As a whole, I really enjoyed my placement. I had an active role on large scale projects, which helped me to learn huge amounts with respect to the running of the business as a whole, as well as to grasp a huge understanding of the processes and systems required in order to effectively run projects. Ultimately 'you get out what you put in', so I found that being proactive in seeking areas for improvement led to gaining more and more responsibility as the placement went on.
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It was clear that from day one, we weren't treated like an 'intern' but instead treated as a colleague in the same way as everyone else; this really helped me to settle in, especially in the early stages of my placement. I also found that throughout the year, any ideas that I had were listened to and taken into consideration, and in some cases I was able to implement those ideas.
Throughout the year, I was able to easily ask for assistance if I needed it, and my manager took the time to explain things thoroughly in order to increase my understanding. The important thing to note is that you must ask the questions in order to get the appropriate help with something if you need it.
I was extremely busy, particularly at 6-9 months into my placement year with the project gaining a lot of momentum, and I had an important role on various aspects of the project. It's important to remember that it's between you and your manager to ensure you're busy enough; I found that on a large scale project, there are a lot of tasks and actions to complete, so at this stage I assigned myself work to some extent.
By the time I got about 6 months into my placement, I had a huge amount of responsibility. This was achieved by being proactive and ensuring that I was involved in as much of the project as possible, but also my colleagues and key figures on the project provided me with the opportunities to learn and take on more work on different aspects on the project.
I study Engineering at University; however the nature of my role within the project I worked on meant that I was able to develop core skills which I can transfer and apply to a variety of roles going forward. In my opinion, learning and developing these skills (e.g. Communication, Leadership, Teamwork etc.) is more valuable to learn in a placement year due to the fact that it offers greater opportunity to be effective in a wide range of jobs that are out there.
The working environment really was ideal. Working in an open office allows for easy communication with colleagues, even if they're in different departments. I found that the general atmosphere made it a pleasant place to work on most occasions, and also allowed for plenty of opportunity to ask for the appropriate assistance as required.
Generally it was well organised, but as the placement evolved it became less structured in terms of the work I was being set, mainly because I was finding my own work to do within the project in order to add value where possible. I found that the communication before I started was limited, and I had no idea what sort of role I was to play going into the placement; this is an area which could be improved for sure.
There was a good structure in place, with the interns from the different sites meeting for training days throughout the year which focussed on specific areas for development (e.g. Time Planning & Organisation, Communication & Assertiveness). This did provide an opportunity to see some of the different sites across the UK and gave us some opportunity to travel. I was then able to apply a lot of these skills learned to my project work, which really helped me to develop throughout the year at a vast rate.
The main difficulty at this stage is to get the opportunity to work for this company going forward. From a personal point of view, although I cannot be offered a specific job which will sit and wait for me upon completing my degree, I've been proactive in having discussions with the company to see the potential to return; however due to the lack of an established graduate scheme, it is difficult to get the opportunity to work for the company in the future.
The two day induction event at the beginning of the placement was an opportunity to get to know all of the interns across the different sites and their functions. We had a meal at the end of the first day, which allowed everyone to get to know one another on a personal level. There have been meals out organised with colleagues, which have included the presence of interns on our site.
The cost of living in Loughborough was very reasonable, which meant that our salary did go a long way. I also found that it was relatively cheap to do various social activities outside of work. For example, I've recently started Bouldering as a hobby; there's a very good climbing facility in Loughborough, which is a good example of some of the activities which are accessible and affordable.
The nightlife in Loughborough is generally quite good, as there are specific clubs to go to on each night of the week. Given that I study at Loughborough University anyway, I was already very familiar with the nightlife. I found that the better nights were at the Union (especially on a Friday night) due to the amount of people that are there on a weekly basis.
I found my opportunities to be fairly limited. On a few occasions, the team had meals out which were nice to have. Work is being done to improve this area, with the IDT (Inclusion and Diversity Team) established to get more out of work activities set up and run; it's important to get the opportunity to get to know colleagues outside of the working environment.