Let me take you back two years ago, February 2012. I had just secured a role as a Communications Assistant for a year placement as part of my degree. This was the beginning of a journey of ups and downs and more lessons learnt than in the entirety of my previous education. After completing the year I would, without doubt, recommend a placement year to anyone considering it.
While the things I learnt and the ways in which I developed are countless, I thought I’d count 5 of them! My top lessons are below.
1) Learning never stops
It’s almost comforting to realise that your education doesn’t stop when you accept your degree certificate.
Everyone I worked with was on a continuous development plan, which included training and the opportunity to take career enhancing opportunities. This included courses, internal training, and professional qualifications.
I was also offered training to enhance my job-related skills and improve my job ability. In addition to this I had the opportunity to meet with a mentor to help me perform at my best.
Every industry requires their staff to remain up-to-date and well trained. The learning doesn’t stop when you finish school, and it’s exciting to think of how I will continue to develop in the future.
2) The inner workings of your industry
When you are submerged into an organisation you cannot help but absorb knowledge about its industry and how the business works.
I finished the year with a confident knowledge of how my organisation produces, markets and distributes our products and services. I also learnt about other areas of the business, including regulatory functions, advocacy, public affairs and so much more.
I left the organisation knowing I could confidently discuss industry issues with experts and novices alike!
3) Internal networking
Previous to my placement I had experience working in small organisation, it was quite a jump moving to a large global organisation. Even our regional head office of about 200 felt huge!
I learnt a lot during the year about how to effectively network internally. Identifying who I need to talk to, and how best to get their help!
This might seem like a small skill, but when you’re trying to work on issues that range from needing to talk to people in your office, or in your European office, or even the global HQ, it could all get a bit confusing. And at first, a little daunting! But of course, in that situation, you pick it up quickly!
4) University makes sense
This was something I realised when I returned to Leeds, suddenly the things we were doing made sense when compared to the working world.
Sometimes the books can feel distant from real life, and the classroom doesn’t always seem relevant. However, the placement year helped me to understand how the skills I was learning slotted into my future career! My placement helped me appreciate my course more than ever before.
5) Where will you be in the future
Everyone’s placement year is unique, and the lessons people take from them are very different. Some people go on placement and find themselves doing a role they love. Others find out that they’re interested in something else.
You also discover a lot of your key strengths and areas where you’re most comfortable. All of which are useful when trying to make important career decisions.
For myself, my year cemented in my mind the role I want to perform, and the career path I need to take. It’s very exciting, and I certainly wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t taken a placement year.
If you’re considering a placement year, I would definitely recommend it. The lessons you learn won’t be the same, but the year will help you with your course and to make decisions about your future.