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Is a placement the right choice?

During my second year studies, I was given lectures about going on placement as part of my degree. This was something I was unsure of doing. As a mature student I wanted to complete my studies, in order to get a job as soon as possible. After speaking to some of the lecturers, I decided that I would make a start and apply for a placement rather than leave it too late and miss the opportunity.

After receiving a few offers for jobs I decided that I wanted to work for Fantastic Media. This was due to it being a fast paced working environment and the clients that Fantastic were working with were really interesting.

When I started at Fantastic I spent about a week mainly shadowing one of current placement students, Mark. Although this sounds like just an easy and boring week, it was really insightful, providing real experience and advice that you don’t get at university. I wasn’t just watching the work he was doing but I could see what software shortcuts he was using and the methods he used to complete tasks. Prior to this I was hardly using any shortcuts and the way I completed tasks was generally the long tedious way of doing them. This is a vital part for working to incorporate and take advantage of these shortcuts in order to keep up with the pace of jobs.

In the second week I was given my own jobs to complete and Mark would supervise me, these were mainly designing and building emails. My learning curve within these first few weeks was tremendous. I made mistakes constantly but with the supervision of Mark it meant I knew how and why I was making the mistakes, which helped me to develop and learn.

Over the coming weeks my workload grew and grew which meant the speed at which I was producing work increased dramatically. Due to becoming quicker, a variety of jobs started to come my way. It wasn’t just emails I was doing anymore, this meant I was learning even more again as I was using a wider range of software.

During these first few months of the placement I probably learnt more than I did in the first 2 years of my course at university. That is not to say that university isn’t valuable. However, working in a job that is in the industry, with team members that are willing to teach you and go the extra mile, helps you develop on a daily basis, which has been key to my development. Not just technically but for my personal and social skills as well.

As I progressed throughout my placement year I came across a varied range of jobs for some big companies and some not so big companies but all offering great experiences. These included producing collateral for big charity events, designing websites, even producing a logo for a new client and lots and lots of emails. Due to the nature of the job it has been difficult, frustrating and has involved working out of normal working hours to get the work completed to a high standard but I have enjoyed it all. There have been some jobs sometimes where you just want it to end… but they were usually the jobs that I learnt the most from.

So to answer the question: is placement the right choice? Yes. For me at least. Not only does a placement give you the industry knowledge, it also gives you industry feedback for your final year of studies. Even if you haven’t been as lucky as me and working for the same company whilst studying, you have the contacts you didn’t have before. Additionally, it is a placement year and mistakes can be made, often more than once and in the industry they are not quite as forgiving. On top of all that it will always look good on your CV – providing that you worked hard and have done well, you will get a good reference, too. When applying for jobs after graduating, if someone has the same grade as you but they have done a placement and you haven’t, they might have a better chance of getting the job than you. Be smart and start looking for placement jobs early… what are you waiting for? Get applying!!

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I'm a previous placement student, currently part-time during my final year of study

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