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How to prepare for a placement year


By Simon Thompson
 
     
By Elizabeth Whittingham

Have you bagged your dream placement?

Placement years can be a brilliant addition to your university experience, not only are they paid, bagging you some money to enjoy later on at university, they are also an invaluable addition to your degree, your CV and your academic progress.

They’re also a great opportunity to experience life in the workplace before you graduate.

Although this all sounds brilliant, there are some important things you need to consider and tasks you need to complete before you can start work!

Here’s our ultimate guide to preparing for placement year.

Sort out the admin

Make sure that you sort out all the relevant admin before you start your placement year.

You’ll need to supply your placement company with all of your relevant contact details and ensure that you attend any taster days or briefing sessions that they offer you.

You will also need to be aware of the days on which you are expected to work, your salary, the time you are expected each morning, the length of your lunch breaks, the location of the offices, sick and holiday pay entitlement and the start and the end of the placement.

Think about the dress code

If this is your first experience in the workplace then you’ll probably want to think about the dress code of the company.

It’s important to contact your placement to enquire about how you need to dress.

Also, if the placement is in a lab, it’s handy to ask what clothing you will be expected to bring in terms of lab coats and protective gear.

Some offices have a rather relaxed, ‘smart casual’ type of dress code whilst other establishments can be quite formal so it’s always handy to check to avoid any awkwardness on the first day.

Sort out your body clock

Placement will probably mean being at the place of work for 9am, and for a student used to a few lie-ins, this might be a little tricky to get into the swing of at first!

To avoid the pain of getting up early, try to get your body into a routine around one week before placement begins, heading to bed early and getting up at a reasonable time. This way, when Monday morning comes around, it won’t be that bad as your body will hopefully be accustomed to it all.

If you’re struggling to get up in the morning, there are plenty of techniques for you to try, from going for a run to having a long hot shower- and having a few coffees…

Be time efficient

It’s super important that you work on your time efficiency when it comes to starting your new placement. University tends to mean that you can sometimes get used to turning up late to lectures and tutorials. This is not really acceptable at work so time manage your day to make sure that you still fit into it all the stuff that you enjoy, whether it’s heading to the gym or watching your favourite show when you’re back from work.

Find somewhere to live

If your placement year is happening outside of the academic year, then you are going to need somewhere to stay in the summer. Some student house shares offer rent at half the price during the summer months so this may be an option!

Failing that, you could always grab yourself a hotel, an air BNB or even stay with a friend. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents’ house close by to your place of work then stay there!

Finally, here are some top tips on how to get the most out of the experience!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even ones that you might think sound rather silly! The more questions you ask, the better- you’re there to learn after all. Although do make sure that the questions are relevant to the work environment and are also professional.

Gauge the work environment. Some places of work can be rather loud in terms of a radio playing and people chatting, whilst others can be deadly quiet, so just see how it all feels on the day and go from there!

Be kind and friendly. Although it can be daunting at first, get into the habit of saying morning to everyone each day when you walk into the office, it will help people to familiarise themselves with you!

Don’t be too offended if people struggle to remember your name at first, the first few days can feel a little shaky at first in terms of knowing your whereabouts but you’ll soon fit right in.

Learn about the company you are working for! Find out their values and who runs it all, linked in is a great place for this- have a good old twitter stalk and get chatting to people outside of the office. Internships and work placements can be brilliant as they not only provide you with valuable experience and academic knowledge, but they also hold plenty of opportunity to gain future contacts for future career prospects.

 
 
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