8 things to remember on the first day of your placement

Katie OliverKatie Oliver, On Placement, Second Year

I remember the feeling of nervously, yet eagerly, awaiting the first day of my placement job. After being used to a more relaxed student environment where all your work only impacted yourself, it felt like the biggest change. I had no idea what to expect and, to be quite honest, I had no idea if I would even enjoy the role! (I am very thankful to say that I do). However, the whole nervous build up is always worse than the dreaded ‘first day’ itself. You will feel at ease a lot sooner than you think and you will form some good relationships with colleagues. You won’t be thrown in completely at the deep end, being asked to run a client meeting by yourself on your first day, that just isn’t going to happen. To put your minds more at ease, I’ve written up 8 important tips I think you need to remember on your first day on placement.

1. You won’t be expected to know everything on your first day, or even first month

This is something I felt the pressure of straight away, what if they expect me to already know these things? Realistically, of course they won’t! There’s no way you would be able to know how the company works or exactly what your role entails before you have even set foot in the door. This is something they will either provide training for when you begin or teach you as you go along. This might take a few weeks, this might take a few months, it very much varies depending on your role and the responsibilities you are given.

2. Do not be afraid to ask questions

Following on from the previous point, if you don’t understand something, or are just generally interested in finding something out, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Again, they will expect you to need help during your first few months and it is much better to ask and find out than sit their bamboozled for hours on end getting little work completed. All the team will be willing to help you as best they can, at the end of the day your placement is about gaining knowledge and experience. Employers like individuals with a ‘want to learn’ attitude, and so asking questions to expand your understanding is exactly what they want you to be doing and means you’ll settle into your job role a lot faster.

3. Don’t take your own lunch:

I know this will sound strange, as I recommend generally taking your own food to save on money. However, on your first day I would say not to take your own packed lunch. Asking for local recommendations of places to grab lunch from your colleagues, or going along with them to your office’s café, can be a great social excuse for you to spark up conversation and start to get to know the people around you. It’s also a nice, rewarding treat for surviving half of your first day.

4. Offer to make a round of hot drinks

Not only is this bound to score you some brownie points, but it also gives you the chance to explore the kitchen facilities at your office right from the start. This will stop the awkward ‘how do you work the microwave’ conversations three months down the line when you finally bring soup for lunch, only to discover there isn’t in fact a microwave *gutting*. Alongside this, they say you can learn a lot about a person from how they take their tea, so you may find out what your colleagues are really like.

5. Try and dress smart

From my experience, I would say it’s better to look too smart than not smart enough. If you’re unsure on what the dress code is at your new job and don’t have enough time to ask, I’d recommend going office smart with a blouse/shirt and some black trousers. You can use your first day to suss out what everyone else is wearing, giving you an idea of the general expected dress code.

6. Drink coffee

Realistically, a work day is a lot longer than a day at University. Many of us are not used to the 9 till 5 (or 5:30 in my case) working day and I can tell you, it hits you like a tonne of bricks. I remember being shattered every evening in my first few weeks until my body eventually got used to the routine and the longer days. Being sat at your desk yawning away doesn’t paint the best impression when you first start, and so coffee will become your best friend. If you’re struggling with the tiredness of your new job, I highly recommend getting some coffee in at the start of the day to keep you alert while your body adjusts so you can still perform to your best standard. (Obviously in moderation, don’t guzzle coffee until you’re on a caffeine high and bouncing off the office walls.)

7. Don’t be late

I mean, this goes as a given, right? It’s not like University, there’s no turning up 10/15 minutes late and slinking into the back of the lecture theatre unnoticed or giving yourself some extra time to get your hair done. You must make sure you’re on time. Being late on your first day will not give a good first impression, and nobody wants to start off their new job on the wrong foot. Obviously if you’re late for reasons out of your control, such as delayed trains or traffic, then I’m sure your employers will be understanding if you make sure to notify them. However, for at least your first week it is ideal to make time to account for any potential mishaps to ensure you’re not running through the door late and red-faced.

8. Think about what you’d like to get out of your year

You’re going to be working at this place, in most cases, for a whole year. A placement year is your chance to experience one or a few industries to help you consider what you would like to go into after University. Whether you’re set on a particular role or not, make sure you have an idea of what you would like to get out of your year with the company such as what you’d like to be exposed to, which areas you want particular experience in, things you’d like to achieve and things you want to learn more about. Not only will this show you to be organised and driven to your employers, but also ensure you will get the most out of your year in industry.

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