What am I learning and how does it help?

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There are many different reasons why placements are a valuable experience and the most obvious of these is that a placement looks great on your CV!! When you finish your degree and start looking for jobs, you’ll probably notice that one of the major factors an employer will look for is experience. This is why a placement is so useful, it provides you with a year’s worth of practical, hands-on knowledge that you can use to make that CV shine!

Whilst you might start out with the great plan of updating your CV regularly this is probably a job that will fall to the side once you start to get really busy. In which case it can be helpful to have something to remind you of all the useful skills and techniques you’ve learnt over the course of your placement. Personally, I’ve kept a diary of all of the jobs I’ve been doing, this not only made writing my final report easier but it will also help when working on my CV after I finish. This diary doesn’t have to be long or massively in-depth, just a short few lines on what you’ve been working on, perhaps with some technical terms thrown in along the way. Realistically, if you need to write masses to help remind you of what you’ve been working on then you probably don’t know those skills well enough to put them on a CV! When it comes to interviews, if you’ve put something on your CV you should expect an interviewer to ask you about it. So only put it down if you could answer questions about it!

As well as teaching you technical skills like the use of key software, a placement also really helps with interpersonal skills too! After a year of working on placement you’ll probably have worked with a massive amount of people from different backgrounds, with different areas of expertise and generally just different approaches to a task. This exposure to alternative ways of thinking can be really helpful in both a work and non-work setting as changing how you approach a particular situation can really improve the outcome!

Whilst having all these new skills is great you need to know how to put these down on your CV too. I covered CV writing tips in “Applications, CVs and waiting for replies!!” so go and check that out if you’d like some more advice. The main point from that previous post is the importance of “Transferable Skills” and slotting in the buzz words that employers are really looking for. However, make sure you have strong examples to back these up with as they’re one of the most common interview questions!

Something else which seems obvious but is still important to note, just because you complete a placement in a specific industrial field that doesn’t mean that you’re locked into that field for the rest of your career! It’s perfectly fine to end your year in industry placement and think “I don’t think that area is quite right for me.”. Similarly, if you are fortunate enough to be offered a job by your host company for when you complete your course you shouldn’t feel forced to take it. If you’re unsure whether you’d like to stay in that sector at the end of your degree the company should think no less of you for turning the offer down. If, in the future, you decide that you would like to work for that company they won’t look harshly on you for not accepting a job with them initially during your placement. Equally, if your host company doesn’t offer you a job after completing your placement this isn’t a poor reflection on your performance, for some companies offering someone a job for a year’s time is simply not feasible!

Next month sees the end of my placement and a chance to reflect on the last year and to look at the road ahead after I graduate.