Placement: Recap and Advice

So, here I am in my FINAL two weeks of placement. Scary biscuits. It’s mad to think it was a year ago when I first bounced in the door not having a notion what I was doing and discovered my love for blazers. This is just a wee summary of my placement experience, which may or may not be of any use to people preparing to go on theirs. You’re welcome in advance.

I’ve done 9-5 days in retail and worked since I was 16, so I thought I sort of knew what the 8 hour day and working life would be like. Yeah I THOUGHT. I was so used to running about on my feet and being hands-on all day, so sitting down facing a screen and phone was a massive change for me. I’m glad I don’t have a fitbit because seeing I’ve only done 53 steps all day would be pretty depressing like. It does take some getting used to, I remember thinking “I’ll be less tired because I’ll be sitting all day” – oh honey, no.

Anyway, my placement hasn’t been what I thought it’d be like, because to be honest I hadn’t a clue what it’d be like. I had no expectations to meet. Which was good, because it meant I wasn’t disappointed or panicking about how good or bad I’d be at my job before I even knew what it was. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time trying to predict what I’d be doing because I would’ve been COMPLETELY wrong (for the first time in my life) – and sure who doesn’t love a wee surprise?

To be honest it’s probably a better thing that I didn’t know, because if I had’ve known that this is what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have done it. Because I never thought I’d be able to. So, don’t try to predict how good (or bad) you’ll be at whatever it is you think you’ll be doing, because you won’t have a clue until you actually do it. Plus, do you really want to risk that self-fulfilling prophecy? Didn’t think so.

Even though I wasn’t at uni, I still learned a lot in my year out; a lot about the advertising industry, sales, customer service and working life. But I learned a lot about myself too. I learned what I could do, what I was capable (and incapable) of; I learned what I was good at and where my skills were, and I learned my limits – who knew I had any? I also learned a lot about what was actually going on in the world because I read like 3 newspapers a day. Like I was HELLA informed on the goings on in the world. And I got to compare 3 different horoscopes and choose which one I wanted to believe. Ha.

I met so many amazing people and made some really good friends this year, and I genuinely don’t know if I could’ve done the job I did in a different company. Everyone was friendly and said “hi” when they walked past, even though they clearly hadn’t a notion who I was. They’d make small talk when making lunch in the wee kitchen and then make a jokey comment when their soup exploded in the microwave. It was those extra 15 seconds, Dave, shouldn’t have done it.

Luckily, I got on well with my colleagues and we had such a GEG together. We exchanged conspiracy theories, had wee debates and discussed what we were having for dinner a LOT. They helped keep me sane, and were such a good support network for me. I was constantly asking questions and looking advice, and they were always more than helpful and gave me lil hints and tricks. At the end of the day, they were new once too. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or feel like you’re bothering people, because chances are they asked the exact same ones when they started. What makes you look worse, asking someone how to do something or doing it completely wrong and having to get them to fix it?

I was also really lucky that I had managers I felt I could go to if I was struggling, and who had more realistic expectations of me than I did. I constantly compared myself to my colleagues who had been doing the job for several years, because I had no else to compare myself to. There was no other placement student. I should’ve compared myself to who I was when I first started to see how far I’d come and how much I’d learned, but I didn’t.

So take my advice, compare yourself and how you’re doing to yourself at the start of your placement. Are you the best? Maybe not. But are you better than you were? Hell yeah. Don’t – and I mean DON’T – compare yourself to other people. Placement’s a learning experience, not a competition. You’re not on the apprentice, love.

Well I’m not going to lie lads, I was a bit of a yo-yo this year. I had my fair share of highs and lows and a few little “episodes”. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough at times, but that’s life. No matter what you do or where you do it, you have bad days. *Cue Hannah Montana* Work is hard. But obviously it’s hard – why would someone with no experience going into a full-time and proper adulty job be easy? Like my granda always said “hard work isn’t easy, and easy work’s hard to find”, you’re a wise man, Matt.

I’m not trying to scare anyone like, I’m just being honest. There’s no point in me saying it was all rainbows and fairies and easy coasting. It’s important to admit that I found it tough at times.
My problem was that I didn’t and kept acting like I was fine because everyone else seemed to be fine. I was like a wee duck paddling along, looking all calm above the water, but flailing like mad underneath. But we’re all ducks. Everyone’s pretending they’re fine because everyone else is pretending they’re fine. It’s a vicious duck cycle.

This is just MY experience though, some people mightn’t have a single bad day on placement. Good for them. Everyone’s in a different job, in a different company and with different coping abilities. So obviously no two placement experiences are going to be the same.

My most important advice is make sure you ENJOY your year. I don’t mean your placement, because that’s work. Ew. But your actual year. Go out for dinner, drinks and coffee or go to the gym if you’re one of those people that actually enjoys it. Weirdos. Don’t let your placement year just be about your placement. Also make sure you bring in buns on your birthday, people get REALLY annoyed when you don’t (@ Benny, we’re still waiting).

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Reasons I’m Excited to Go Back to Uni

Well, here I am. 9 months into placement. I could’ve had a BABY in that time, like a literal human. Isn’t that scary? Anyway, people always ask me if I’m looking forward to going back to uni next year, so here’s a lil list for you of why I kinda am:

*This is in no particular order, but this first one is the main reason

Clements in Jordanstown:
Low and behold, there is now a Clements in my uni campus. Rejoice and be glad. I reckon UUJ did it on purpose to lure us all back, I’m telling you now the attendance is going to go right up. Pre-lecture coffee date? Post-lecture coffee date? Instead-of-lecture coffee date? Thankin you.

The uni bubble:
Uni is this magical place where the real world doesn’t exist. Adulthood isn’t really a thing until you’re 40, your biggest responsibility is topping up the gas, and the ‘future’ is nothing more than a cheat liar rapper. When you’re in uni, nothing else matters. You get to forget about actually having to figure out what you want to do in life. You can postpone making actual life decisions for a whole other year. How fabulous.

Seeing friends:
I miss seeing my wee group of friends every day (well, three days a week but still). At the minute we’re all spread around the place (shoutout to Rachel for ditching to ENGLAND – and not consulting us first??). I can’t wait to see their lil faces and have a geg with them in the comfy purple seats on campus. And I’m sure they feel the exact same way about me. Deffo do.

Writing notes:
I’m one of those sad people that LOVES pens. My wee 4 coloured bic pen (the pink and green one, not the normal boring one) hasn’t been used all year and I can’t WAIT to do nice pretty coloured writing on notes I’ll keep forever and probably never read 🙂

Opportunities:
My uni is actually really good about emailing us out relevant opportunities, like volunteering, different programmes and talks by industry professionals. Yeah, placement is a great way to get work and actually acting-like-an-adult experience, but there’s loads of things like the PANI programme and societies that you can’t actually do once you go out in the scary real world. It’s a good way to build up your CV before you graduate and compete with 8000 other people with similar degrees and work experience. Can’t wait.

Lunch dates:
As I’ve mentioned in several posts, ya girl misses going for lunch. It really makes you feel like a lady of leisure, wee post lecture lunch date before you all split off and pretend to do seminar work. I know fine rightly the people at West are concerned and miss me dearly. So it’s not just for my sake that I want to go out for lunch, think of the economy. Think of it.

Actually learning stuff:
Call me sad (please don’t, I’m fragile) but I actually like feeling like I’ve learnt something, you know that lil “a-ha” moment when you feel all smart because you learnt a long word or can show off to your ma when you’re home?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so much a fan of reading textbooks, journal articles, but learning from those wee powerpoints and “relevant” videos in class? Oof.

Obviously, I know from the past 2 years and siblings who’ve gone through final year that uni isn’t a holiday. So there are of course reasons I’m scared to go back -besides graduating and having to leave uni, although I could always do a master’s to postpone being a grown up…

Reasons I’m not excited to go back to uni:
1. Dissertation
2. Finals
3. Twenty grand of debt

But oh well, that’s September’s problem.

Confessions of a Placement Student

Well, here I am, 5 months into my placement year, and I thought I’d share some home truths with you.

I never really knew what to expect out of doing a placement, I mean my brother did his at an IT company (he’s super smart) and didn’t really talk about his work (he’s also SUPER quiet). My sister on the other hand, went to Korea (the South, before you make a witty “the North? Ha ha” joke) for hers, so I somehow think her experience in Jeju is a tad different than mine in Belfast.

Which brings us here. I’m going to let you in on a few things I learnt when on my placement year. Disclaimer: The following may be experienced by other readers, and is not me saying that they are the case for everyone going/on a university placement. I.E – It could just be me and I’m doing it all wrong. But nonetheless, enjoy.

 

1. 11pm is LATE.

I’m in bed by 10:30pm most nights; partly because I’m knackered after working 9-5, and partly because I now know the importance of getting 8 hours sleep*. Plus the fact it takes me around an hour to get to sleep no matter what time I go to bed at- isn’t that a fun and not at all disruptive trait??

*I am determined to get this amount some day.

sleep

2. Weeknight nights out – please don’t

Working at 9am the next day isn’t the same as a 9am lecture the next day. Save your nights out for the weekend, when you can properly enjoy it without checking the time and thinking “I have work in x hours”. I also wouldn’t advise doing a university student’s Fresher’s week, because you will in no way be “fresh”.

 

3. Coffee becomes less of a treat and more of a necessity

I need my daily coffee, not because of a caffeine boost (although it definitely does help), but because it’s important to start the day off with a little treat or “pick me up”. Don’t like coffee? Oh you will, all in good time my friend.

 

4. “I’ll start the gym” – You probably won’t.

I had so many plans to start the gym when I started working full-time, because “I’ll need something as a wee distraction” and because I don’t do half as much exercise as I used to. There aren’t very many ways to make sitting a desk an ‘active’ task. But well, who was I kidding really, the gym isn’t for me – when it comes to choosing between going to one or going for coffee with friends, it just so happen to lose the coin toss every time!!

gym

 

5. “After work drinks” – the only thing I drink after work is coffee.

“We should SO go for cocktails after work sometime!!” We all know where cocktails lead and it is NOT a pretty place. *See number 2.  After a day at work, I want to sit down and have a chat with my friends, in a comfy chair, and be home by 9pm. Call me a granny all you want, but I am a content granny.

 

6. You DO get used to it.

I worked in retail for years, and found I could work a 9:30am-6:30pm on my feet rushing around all day no problem; but sitting down for 8 hours at a desk somehow exhausted me? My friend who was working full-time before me had promised me “Don’t worry, you get used to it”. 2 months in I realised that either she was lying, or was coping better than I was. But behold, I am now a machine (sort of) and I promise, you do get used to the change of routine. You too, will become a machine.

 

7. Your employers know you’re a placement student.

I know that one really knocked you for six. The point is, don’t put too much pressure on yourself; you’re not expected to crack the code and master all aspects of your job within the first few months, let alone weeks. Don’t compare yourself  to the other people in your office who have been doing the job for years. Of course they’re going to be “better” than you, but Michael Jordan’s better at basketball than you too – sorry, I’m not trying to lower your self esteem, I’m simply saying you can’t compare yourself to professionals.

 

8. You’ll make (in my case, loads of) mistakes.

You’ll make mistakes, and that’s OKAY. If you don’t do something wrong, you won’t learn what you shouldn’t have done and what you should do differently next time. It’s not so much a mistake as a “how to” for next time. As Hannah Montana said “everybody makes mistakes” and “nobody’s perfect”, what more inspiration and motivation do you need? So, next time you make a mistake, have a wee Hannah Montana sing-song (in your head preferably) and you’ll definitely feel better.

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9. You will meet some of the most amazing people

Those memes on the internet about having work friends who know your whole life story are scarily accurate. You’ll have so many weird conversations and debates about food (we had a very heated one about whether it was candy apple or toffee apple), and you’ll find yourself weirdly invested in your colleague’s dinners. You really do lean on and support each other, as well as get all the scoop on their best friend’s pyscho-ex. Brilliant.

*It’s toffee apple. Not up for discussion.

 

10. You might not figure out what you want to do – but you might figure out what you don’t.

Even if you realise what you’re doing on placement isn’t what you want to do in life, that’s okay. You can rule it out, and you’ll still have learned so much; about the industry, yourself, and working full-time in general. I mean, would you rather do a job you don’t exactly love for a year and never have to do it again, or end up stuck in one after graduation for the foreseeable future? The job’s only for a year, not forever, so  b r e a t h e .

11. Prepare for pensions and National Insurance

I’ll never forget the horror of seeing some of my pay going into a “pension pot”, I remember thinking, “I’m only 20? And saving for a pension??” Well, it’s okay, I’m over it now. Plus I’ve a nice wee £80 cushion to fall back on, so I’m currently deciding between early retirement or buying a villa in Spain…

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Me celebrating my glorious £80

12. You will get excited about new work clothes

I used to go into Primark and think “Okay, why is there a whole floor of blouses and blazers? This would be so much better used for guddies.” Well, let me tell you, there is no such thing as “too many” work clothes. Patterned blouses? Hated em. Blazers? Hated em too. But now, my friend, ain’t nothing I love more than a nice wee print blouse and some fitted trousers. So, you may laugh now, but soon you too will be BUZZIN to hit up the town and buy blazers, just you wait.

 

I had a lot more but didn’t want to bore anyone (might be too late though). I hope this list helps anyone on or going on a placement; you’ll either relate to some/all of these, or you’ll not experience them and then feel a lot better about yourself. Either way, you’re welcome.

If you have any questions/ queries or just want to talk about going on or preparing for a placement, please do get in touch! I’m more than happy to instil my pearls of wisdom and give advice and share my experience! I may not have many pearls, but I’d say I have at least 2.