Even with a few months to go I can definitely say I have enjoyed my placement. There have been lots of opportunities for me to learn new things and to develop my own skills. The colleagues who spend the most time looking after the placement students put so much effort in as it really is their best interest to make sure we enjoy the placement as much as possible. Taking the placement at BAT was the best decision I have made for my career.
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I did feel valued by most of the colleagues I have networked and built good relationships with. I met a lot of people and made lots of friends so you get to know who takes interest in your work. There were a few times I felt undervalued from colleagues who showed they didn't have my best interest at heart.
With my project I was thrown in at the deep end about an area of science I didn't have much background in. Although i persevered, did my research and used colleagues who were experts in the area I believe there should have been more guidance at the beginning of the placement. I believe I have learnt more from other colleagues and other teams than my manager. Now I have built up my network I know who to speak to if i need specific guidance around my project.
At the start of the placement I was settling in, getting to know my team and getting to know the business so I was busy with introductions to all the different areas of the company. I wasn't so busy with project and actual lab work until a month or two in. As soon as you get stuck into your project and make it your own it's completely down to you how busy you are, if you put the effort in you'll be busy and know exactly what you are doing with each day.
I was given total responsibility for my project, I had to decide its direction, lead and plan the whole thing. However I wasn't given much responsibility outside of this. I created more responsibility for myself by working with other teams for a few weeks. I think managers are sometimes unsure in what other responsibilities they can give to the students as they don't want to overload us too much. As students, we were given the opportunity to plan networking events which is another good example. I'd say if you want more, just ask.
I believe the some of the hard skills i have learnt will assist me indirectly in my degree. My degree is Forensic Science therefore not much of the work i have done relates to forensics, however i have built upon my analytical skills in chemistry and biology. I have had GC/MS training which I can use next year and follow similar protocols for other analytical equipment in the future. I have developed lots of soft skills so what I have learnt about working everyday in a FMCG company are invaluable skills which will help me be employable in the future. Being able to gain skills and use these to develop yourself as a person so early on in your career is one of the best things about the year in industry.
The atmosphere in the office was generally very nice. Although sometimes quiet everyone would say good morning and acknowledge you. We'd often stop and chat at our desks about general things happening in the world and have a bit of a laugh too. I got on really well with everyone I sat next to and felt I could approach everyone at any time.
There are a few colleagues who have been running the placement scheme for a few years now and they are very organised in setting it up. Although my interview was later than other companies, March time I found out a week or so after and then the arrangements fell into place. The team are great in setting up an initial visit and once employed they set up lots of opportunities for us to really showcase our work and skills. I think there could be more organisation with the teams students are allocated to.
I received a lot of training but believed most of it was on my own back. At the beginning all new employees get to attend a 2 day introduction to the company course, this was great as we got to visit the head office in London. I attended a training course on-site to improve my knowledge within the industry. I seeked other opportunities to work within the Anti-Illicit Trade and Biology departments. I also received training on certain pieces of analytical equipment as i believed it would support my project work.
The company is interesting, stable and holds lots of employment opportunities. There are many previous placement students working as full-time employees for the company now. I think the future employment opportunities seem very appealing however I would probably want to explore a different team or area of the business in doing so. I've definitely had a great insight to the careers available upon entry level.
Yes! There was 14 of us this year and most lived in shared accommodation together. We made alot of effort to go out together, nights out, day trips, drinks after work etc. Everyone was really friendly and generally just a good bunch of people.
We also went out with colleagues who lived around the southampton area. And often had meals out with our team at work for birthday's/celebrations.
The cost of living is very average my rent was £400pm and with bills never really exceeded £450pm, I am sure you could find somewhere a lot cheaper if you needed to. Food and drink were average too, however you could find a vintage pub or more expensive restaurant if you looked for one. There is even Aldi and Lidl for food shopping so you will never spend too much. There are already a lot of students around Southampton so expect it to be similar to university.
The nightlife was good, there are lots of clubs, pubs and bars around they may not be your favourite but it's what you make of it and the company you have! A lot of the students went out on nights out nearer the start of the placement however we still go out some weekends for people's birthdays, after work etc. There's a lot of chain bars and restaurants so there will always be somewhere familiar to go.
There is a subsidised gym which I went to which did classes as well. The gym often do lots of sporting events as groups so not only do you get cheaper tickets its really good fun. They have a football and a cricket team for the boys to get involved in. There is also a Southampton Sports and Social team who post tickets for events like musicals, car shows, festivals, days out etc. You can also make the most of the London office one too.
I joined a dance group in Eastleigh too, so if there are any hobbies you have you can look beyond work!