This blog is about my personal experience as a student taking a placement year and why I would not hesitate to do it all again.
Taking a placement has been the best decision I ever made while still at university. A placement is a work experience between 9 to 12 months in your industry which allows you to take on a role with real responsibility, with more in-depth work and involved duties compared to short-term internships. For most university courses, placements usually occur between the second year and final year and they count towards your final degree.
Here are my top five benefits of doing a placement year.
Guidance for my future career path
Civil engineering is a very broad subject hence there’s many career paths one could end up following. While on placement, I had a chance to work on different construction projects and through this I was able to figure out what areas in the project I was most passionate about. Before placement, I was more inclined to structural design but by the end of it, I noticed I quite enjoyed solving environmental problems like flood control and this influenced my final year project research topic. I also know exactly where I would like to be in five years’ time after I graduate. My placement helped me get a more realistic sense of what is possible, and my own professional preferences.
Prepared me for my final year
The support I received from my team at the company where I was working while on placement was great and this carried on even after I completed my training. When I was back at university, I still received phone calls from my colleagues to check on my progress and I also received support for my final year projects. I honestly cannot trade the experience I had for anything. By doing the placement year, I have already created a network of professional contacts that I can call upon for assistance and advice in the future. This is priceless.
Increased my confidence
Before my placement, I had never worked in a professional environment. This for me was a struggle because starting your first job can be a bit scary and I found it hard settling into the company in the first few weeks. Once I got used to the new routine, I realised the office environment was really friendly and this made settling in easier for me. I now have a better idea of workplace culture, and what type of culture suits me personally in terms of office environment. This means that I now know what exactly to look for when attending interviews for graduate roles. So, whether you learn to like something new, or dislike it, it’s never a wasted experience!
Increased my employability
I’m now back at university following my placement and doing my final year of study, but the work experience on my CV from my placement definitely makes me stand out from the crowd. I’ve decided to study for a Masters programme and the experience on my CV, which I also included in my personal statement for further study, has shown my dedication and made me a more attractive candidate to gain a place, which is competitive. I am pleased to say I have been offered a place on the course and I believe a key reason for this was my placement year experience.
Graduate job offer
Lastly, I had a graduate job offer! This was one of the most amazing examples of why a placement year has been so beneficial. I was asked by my placement employer if I would be interested in working there as a graduate, which for sure I would, because it was a really friendly workplace and I felt that I fit in so well with the workplace culture and the team. For now, I have informed my line manager from the placement that I would like to focus on postgraduate study first, which they respected and supported me with as well. It is great to know that when I am ready, I have a job waiting for me.
I could go on and on talking about how I benefit from my placement experience but the top benefits are the five that I mentioned above. I really recommend to any students reading this that you truly consider doing a placement year yourself. If you would like to find out more, contact the Placements team via email [email protected] and discuss your options.
By Lauretta Nabawanda, BSc (Hons) Civil Engineering student