What to Expect:
As each placement is different it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty how the experience will be. In all placements there will always be a learning curve but after this things should being to get easier, students will build relationships with co-workers and get into the swing of things.
The Big Misconception:
Most students start a placement with a misconception that they will be doing exactly what other employees will be doing. Instead what usually happens is that they receive smaller, repetitive and less challenging roles in the company. For many students this is a big shock as they genuinely have the skills to tackle larger tasks.
To help deal with this, there are two things students need to think about. The first thing to think about is that the work you do is not the only or best way to learn at placement. Listening, watching and talking to co-workers are equally valuable ways to learn on the job, and these low skill tasks provide the time to follow these up. If a task is proving to not be demanding enough look at what others are doing, ask questions and see how the things around you work. Placements are a learning opportunity and even if the tasks don’t meet your expectations continually learn. The second is that these low skill tasks are a good way for an employer to judge a student. Seeing how a student deals with these simple tasks, both in how they perform and how they deal with it, tells an employer a lot. Many students have discovered that this period of low skill tasks does not last long, when the employer notices the student is capable of more they provide more work.
Tips for a better time at placement:
You are there to learn, so learn. Ask how things work, ask how to watch demonstrations, ask if you can give it a try and ask how others got where they are. Everyone knows you are there to learn and get experience so they won’t mind, just don’t push too hard because nobody likes a constant barrage a questions. It’s a fine line to tread but asking questions is the best way to learn.
Get talking to people, be social and to begin with try and go with your colleagues to lunch because this is crucial to a better time. There is a saying that goes along the lines of “it’s not what you do but who you do it with” and this is absolutely true. Making friends with colleagues not only makes the experience more enjoyable, it’s networking. Here you have people already in the industry of your choice who can offer advice, teach you new things and even offer you a job down the line. None of this can happen if you don’t get to know them, plus if they learn about you they may notice see your skills (which is great if you want to avoid low skill tasks).
Leave a Good Impression:
The people you work for, and more importantly the people you work with will remember you in some way once you leave. Because of this it’s important you work towards leaving them with a good impression of you. Nine times out of ten all this takes is hard work and a positive attitude.
If you don’t Enjoy it, don’t Worry:
Placements are a learning experience first and foremost and as we all know not every lesson is fun. Your co-workers may not be the social type, you may have to do low skill tasks or work in itself may be incredibly stressful. All of this is completely normal and honestly this is a fantastic position to be in. Because placements give you a window into the future it allows you to evaluate things now and make changes for the better.