Placement year: closing thoughts and advice

Back at the start of the academic year, I was wrote a post about starting my placement year, and now with a matter of weeks left before I finish, I thought it was time for some closing thoughts.

  1. Just Do It

I cannot recommend this opportunity enough. I have loved my year out and if I was back at the decision-making time at the start of my third year, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s a great way to spend a year and clichés aside, it’s taught me so much more than university teaching alone can offer. As a side note – while this is a path well-trodden by engineering students, opportunities are out there for all sorts of jobs with all sorts of backgrounds – don’t rule it out just because your degree isn’t necessarily a vocational one!

  1. Find something you love

If you’re going to spend a year doing something, it’s worth making sure it’s something you’re interested in and will enjoy doing! For me, this involved choosing a company focusing on environmental remediation and waste management, which manages an abundance of process engineering facilities – all the stuff I’m a nerd for. Being so interested in the company’s activities has improved my experience with the job, and I will genuinely be sad to leave and not know the outcome of some projects which are just starting out.

  1. Put the work in

I’m sure it’s evident that this post is a bundle of clichés, but I have definitely gained new appreciation for the notion that the more you put in, the more you get out, and there are all sorts of ways you can do this. Being proactive and going beyond the bare minimum might give you chances to present your work to important people at your company, or to present it to a wider variety of people there. Taking some time to familiarise yourself with how the company operates beyond just your area, and how your work fits into it lets you participate more in conversations and identify areas where you can contribute. Demonstrating your interest in general (for me this included attending exhibitions & facility tours) might go further than you think, and I’d recommend getting involved in any “outside-of-the-day-job” opportunities you come across (for example, I spent two days representing my company at a national STEM event) as they’ll help you develop further. As for taking opportunities, I’d especially recommend taking those that scare you or seem like a big deal – I delivered a presentation to every process engineer in the company which was a daunting but incredibly rewarding experience, that I’d like to do again if I had the chance!

  1. Make the most of uni!

I do love my job and will genuinely be sad to leave, but that hasn’t made it any less painful to see constant Snapchats of all my friends back in Broomhill, Bar One… even the IC! If you’re anything like me you’ll miss uni an awful lot when you’re gone, and you’re incredibly lucky to have the opportunity, so make sure to make the most of it while you’re around. As eluded to last time I wrote about this, the flexibility of student life is little short of a blessing – do make the most of the opportunities it affords you.

Making the most of uni goes beyond all the social aspects and opportunities though. Applying yourself to the maximum in your studies will give you the best opportunities later on, and you may find that the more you get stuck into challenging things, the more you enjoy them. My year out has made me incredibly grateful for my university education, and has certainly got me thinking about how I could have managed my time here differently.

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