September 23, 2019, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham
My postgraduate placement: another challenge but a great opportunity
This weeks blog comes from Beth DeGraft-Johnson who did a Graduate School PPN placement at Spectrum Intellectual Property Solutions.
Prior to returning to full time education, I had thoroughly enjoyed working in Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) management for several years. For a start, there was a vast array of innovations from all the disciplines, ranging from small gadgets and manuals to life saving medical devices. Unfortunately my career progression stalled when the organisation went through a merger. So, after taking one boring job after another, I finally plucked up the courage to make a change. Nevertheless, making the transition from full time employment to full time study as a mature student with various disabilities, wasn’t easy. It has been physically, financially and mentally demanding but well worth it. The adjustment was incredibly difficult but if I could complete a charity climb of the 710 metre Corcovado mountain in 40 degrees heat, to the finish line, the Christ the Redeemer statue, surely I could overcome this particular challenge.
At the beginning of my Masters course last September, I attended the welcome event organised by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham (PPN). It was obvious that a placement would not only be great for the work experience, it would boost my confidence and to be honest, the money would certainly come in handy. So I registered and began searching that very afternoon. Whilst scanning the advertised placement opportunities, I came across an Intellectual Properties company. This was right up my alley but then I discovered they were based in Milton Keynes. That’s when I thought of contacting Spectrum Intellectual Property Solutions, a company I already knew of. During the PPN event, the presenters had encouraged us to be proactive, so I decided to contact Spectrum. Dr Karen Sullivan, the CEO responded immediately and she was more than happy to offer me a placement. It so happened they were in the initial planning stages of a new project that would provide 5 Day MBA style intensive executive education courses in IP Management and Commercialisation to technology based companies. I then contacted PPN who were extremely supportive. They liaised with Spectrum and within a matter of weeks, everything was in place.
Since Spectrum are based in Dundee, I had to go there for face to face meetings and for the start of the project however, the majority of my work would be undertaken long distance. In order to manage my own workload effectively, I designed and implemented simple operating procedures with milestones and deadlines to ensure all allocated tasks could be monitored and the data could be collated for future reference. Every aspect of the project could also be reviewed where necessary. We also had regular video conference meetings which were a great help. Other than that, Karen was extremely approachable and she allowed me to set my own working hours around my studies, but encouraged me to contact her whenever I felt it necessary. She was also very receptive to implementing many of my suggestions. This really helped build my confidence and I felt like a valued member of the team.
Aside from the administrative and design aspects of the project, I played an active role in planning, redesigning and publishing the company’s website and marketing brochures to accommodate the new range of services. I also promoted the new services. In addition to these, I gained further insight and practical knowledge into the provision and delivery of these services both from the provider and the service user’s perspective, by facilitating a training session and attending review meetings.
“The practical experience from these sessions and everything I’ve learnt during this placement is invaluable. It’s not just about acquiring knowledge and experience, it’s also learning about personal and social interaction in a genuine professional setting. Theory can only take you so far. There are certain aspects of the work environment that can’t be taught on a course and its only by being in these real life situations that you learn how to be successful in business.”
If I had to offer any words of advice to other Postgrads contemplating applying for placements, I would say, firstly, bear in mind that aside from the sheer amount of course work ahead, you’ll need to factor in time for the homework required when you accept a placement, depending on the nature of the job. Aside from the actual job, there may be a certain amount of preparatory work required before you attend meetings. At this level, employers may well expect active participation and for you to be proactive and if they’re not, many will expect you to attend meetings having done your research on the company. The more prepared you are, the better impression the company will have of you. Secondly, if you’re not great at managing your time, set up a work schedule for yourself. I was lucky in this instance because my manager was very happy for me to manage my own working hours which was great but, in order to fulfil my weekly quota of hours and manage the course work, I found it easier to prepare a weekly/monthly schedule. Although it sounds quite regimented, it helped me stay on track with preparation for lectures, completing assignments and managing the placement working hours. Employer’s expect full commitment and there are no excuses for not completing assignments or missing meetings.
Fortunately, I can’t say I’ve had any negative experiences, other than nearly missing my flight due to an unexpected tyre blowout on the way to East Midlands Airport. However, if I can offer anything in the way of advice it would be the following, never hesitate to ask if you’re not exactly sure or confident on what you’re being asked to do. Conducting business in the real world is very fast paced and quite often, there is very little margin for error. Plus, not only will it save time in the long run, your manager will appreciate you all the more for asking and be happy to share their expertise. Furthermore, everyone appreciates and respects a good team player. Be willing to share your own knowledge and lend a hand as well as be willing to receive it. Last but by no means least, enthusiasm and a positive attitude goes a long way in any job. Your manager will take all of this into account when the time comes to give you a reference or when considering whether to offer you a job. Either way, you will leave them with a positive impression of you and of the university.