How To Get The Most From Your Placement Year

By | January 29, 2014


Image: Tulane Public Relations

More than half of graduate employers say you’re unlikely to get a job unless you have work experience. This is yet another reminder that getting your degree is just one step on the road to successful employment.

The majority of a company’s graduate jobs are filled by people who have completed a placement year with the company. It’s easy to see why: someone who already fits in well with the team and has a working knowledge of the company is preferable to a complete outsider, however good their degree.

A placement year or ‘sandwich course’ gives you 12 months in the real world; 12 months to explore the industry you’re interested in and a dress rehearsal for graduate programs.

Things to keep in mind:

1) Your placement year is your first impression of the real world of business. It is not just a bit of a laugh like your Year 10 work experience – it is your debut into the industry of your future. The contacts you make during this year may well come in useful when you graduate and every impression you give of yourself needs to be positive.

2) You can use your placement year to apply what you’ve learned on your course to the real world. Sitting in a classroom can’t compare to the opportunity to try things out for yourself in a real life setting, so don’t forget to keep referring back to your modules – you may suddenly understand things you found confusing the first time round.

3) This is likely to be your first experience of a work environment that is relevant to your career path. Think about the skills you can be collecting to turn yourself into an employable graduate: organisation, problem solving, team work, communication…and all in ways that are appropriate for the industry.

4) A major lesson to take away is the difference between essay writing and efficient communications in business. Stripping back fancy words and ditching bad habits will improve your writing and make you better at getting your point across effectively.

5) Even if you don’t intend to pursue a graduate job with the company you do a placement with, remember that they are a valuable reference when you’re applying for other jobs. Your experience may lead you to choose another industry entirely, but the impression you make during your first year of exposure to business will stay with you.

You’ll be learning so much that the year will fly by and when you get back to uni, it will be with a full understanding of how your course relates to the real world. The experience will give you the impetus you need to get through the second half of your degree because you’ll know exactly what it is you’re aiming for – and how you’re going to make sure you get it.

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