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What It’s Really Like to Do a Placement Year

What It’s Really Like to Do a Placement Year main image

Sponsored by University of Northampton

Placement year, sandwich year, a year in industry…whatever you want to call it, a placement year is essentially an extended internship that allows you to apply what you’ve learned on your degree to a real working environment. Your job role is usually related to your degree and tends to last between six and 12 months. Oh, and you get paid a genuine wage too! 

Depending on your degree, a placement year may be compulsory. Even if it’s only optional, it’s worth checking what a placement year can do for you, and how your university can help get you there.

Shivika Gupta is an MBA student at the University of Northampton, who is currently on her placement year working as a Team Leader in Student Services at a UK-based college. She tells us about her placement year experience so far, and how she considers it an integral part of her academic journey.

Hi Shivika, can you tell us a little bit about your role and the main tasks and duties you carry out?

The nature of the work is management-based. I’ve taken on a key role in supporting the Student Union and developing ways to engage students in college life by listening and acting on views which improve the whole college experience.

I’m involved with supporting the Student Union activities across the college as well as external networks. I also manage a team of eight to 10 staff, and am accountable for the training of the Student Union. 

I manage the non-competitive sport activities across the college, encouraging participation in all abilities and ages. I’m also responsible for bidding and securing external funding to support health and wellbeing activities by establishing and maintaining networks and contacts.

Why did you decide to do a placement year?

After studying my LLB (Bachelor of Law) in India, I wanted to pursue a course which allowed me to put the skills I developed during my studies to good use. From the very beginning I was looking for universities which had a placement year type of opportunity built into the program.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

The responsibility of leading a team and organizing an event from scratch was one of the most challenging and fun parts of the role.

Having a great line manager was also a plus factor for me as I was trusted and given the liberty to bring dynamic and innovative ideas to enrichment events to help increase learners’ engagement.

How important do you think a placement year is, and how do you think you’ve benefited from undertaking a placement year?

I truly believe that academic relevance is an imperative part of a student life, but to be able to apply the learning to a day-to-day scenario has been quite a rollercoaster ride for me.

Management is something which can be practiced, and the more experience you gain, the better you get at it. Hence for me, a placement year has been a very important part of my MBA program.

How has the placement helped with your academic studies?

My final module is very closely related to the work-based learning I am exposed to, and doing research at the organization I work at has made me build great relations with existing employees.

I’m able to apply the modules I’ve studied previously during my MBA which has helped them make more sense. I’ve also been able to put what we’ve learnt into a real-world scenario which has really helped my overall understanding.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far during your placement year?

My proudest achievement so far has been being trusted to manage staff members and leading the events that happen across the college campuses. I’ve learnt that punctuality is key, and that building good relationships with colleagues can bring about great experiences with work life.

In what ways do you think the placement will help you when it comes to future career prospects?

It will help me prepare for any new opportunities and jobs in the future. Because of this placement I’ll be able to revisit all the experiences of this job role in order to give examples during interviews.  

I’ve had the desire to work in the education sector from the very start of my career, and I feel as though undertaking my placement year has given me a better understanding of the work ethic that exists within these institutions.

And finally, what advice would you give to students who are considering undertaking a placement year?

Let’s keep it short and simple!

  • Start looking and applying for opportunities within two months of your arrival to the UK. Also make sure to prepare a little before flying to the UK, such as refreshing your LinkedIn profile. The more you can do at an earlier stage the better!
  • Make use of facilities such as the Changemaker Hub to transform your CV and cover letter. It really helped me and boosted my confidence.
  • Make sure you have part-time job experience which will be relevant to your placement year, as it’ll help you answer questions during your interview, as well as standout in your application.
  • Do not see it as just a job! See it as a new learning experience and be honest with yourself to commit to the work, however challenging it may be.

How your university can help

Universities are geared towards helping students reach their full potential, both academically and professionally, so make sure to make the most of the career services available wherever and whenever you can. Of course, career services can’t guarantee you a job, but they can offer you support and advice to try and help get you where you want to be beyond the world of education.

Take the University of Northampton for example. Its Work-Based Learning and Placements Guide, Changemaker Hub, and Enterprise Boost all offer various services and facilities, including confidential business advice, social experential learning experiences, and even professional recognition as part of its Work-Based Learning opportunities.

Lead image credit: Shivika Gupta

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Written by Stephanie Lukins
As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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