Working Girl | Retrospective On My Year-Long Work Placement

If you saw my Sunday post, you’ll know that I’ve just finished my year long work placement as a Marketing Support Assistant last Friday. The placement was part of my University course structure, though I did have to go through dozens of applications for dozens of companies before I finally got the interview for my Marketing post last year.

If I was honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. This would be the first I’d ever worked in an office and in an environment that was completely different to the shop floor retail work I had been used to since I was 16. I’d also be commuting 5 days a week – at least until I moved offices – and working in a job I only had academic knowledge of…so yep a little bit scary.
I won’t go into detail about what I did during the year, partly for privacy, partly because the year went by so quickly and so much happened that it would be impossible to sum up the whole experience in a blog post – I’m having trouble enough summing it up in an essay for University!

Looking back in retrospect I do feel more confident in myself and what I want to go into as a career. I’ve had to work with an hugely diverse group of people, and dealt with people in the firm with decades worth of professional work experience in their career path. I was lucky enough to be given responsibilities that actually weren’t in my remit when I started the placement and was trusted enough to help out with huge project work. I learnt that I’m a list person, that practice makes perfect and it’s ok to be confused – people WILL NOT bite your head off if you ask questions. I’ve had to experience difficult situations, team and strategy changes, not mention problematic printers (seriously though I hate printers).
I could go on but in summary I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling year, will miss my team oh-so-much (I cried on my last day…just sayin’) and (as cheesy as it sounds) will be going back to Uni for my final year with a renewed outlook on life.

I know many of you guys will be heading back to school/University and some may already be on or applying for Internships/Work Experience/Placements etc. I could write a million tips on survival but here are my top 5….

  1. Get stuck into anything and everything | You’re there to gain experience to go out and get as much as you can. From taking on daunting projects to something as simple as learning how to work a photocopier, these are all things that you may end up having to do in the future.
  2. Getting to know you | People love talking about themselves, so ask what they’re doing, what their job actually involves, what their own route into the role was…etc. Not only is this a good way of getting to know you’re colleagues but they may even have followed an alternative route into the industry you want to go into!
  3. Make contacts | Whether it’s physically them writing down, keeping a stock of business cards, or using LinkedIn make sure you keep in touch with those you’ve worked with, it could prove useful in the future when you’re actually making your way into a working role.
  4. Be gracious but have a voice | In the current economic climate it’s tough enough trying to get any kind of experience. An internship is a great way of getting something to put on your CV to make you stand out. So when you’re stuck doing the more mundane parts of the job, remind yourself to be grateful for your position, suck it up and hit the ground running with the task. Like Miranda Priestly says “A million girls would kill for your job”. That being said if you’re struggling, speak up! Like I said above people won’t bite your head off for asking a question.
  5. Everyone deserves tea* (or coffee!) | It’s a cliche right? The intern/tea maker but if there’s one thing I learnt over the year is that no matter how stressed or dull the day is a cup of tea (or coffee) goes a long way! It gives you a chance to have a break, get to know your co-workers and well…coffee is nectar of the Gods. Also pro-tip…learn how people like their drinks, you’d be surprised as how grateful they’ll be when you can rattle off the order straight away!
So let me know what you think! Have you done an internship or placement? How did you find yours? And do you have any other hints and tips to survive?

*cyber cookies for those who got the LBD reference ;)