If you aren’t sure about a placement, go for it!
Name: Lois Edwards
Course: LLB Law
Placement Position: Student Activities Assistant
Location: Aston Students’ Union, Birmingham, UK
So, my first blog post of 2019! Hopefully, for many of you second year students, 2019 will bring the beginning of your placement year – which is exciting and daunting at the same time (don’t worry, we’ve all been there). To anyone who hasn’t started placement hunting yet, my biggest piece of advice would be DON’T PANIC! It isn’t too late to start looking, but try and make sure you don’t leave it until the end of the academic year. I didn’t start looking for placements until around April, and balancing applications and interviews with exam prep was a struggle.
One of the things I underestimated when I began my placement was how much the experience would benefit me not just professionally, but outside the workplace too. Skills that you learn within the workplace are transferable, and will benefit you in your final year and in life more generally. For example, I have definitely found my approach to the placement assignment to be a lot more structured and organised, and I think this is a result of the planning skills I have developed through my time on placement. Every final year student will tell you how demanding your course becomes in your third/fourth year, so taking a placement is a brilliant opportunity to take some time to develop skills that will help you manage the workload.
Obviously, working 9-5 will also mean that you have a lot less free time every week, and this has made me realise how much I wasted the free time I had whilst I was in my first and second years. I spent a lot of my time sleeping, shopping and watching Netflix, and not actually getting much Uni work completed. During the first few months of my placement, I found that I would often be very tired at the end of the day and was continuing old habits of wasting time doing nothing. I decided to be more proactive and spend more time out of the house. Now I find that I prefer to use my evenings and weekends to actually do things, visit places and see friends. I also find that I’m less forgetful, and a lot more organised with my day to day tasks at home (or life admin as my manager calls it).
Aside from learning all these life lessons, I’m still having an amazing time on placement and have been super busy over the last few weeks. I’ve helped Jake (our VPSA) with the organisation of the annual Athletic Union Ball which was great fun, and it was really rewarding to see our hard work pay off on the night! We’re hosting another ball this weekend, and are starting to think about all things Varsity. We’re in for another busy few months, but I’m very excited for them!
Christmas is fast approaching, marking the end of Term 1 and the halfway point for my placement year (already!?). This is my last blog before then, so I thought this seemed like a good point to reflect on how placement has been for me as a whole so far.
My placement experience so far has been great and has genuinely been one of the highlights of my University experience. As I wrote in my last blog, it’s been the perfect opportunity to try so many new things, and meet so many amazing new people. After the Christmas break I’m going to be starting to work on my placement project, and as crazy as it sounds I’m actually looking forward to doing uni work again (although I’m sure my attitude towards that will change as soon as I actually make a start on the project…).
One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard about my placement is; “Why are you doing that? Don’t you study law?”
It’s a frustrating and demotivating question, but I think it’s an important one to answer. There’s an expectation that students find a placement that relates directly to their degree or future career choices and as someone who didn’t do this, I want to emphasise just how valuable it can be to take a different route with your placement.
When I was placement hunting I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with myself once I graduated, so was open to applying to a wide range of fields. I waited until I found a role that I was genuinely interested in pursuing – which did lead to securing my placement pretty late. However, this was totally worth it as I’ve ended up falling into a role and environment that I love! I now have an idea of the type of role and industry I might like to work in after university which is the most useful thing I could’ve gained from my placement.
Although my placement has incredibly limited relevance to my degree, it has still helped me in a multitude of ways. My professional growth since I started my role has been huge and I’m really proud of how far I’ve already come. I no longer feel anxious about starting new projects and putting myself outside of my comfort zone, and I’ve learnt a lot about professional best practice.
So my point is, if you can find a placement that’s related to your degree and your chosen career path – great! But don’t be disheartened if you can’t. It really won’t matter too much in the long-term, you can still gain so much from a placement even if it’s not the obvious choice.
Fresher’s week: Take 3.
I was nearly three months into my role when Fresher’s week arrived – my third experience of Fresher’s week as an Aston Student. This was a point in the year I was beyond excited for, but was also slightly dreading. I knew the weeks surrounding it would be hectic, busy and stressful, but I underestimated just how much fun I would have during them too. The lead up to moving in weekend seemed to fly past and before I knew it we were setting up the Fresher’s fair, visiting lots of sports taster sessions, and hosting meet & greets. I didn’t really feel prepared in any way shape or form, but everything seemed to go to plan and we had a hugely successful week!
One of the biggest challenges for me during this time was learning that sometimes we simply can’t do it all, no matter how much we want to. Fresher’s week provided me with the chance to reunite with friends I had not seen for a while, and seeing them going out every night had me feeling a little left out. I desperately wanted to join them but knew it would be impossible for me to go out every night, whilst working 9-5. Placement brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities and you have to accept that they are more important than a jam-packed social life. I did not want to let my performance in work drop because I was tired from so many nights out, so I had to accept that there were times where I just had to say no to a trip to Broad Street.
However in contrast, I really do want to emphasise the importance of saying yes and opening yourself up to new opportunities whilst on placement. Some of the best advice my Dad ever gave me was to try everything once, and this was something I wanted to embrace going into my placement year. Your time on placement will hopefully expose you to a multitude of opportunities to try new things, and this is something I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of.
One of the highlights of the last few weeks for me has been attending ISOC’s welcome dinner. I was really pleased to be invited, and excited to get involved with something I would not normally have had the chance to do. It was a great night and congratulations must go to everyone who organised it! I have also made a conscious effort to get involved with as many other activities as possible, including the office book club (a lot more fun than it sounds), volunteering as an Aston Auntie and attending various Union events which I would not normally even consider. Another personal highlight has been helping out with a rapid last minute trip to Bookers when the bar delivery didn’t come in time for Wednesday Sports Night – it was one of the most hilarious and stressful things I’ve had to do for a long time!
Another opportunity I (albeit begrudgingly) said yes to was being on Sober Duty for the Fresher’s Welcome Party. This was the first evening event of Fresher’s week and I’d been really looking forward to it, so having to work instead of go out with friends was not something I was thrilled about. However, the huge success of the night made it so much fun to work, and I had the chance to meet some of our amazing aunties who were volunteering on sober duty with us. Because of this, I made some great friends and still had the chance to grab a dance with all of our sabbs at the end of the night, all whilst helping out the Students’ Union.
Since term has started, placement for me has been about finding a balance between work and play. I’m so fortunate to have a placement that allows me to have so much fun at work every day, but this often makes it more difficult to actually get down to work when I have to. Because of this, I think I’ve learnt a serious amount of self-discipline and improved my time management skills tenfold. I’m also so much happier having a busy schedule (and being constantly tired) than I was being a lazy student in second year (and still being constantly tired..), and this is a lesson I hope I can carry forward into my final year!
Hi! My name is Lois Edwards and I’m a law student, currently on my placement as the Student Activities assistant at Aston Students’ union. I chose my placement because I was already involved with student activities at the union so knew it would be somewhere I would enjoy working.
I spent my whole second year changing my mind about whether or not I wanted to do a placement (it isn’t compulsory for law students). The idea of a placement didn’t originally appeal to me as I’m unsure what I want to do after I graduate. However, all of my friends had chosen to take a placement, and I didn’t want to do my final year without them. Because of this, I knew that if I was going to do a placement, it would have to be somewhere I would enjoy spending the year.
Because I had spent so long deciding whether I, in fact, wanted to do a placement, I was quite late actually finding one. It seemed as though all my friends had secured placements and were busy preparing for their new roles, while I was still searching. This made it quite stressful for me as I was still looking for a placement during exam season, so it was difficult to balance studying with my placement hunt.
I eventually found the role at the Students’ Union and was over the moon when I secured it. I was excited to start, but also very nervous as most people are. My first few days were really fun and the whole team were really welcoming. I was lucky as I already knew a few of the people I would be working with, but even those I did not know have already become great friends.
My first month in the role has been so much fun and I’ve loved learning about the Students’ Union and how it is run. It has opened my eyes to a whole industry that I never really knew existed, and is one that I am now considering entering in the future. I have already had opportunities to learn new skills, build my confidence, and even visit to a new city for a conference.
My advice to second-year students would be; if you are not sure about whether to take a placement, go for it! It’s been a great experience for me so far and I’m really excited to see what the rest of the year holds, especially when all the students come back in September!