Overall, I really enjoyed my placement year. It was my first full-time office job, having previously experienced office work through a few weeks of work experience, with my last permanent role being in retail- a very different environment.
I've learnt new skills whilst on placement as well as refining and developing those that I've brought with myself into this process that I hope will stay with me in the future,
More importantly, it's also given me an insight into a sector that I'd never considered looking at before, but one that I would now consider working in, in the future.
When I first joined the company, I remember not having much to say to my colleagues as I was quite shy at first. However, I eventually got myself involved in some of the office conversation and haven't really looked back since. I now feel like a valued member of the team who gets on well with everyone in the department too. I think it also helped that I had things in common with my colleagues as well, which meant that there was never really a quiet day in the office- this definitely helps the day go faster!
In terms of support and guidance from management, I felt that there wasn't a great deal of this- however this may have been down to the role I had where the only guidance I could have been given would have been in regards to company specific software etc.. To me, however, this was no bad thing. It taught me to be pro-active in seeking help instead of being reliant on others to show me the ropes, which enabled me to look at things with a fresh perspective.
This would depend on whether I had a task to work on or not. When I was working on a project, naturally I'd find myself with a fair bit of work to get on with. Throughout my placement, I had quite a few projects so that kept me busy. However, there were also occasions when I had no work to do for relatively long periods of time (even though I had actively sought some), but this is a reflection of the real-world where slow days do occur.
I felt that I was given a nice amount of responsibility during my placement. Of course when I first started I was doing very menial work, but this made me appreciate that I had to start from somewhere. By getting these early tasks done well, I think it gave my manager the confidence to place more trust in me and, by the end of my placement, I'd been given the opportunity to manage my own project.
Firstly, in terms of the skills I developed, I'd consider them to be more behavioural/personal development skills rather than job-specific skills. Therefore the skills I developed included time management and organisation skills, accountability and responsibility- all of which are important skills to have in life and not just in work.
I also experienced my first taste of project management and thus managing budgets too, which was an invaluable learning experience for me, given my current studies towards a Business Management degree.
As for training, I received very little of this but that was down to the nature of my role.
The atmosphere in the office was really great. One of the first things I noticed was that the office was completely open plan, which allowed me to see and hear things going on in different departments. I didn't feel shut off or secluded, which was a definite plus point. Furthermore, everyone seemed to enjoy the work they do and have a real fondness for the railway sector which I think helped create a positive, vibrant atmosphere in the office.
Also, the company (or at least my department) was very flexible on working hours. I presumed this job to be 9-5 but was told that, so long as I worked my 7 hours/day (35 hours/week), I could come and go as I pleased, meaning I could get into work at 07:30 and finish at 15:00. This level of freedom and flexibility meant that nobody was forced to work subjective impractical hours, and this again may have added to the positive atmosphere.
For me, this was probably the most disappointing aspect of my placement and something which left a bitter taste in my mouth when I first joined in September. On my first day in the office, there was absolutely nothing put in place for me- most importantly no work laptop. In my first week, it came to light that my department was only given 48 hours notice prior to my arrival, even though my contract had been signed back in July/August, so the company itself knew I was joining.
In the month it took for my laptop to arrive I found myself at my desk twiddling my thumbs and sitting on my phone. I'd ask my manager if there was anything to do but he said that, without a laptop, I was very much stuck.
Due to the nature of my role (office-based, working with spreadsheets and company software), there wasn't any room for personal training and development on the part of the company. However, I found this encouraged me to be pro-active in seeking such opportunities. Therefore, when using a new piece of software I'd look for user instruction guides, some of which could be found on the company intranet or, I was working on a new project, I'd do some background research and find out a bit more about the nature of the work I'd been handed.
The future prospects that I've been made aware of by HR concern the graduate scheme offered by the company. I know that, after the placement, there is the opportunity to get fast-tracked onto the graduate scheme. I've heard a lot of rave reviews about this scheme from people who have been through it, and this would be of interest to me.
Because the company is so large with offices all over the country, I didn't have much contact with other placement students- of which there were around 40/50. However, due to the way the company is structured, I did get to work with 6 other placement students as the section we were working within had handed us a group task to do.
There was much more of a social scene with my colleagues though, and we would go out for drinks after our monthly team brief.
The cost of living for me could be broken down as follows:
Rent: £750p/m. My office was based right in the city centre, and I wanted to rent nearby to avoid a long commute into work and be in the centre of the activity. Also, I'd moved 200 miles for this placement opportunity and had never been to this city before so didn't want to feel secluded. Naturally, rental prices change depending on proximity to the city centre.
Bills (Electricity & Water): ~£50 p/m
Food: ~100 p/m
As a student, I was exempt from paying council tax.
Living in the city centre, there was a vast range of social opportunities available all of which would obviously vary in price. I didn't consider the outlay for such things to too high.
The nightlife was brilliant in the area. Living & working in the city centre of a student city (2 universities here) meant that there were loads of pubs, clubs and bars around, and therefore there was a great atmosphere on the weekends.
Midweek however, and things were a bit more subdued as most people obviously have to be up for work the next day and, as the universities here are actually outside the defined city centre, the students don't flock in their masses into it- quite nice though, as there's not too much noise in the middle of the night!
This is something I didn't actively seek, so I'm unable to give an answer.