How to Survive… Life on Placement

Miss Placement 2013

Ah placement, the one thing that you want to be doing, but the one thing that requires almost ridiculous morning hours that it makes you question your sanity and job choice. For most though, a placement gives you a feel of where you want to be; a sense of what things are going to be like for the majority of your working life, which is more than can be said for continual lectures about things you may not even need to know.

With most universities priding themselves in finding their students secure placements each year and Durham University promising at least 40 weeks of placement over the course of your degree, just what is it about placements which appeals to students?

I’ll tell you what doesn’t: early mornings. I’m uncertain about everyone else, but I’ve just begun my final week of a 5 week placement and because of where the place is situated, I have to get up at half 6 in the morning! If some of you haven’t twigged, this means I’m in bed for 10 o’clock most nights – how devastating at only 19 years old. Nevertheless, through the initial bitterness, I have now learnt to say “bring on those early nights and early mornings” (maybe not very enthusiastically)… it most definitely beats looking like a zombie to your potential future employers and really shows your commitment. Mainly the first point though.

Some people actually get paid for doing their placements. Lucky is what I call them. There’s me rolling up at 8 in the morning to work a full 8 hour shift to get no pay, just some children telling me that they are in love at the age of 7. Don’t get me wrong, it is cute, slightly humorous at the same time, but this is what it is all about. The experience: just have fun and get into the swing of things. You’ll soon be earning the full whack wage because of the skills you have obtained over this period.

If you want to give a good impression, dressing smartly is always a good start. I mean digging out your old school trousers, hoping you haven’t put on too much weight so that you can still wear them and grabbing a smart top. In other words, steer clear of the mini skirt and fake tanned legs. Alternatively you would just be told to get out (harsh times). Either way, just dig out those old clothes and get some style advice off your grandma if you have to – beats looking like you have just dragged yourself to placement after a night out which may I just add, is also not advisable.

Another way to survive placement is to be nice…to everyone. I have been on placements where they have made me tea and I have sat and drank it – I despise tea. There is a lesson to be learnt here: tell them exactly how you like your tea or coffee as soon as you arrive, it will save you in the long-run, trust me. Anyway, these people are who you are aspiring to be, so being polite will most definitely get you in their good books and hopefully someone you can keep in contact with in the future for support. The people at placement are there to help, just as much as you are there to learn so do not be afraid of them.

A last quick reminder, if you’re working in an office on your placement, do not be drawn in by the photocopier. Photocopying body parts may be very funny at the time, however it may not be funny when the manager of the place gives you a bad reference, making finding Jurassic park more likely than finding a job.

Though there are some ups and downs of being on placement, in the end they offer you valuable experience, a work ethic and a taster of your future… job.

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