February 28, 2018, by Bethany Ramshaw
Why You Should Be Thinking About a Placement In Your First Year
By Bethany Ramshaw, second-year studying animal sciences
As the snow continues to fall, summer may seem far away. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too soon to think about a placement. Short-term, work-experience style placements are ideal for the summer. They keep your mind working over those months away, and help you begin to build up your CV.
I began my first work experience placement at a cat and dog shelter when I was just thirteen. Although I had to be supervised at all times, and I wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things that the older volunteers could, the experience taught me valuable skills. Already, I was learning what a full working day was like. I was taking on at least a little responsibility, which still looked good to employers half a decade later, when I was going to job interviews.
Here at Nottingham, you can find many different ways to get yourself out into the working world. From a year in industry to work shadowing and summer internships. But I’m here to make the case for a first year placement. So, why is now the perfect time to start thinking about this?
‘Work experience’ isn’t just for secondary school
The term ‘work experience’ might take you back to your school days, spending a week in a place you didn’t want to be at, feeling like a general dogsbody. However, these short-term placements are perfect for the summer and other breaks between semesters. They allow you time to enjoy your holiday and time at home, while still getting a taste of working life.
I started my second placement when I was around fourteen. I was worried I would hate it – with a placement lasting only one or two weeks, that worry goes away. You know that if you find out you don’t like it, it’s temporary. In a little while, you’ll be back at home, with plenty of time to revise for exams, catch up on reading, or heading. You’ll also have gained valuable experience you can fall back on in interviews.
Getting your placement head in gear
On the surface, finding a placement can seem daunting. A lot of companies don’t take students for insurance reasons, or because they aren’t equipped to support them – as I found during secondary school, while I was desperately hunting for more work experience – but don’t let that put you off.
First year is the perfect time to be looking for those work-experience-style placements. Do it before deadlines pile up and graduation begins to drift closer. You can beat the rush of people trying to find placements for a year in industry, or for after they graduate. You may even put yourself in contact with people and employers who would be happy to take you on again in the future.
And any kind of experience is good experience
When I attended an interview for a job at a cinema, I had no experience of working in retail or the entertainment and leisure industry. What I did have was five years worth of work experience. I’d volunteered with animals and young children on farms, and in clinical, professional environments with vets. I could relate the skills that I had learned from these placements to the questions I was asked, and I found out pretty soon after the interview that I’d gotten the job.
If you’re looking for a short term placement or work experience, begin by doing your research. Find companies in the local area that you might like to work with, and send them an email. You may get a few rejections, but there’ll be at least a few who’ll want to discuss setting you up with a one or two-week placement.
Friends and family are also a good place to look. They often have friends or other relatives who can help you get your foot in the door. For volunteering, I’ve just do-it.org to find opportunities. I’ve found an unbelievable amount of placements there, allowing me to donate my time to a company for a few days a week, and to gain valuable skills.
Placements, work experience and volunteering work are the best way to show your future employer how dedicated you are, separating you from other applicants, and it’s never too early to start. Need more convincing? Read ‘Avoid the Placement Wave’.
For more information on first year placements, check out these resources. You can also contact your department’s placement team who will be happy to talk to you about work experience. Studying with the School of Biosciences like Bethany? Contact Judith Wayte to chat about the possibility of doing a placement.