowed me to fully understand the recruitment process from an employer's perspective. I also manage ProspectSoft's corporate and placement social media platforms, creating and scheduling content - allowing me to be both creative and organised (a win-win!)

What has it been like working from home during your placement? Have you got any tips for students who may be starting their placement/internship virtually?

The first few months of my placement were office-based before moving to remote working - so I've experienced both sides of the coin. Despite missing my colleagues, it's safe to say that I've had a great experience working from home, which is mainly down to the supportive and close-knit nature of the company.

And there are definitely benefits to working remotely.. an extra hour in bed?! Yes please!

But I know some students out there may have concerns about starting their placement or internship virtually. All I can say is don't panic! I've got some top tips for those of you jumping on the WFH bandwagon:

★ Set yourself up for success!

Making sure you've got all the gear needed to start working from home is a must, because working from your sofa just won't cut it! A sturdy desk, good office chair and a hint of natural lighting are the perfect components to ensure you hit the ground running.

★ Finesse your daily routine

Sticking to a routine helps keep me focused and gives me a sense of normality in these strange times. Whilst nobody misses the rush hour traffic or getting out of bed an hour earlier, there's something about a morning commute that helped set me up for the day.

I've substituted the M40 for a quick morning walk at my local park - fresh air and natural light is never a bad idea!

★ Communication is key

I'd definitely recommend scheduling regular catch-ups with colleagues and other placement students, as it's a great way of getting to know each other. You could even suggest a company-wide virtual social! This may be daunting to suggest if you're new, but it'll highlight your willingness to put yourself out there and get to know your new colleagues. 

Some of the ProspectSoft placements who are part of a Covid work bubble pre-lockdown

What advice would you give to students who are undecided about undertaking a placement year at the moment?

The past year has turned a lot of things upside down, and it's understandable that some students may be unsure about completing a year in industry amidst the pandemic.

However, (and I'm talking from my experience here!) the ultimate value and experience you'll gain from choosing to do a placement year far outweighs any initial worries you may be having. A placement year prepares you for the future, takes you out of your comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to make a real difference.

It's natural to want to cling to the certainty that comes with staying in your comfort zone at University, but it won't always be this way and we can already begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel! 

The pandemic is a once in a lifetime event (we hope!) - but your career certainly isn't. Any work experience you gain now will not only set you up for success post-pandemic, but it'll allow you to gain invaluable knowledge about your chosen industry.. whilst having some fun along the way! 

How can students make use of their time to prepare themselves for their placement/internship?

It’s definitely worth allocating some time to prepare for the experience. This by no means needs to be exhaustive – you’ve got the job and proven that you’re the best person for it. However, a little pre-placement preparation wouldn’t go a miss.

Something I noticed when leading our recruitment drive was that many students had used their extra time in lockdown effectively to gain new skills by completing online courses. Whilst online courses are great to complete whilst searching for jobs, they're just as relevant to those who have already secured one.

Many of these courses are free, and are a great way to up-skill yourself before starting your new role, you'll likely pick up on some new ideas that you'll be able to draw upon when going into the workplace!

But don't stop there - if you're embarking on virtual work experience why not take part in RateMyPlacement's Work Ready Virtual Experience? From virtual impressions to remote networking, the free course will not only equip you with the tools needed to navigate remote working, but also offers advice regarding wellbeing and resilience - something we all need to focus on during these strange times.

Finally, I'd recommend setting goals before you start your placement or internship - think about what you'd like to gain, or any specific skills you'd like to pick up. Write them down so you can refer back to them during your placement, you'll likely find that you've not only achieved these goals but have learnt even more than you expected!

Good luck to everyone starting a placement or internship this summer, we hope this blog has left you feeling excited and ready to get stuck in!

ProspectSoft's placement scheme opens for applications in October 2021 for 2022 entry. Make sure you are signed up to RateMyPlacement to be the first to know when they open!