As a student on a vocational degree course I thought I knew where I wanted to end up when I had finished studying at university. What I do now doesn’t look anything like what I had imagined but that has turned out to be a positive thing and this is something that I have to thank my placement year for.
Taking a placement year was a compulsory part of my degree. Mine led me to work within the Fairs team at the University of Sheffield Careers Service, planning the graduate recruitment and summer experience fairs (http://www.sheffieldcareersfairs.ac.uk/). Working closely with my line manager in a two person team, I had the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of tasks which developed my event management skills to a higher level. I really valued the opportunity to put what I had learnt on my course into practice and after supporting my line manager in organising the fairs for the year, I was given sole responsibility for coordinating the Summer Experience fair towards the end of my placement. I really thrived from the opportunity to put my ideas into an event, develop marketing and draw together employers and students to put on a successful event. Working on a small team meant that I benefitted from the opportunity to put forward more of my ideas, take on more responsibility and was encouraged in my personal development.
As well as the benefits of working in a small team I was able to benefit from working as part of the wider Careers Service, specifically through involvement in the marketing group and by providing marketing support. This wider team involvement was invaluable in helping me to grasp the wider vision of what we were doing.
I did not choose the more traditional route of working for a big employer, a Times Top 100, and looking back I am glad. The environment I took my placement in gave me chance to really develop my skills through close one to one work and I think the public sector is more my cup of tea. Wherever you want to go though, small business or Times Top 100, I would encourage you to get an internship or placement; get a feel for what the company do, showcase your skills, develop your practical experience and also get yourself on the company's radar.
That last point is so important and the benefits of my placement year didn’t end when I had finished my placement. Once I had graduated I knew I didn’t want to work in events but I knew that I wanted to stay in Sheffield. I saw a job being advertised with the Careers Service and contacted my old colleagues about this; because they knew me they invited me back to do some part time work in the Student Jobshop whilst I was waiting for an interview. I wasn’t successful in getting that job but a couple of weeks later I was offered a different job within the Careers Service and here I am now, project managing some of our short term undergraduate and graduate internship schemes. It just goes to show that making contacts can be the key to graduate success.
If you are thinking about taking a placement, have a look at our ‘Degree with Employment Experience’ programme which is open to penultimate year students from any degree discipline - http://www.shef.ac.uk/placements/students. From my experience, it is definitely worthwhile and you never know where it will lead!
Joanna (Student Placement Assistant)