I am now 6 months into my placement year, time is flying by. Feels like only yesterday I received the phone call to tell me I’ve secured my placement – all my efforts finally paid off and now I’m halfway through my placement already. I’ve really enjoyed my time at Cadent Gas Network so far and have so much more still planned. It’s been great to get a break from university (especially from exams!) and to gain so much experience in so little time. I’ll now break down the 4 key things I have learnt so far from my placement year.
- Value of my placement year: real-life experience.
I would say I’ve gained more experience and skills from my placement year than anything else so far. It has really helped equip me for final year, which is what I was told by previous placement students while I was searching for a placement year. But being told is one thing, and actually experiencing allows it to make sense. I can’t stress enough how important it is for students to aim to get onto a placement year. It is a year added to university. But the added benefits include developing strong transferable skills, getting to know people who can help you further on in your career, adding all your skills and experiences over the year to your cv which will help further on in your career and gives an advantage in securing a graduate scheme (either with the same company or others) which will really make you stand out, and having a great time!
- Working life can be quite different from university: 9AM!
There is a substantial difference in day to day life at university in comparison to working life. The most attractive difference is getting paid monthly. At university, having a 9AM lecture once or twice a week is quite unpopular. But when working, you have to be up at 6-7AM for an 8AM start 5 times per week. It’s a whole shift in your sleep pattern and understanding of the responsibilities you now have. A placement year will provide you with the experience of having a year to adjust and understand the differences between work and university, and then prepare you for life after university which can be a substantial change and for some quite difficult. The positives are no more exams! But there is still pressure when having to deliver high-quality work to deadlines and trying and make a strong impression with your peers and managers. University does prepare you for working life. But this is done so through presenting and group work with mixed students and projects we complete.
- Networking is important!
Networking is a key skill. Building relationships and maintaining them so you can mutually benefit from one another is essential when working and this should start to be developed during university among students. It’s highly recommended to make use of LinkedIn to start to build your professional relationships which can help you right now and in the future. Put yourself out there, step out of your comfort zone and seek advice/help from other professionals – whether you require advice on placement applications, career advice or help with some project. The only way you’ll get help is if you ask, the worst someone can say is no and then ask the next person.
- Work can be enjoyable: Work-life balance.
The difference between university and work can be quite different. For some, it can take quite a bit to adjust to it. At first, I was spending far too long on my work even outside of work times. Over time, I’ve started to realise the importance of having a work-life balance. It’s okay to spend some hours outside of work over a day close to a deadline but doing this often can end up negatively impacting you. Learn to balance your time, once work is over, enjoy your time for yourself, family/friends and anything else you have that isn’t work-related. I’ve only been able to learn this due to my placement year, gaining experiences from the work/projects I am doing and from my manager/peers who I work with on a daily basis.
Overall, I’ve learned a great amount from my year in industry and this will help me further in my final year of university and in my post-university career. I’d highly recommend a placement to all university students irrespective of degree choice as it will help boost your CV and chances of securing a graduate scheme. My biggest tip for securing a placement is to believe in yourself and never give up, you’ll eventually get there!