Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Topic: Social & Policy Sciences

It's the final countdown...

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

This past year has been a world wind ride:

-       I have met Sir Trevor McDonald for the CR Awards

CR awards final

-       I have helped run the Young Talent Programme with some of the children from ‘Educating the East End’

-       I have been to Stonewall talks and heard LGBT speakers such as Will Young, Dr Christian Jessen and most recently been on the Sturgeon down the Thames for the Stonewall Summer Party

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-       I have been to the firm’s Summer party that was held at the Tower of London

DSC_0512 Summer party 4

-       I have attended an event held at the firm where I heard Sue Gardener talk about trans issues

-       Attended an HR Day where we discussed the firm’s values and business plan

-       Joined the HR Community – helped organise the HR Christmas party and other socials

Christmas party 19

-       Attended the Legal Week Innovation awards where we were nominated for the Young Talent Programme

-       Walked the London Legal Walk

group photo of walk

-       Helped organise Keeping In Touch days where maternity leavers are invited into the office

-       I have been to CR events such as the Working Families Conference where I got picked to speak about my views on flexible working! And other diversity forums

-       I have been part of the Moreland Reading Scheme

-       I have joined the firm’s Art Network and been on a variety of the firm’s tours where I saw Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst prints. One event I went to included viewing the Government’s Art Collection.

Tracey Emin

-       Joined the Straight Allies network and helped on the stall – I even got to design and put forward my idea of having mugs as well as flags

-       I have got to know my colleagues better on Fridays due to the occasional drinks trolleys

-       I got to work across the HR teams by helping at some Graduate Recruitment fairs and campaigns

-       I have been taught how to use a new computer system

-       I joined the Simmons & Simmons choir and sang at the firm’s carol service

-       I have done first drafts and pulled data for numerous benchmark. I was pleased to hear that Simmons & Simmons won The Times Top 50 Employees for Women again which is why I joined the firm

-       I got to take part in BCP call handling training – I know now what do in a crisis and how to answer fretful calls

 

I have done so many other things during my year but to list them all would make for a very long read.

I have really enjoyed my year and learnt so much. Gaining an insight into the legal world has been so useful and everyone I have come across has been more than willing to offer advice and answer any questions.

I just want to say thank you to Simmons & Simmons for giving me this opportunity and one day I hope to return.

CityPoint

 

Tiffany’s tips

-       Write down at the end of every week key tasks and events you have done

-       Add as many people you meet on LinkedIn and write where you have met them

-       Always have your blackberry and a pen to hand

-       Don’t be afraid to ask questions

-       Smile, take every opportunity that comes your way, join in and enjoy it!

 

Young Talent Programme

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

 

As part of my role as the Employee Relations & CR Administrator I help organise and run the Young Talent Programme.

The Young Talent Programme works with Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow which was featured as the school that was shown in ‘Educating the East End’! (I spotted quite a few Young Talent Programme students and even my Manager had a debut)

Working with the TWIST Partnership, the programme is designed to raise students’ aspirations through a series of ongoing, longerterm initiatives that provide access to the legal profession and wider work opportunities.

Each year a group of twelve Year 10 students is selected to be part of the programme and the firm is committed to supporting each cohort of students for a seven year period. During this time they return to the firm every year to participate in a range of activities including work experience; skills sessions; project work; presentations; paid internships; and group mentoring.

So far a total of 50 young people have been selected for the Young Talent Programme and have successfully completed one week of work experience at the firm, and 24 students have also completed a week’s paid summer internship. Two Year 13 students will receive the Simmons & Simmons bursary in September 2015 to assist them through university. With 50 students to date the programme takes a lot of organising which can be stressful yet also hugely rewarding.

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I have helped to:

- create packs for work experience, sessions, and internship inductions

- create timetables (including booking about 15 different rooms and desk spaces for the students during one work experience week!), being the point of contact

- created a Young Talent Programme LinkedIn group

- created a quarterly newsletter

- been the main point of contact for the students, school and our partnership with TWIST

- organised the work experience weeks and internships including setting tasks for the students to do and ensuring the week runs smoothly

And so much more!

My highlight when working with the students has been at the CR Awards when we hosted a networking session for all of the cohorts. This was run by our Marketing & Development team and discussed how to join and leave conversations, hand out business cards and ask for them and it was great to see the students going up to Partners of the firm and ask to add them on LinkedIn.

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I think one of the things I will miss most about this year of placement is the students on the programme and hopefully there will be another series of ‘Educating the East End’ so I can see more familiar faces!

 

London Legal Walk

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

At this time when we are celebrating the anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, supporting access to justice remains as essential as ever.

Lord Neuberger

london legal walk poster

 

A team of us from Simmons & Simmons, along with the Lord Chief Justice and thousands of lawyers, took part in the London Legal Walk on Monday evening to raise funds for the London Legal Support Trust (‘LLST’) - the trust funds law centres and pro bono agencies in and around London. These agencies do a great job in preventing homelessness, resolving debt problems, gaining care for the elderly and disabled and fighting exploitation.

Through supporting LLST we  invest in the wider community and therefore embrace Responsibility which is one of one of the firm’s values.

I represented HR along with my colleague, the previous Graduate Recruitment Administrator who came back to Simmons after university, and together the firm raised £1,678.75!

group photo of walk NED_legal_walk065

The walk went along Victoria embankment, through Hyde Park and ended with a carnival style festival after. There were people on stilts, dressed as bushes(!), a samba band and food and free drink – which was a massive incentive to walk quickly!

NED_legal_walk075 Photographer: Rick Findler18.05.15 Pictures from the 2015 London Legal Walk.

For more information and donations please click here.

 

Moreland Reading Scheme

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences, Uncategorized

I have fond memories of the reading corner at my primary school and so when I heard about the firm's reading mentoring scheme at Moreland Primary School I decided to get involved. I have been involved for the past few weeks and every Tuesday lunchtime I go along to the school to read with Year 6 children aged between 10-11. The children are involved in the scheme for a number of reasons such as lack of reading ability, comprehension difficulties or confidence issues.

The sessions run for half an hour and this term I have been matched with a young boy named Aron who has a particular interest in dinosaurs and the creation of the universe. As I leave the busy office day behind I am transported into jungles filled with T-Rex’s and other dinosaurs that I help him to spell out – or more often than not he describes to me and tells me how to pronounce them!

With the exception of sunny spring days when I imagine the children might prefer to be outside, they are enthusiastic and pleased to see us. During the first few weeks Aron was quiet and keen to just get on and read however now the challenge comes in trying to get him to stop talking and focus on the reading!

It has been amazing to see his confidence and reading ability develop in such a short space of time. He has turned into a cheeky and talkative person – at Easter we bought Easter eggs and I have never seen someone read so enthusiastically when I said once he had finished he could have it – and I really look forward to seeing Aron welcoming me to sit down and read his favourite book. Last week he showed me round the classroom and took pride in showing me his dinosaur model he had made and I realised that seeing him ‘specially’ means such a lot.

I consider myself lucky to be able to take part in the mentoring scheme the firm runs on a regular basis each week and for being given the opportunity to be paired with Aron. With just over two months until my placement finishes it is hard to say what I have liked most about this year but I have really enjoyed being part of the reading mentoring programme.

 

LGBT History Month

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences, Uncategorized

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month in February aims to celebrate the achievements and progression for the LGBT community in the UK and as a Stonewall Star Performer Simmons & Simmons hosted a variety of events.

I work in the diversity team and so I got to help implement some initiatives such as:

-       Posters outlining LGBT History Month which I put in the lifts – not an easy task to remember which lift already had a poster and the lifts kept being called!

-       As I keep mentioning in my posts I get a lot of responsibility and I love it. As part of LGBT History Month we wanted to encourage more members of the firm to sign up as a Straight Ally – someone who believes that LGBT people should experience full equality in the workplace and maintain a culture where LGBT people can be themselves. The co-chair of the network suggested we give out flags for desks to show their awareness and support. I put forward the suggestion of having mugs with the logo on as well and as you can see the Partner’s approved my idea! The 8.30 start was a bit of a shock to the system but I took pride in our tall, in the space of an hour I helped give out 150 flyers and we nearly doubled members of the network.

SA stall

 

-       As a Star Performer the firm has become a mentor to another company. As part of this we hosted an event joining the Straight Allies Network and LGBT Network for an art tour – I think I ate my own weight in canapés!

-       We had a Straight Allies training session to discuss being a Straight Ally and what it entails. We invited members of our LGBT network to invite a friend and we ended up having discussions and more Straight Ally member sign ups.

 

UK LGBT History Timeline

1989 - Stonewall UK set up to oppose Section 28 – the Act that prevented local authorities in England and Wales from "promoting" homosexuality

2000 - Removal of ban on gay people serving in the Armed Forces

2002 - Equal rights granted to same sex couples applying for adoption

2003 - Repeal of Section 28

2004 - Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowing people to legally change gender

2004 - Civil Partnership Act passed giving same-sex couples the same legal equal rights as married heterosexual couples

2011 - Civil partnership ceremonies permitted on religious premises

2014 - Legislation to allow same-sex marriage came into force

 

February has been a busy month – last week I helped with three events in one week – but with four months to go I will be sad to leave as it has flown by!

 

Finding Myself...

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

Not in the sense of doing yoga and being Zen and enlightened but finding my replacement – ‘the new me’.

Recently we held an assessment centre to find the next Corporate Responsibility (CR) placement student. Being in a small team has meant that I do get a lot of responsibility that  I might otherwise not have . So I was given the opportunity to not only help out on the day, by talking about my experiences so far and generally  chat, but I also got to help prepare the day.

The day consisted of a series of in-tray exercises, presentations and an interview and when answering the candidate’s questions I realised I have now been here for 7 months – even though I remember my assessment day so clearly!

I really enjoyed the planning of it and being able to help create and tweak the exercises. Obviously the decision was the CR supervisors but the feedback at the end was valued and I liked that I had an input. Not many people can say they are able to have that level of input and responsibility as a placement student.

Interestingly I got asked what the worst part of my job was and I gave two answers (the other placement student audibly gasped) - however I was truthful as I can’t complain and by now I think I have made it clear how much I like my role.  The first answer I gave was the fact that when I moved here I didn’t know anyone in London however this has meant that I joined the HR community, became involved within the office and became friends with the other placement student. The second was getting work given back – at uni your final mark is your final mark so being given an email back with suggestions all over it at first was a bit disheartening however it’s actually hugely helpful. Now the suggestions are the odd word or nothing at all and it’s more satisfying as I can clearly see my progression. We are here for a year (not even that yet!) so we cannot be expected to know everything straight away and each company will have a different ‘house style’ which often takes a while to get to grips with. Whilst at first it took some time for me to get used to,  I now always ask for feedback and constructive criticism – realising it wasn’t an ‘attack’ but genuine help.

“The Truth is, we all get lost as we try to find our way. Perhaps the key is to stop, take a look around and enjoy the scenery as we go.”

― JaTawny Muckelvene Chatmon, Getting Lost(2014)

 

I certainly have done that this year!

 

HR Community

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

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During my placement I decided to join the HR Community team. A big part of my placement ‘fear’ was about ‘fitting in’- the idea of not having anyone to go to lunch with fills me with dread - silly I know. I like my own company however if everyone went without me and didn’t ask if I wanted to come too I would be pretty upset!

Joining the HR Community team was a great way to get to know people. One thing I have noticed about HR is that there are quite a lot of leavers and so also new joiners (there have been 5 more joiners since I arrived!) so I wasn’t the ‘newbie’ for very long and there isn’t the scariness of people having their own group. At Simmons & Simmons everyone is genuinely lovely and I haven’t met someone in HR that I don’t get on with.

Part of my role within the HR Community team has included getting art work for the office, getting a noticeboard for the kitchen for event posters and sending emails about the environment of the office. However the main part of my role in the HR Community was sorting out the HR office Christmas party!

Both me and another colleague from the HR Community team sorted the Christmas party which involved bowling, dinner and a cocktail making master class.  We even came in early on the first of December to decorate the HR office to make sure it was suitably festive.

During the run up to the party we split HR into different teams and each day they had to carry out a Christmas activity. These included a Christmas quiz, games such as pin the nose on Rudolph and carol Pictionary. We also created awards for the best dressed and smiliest person among others (I won the Harry Potter award as with a wave of my magic wand I always get things done).

HR Christmas Party & HP award

As well as all the above events I decided to join the Simmons & Simmons Choir which was nerve wracking as during some of the rehearsals I was the only girl singing my part which meant everyone could hear me! On the day luckily more people turned up! It was a good chance to get to meet people that I usually wouldn’t and I got to mix with partners, associates and trainees.

However a week before the event my festive mood came crashing down as the bar (I will name no names but let’s just say they like their vodka) we were due to do the cocktail class at had double booked. Luckily a bar with alliances to insects and salads came to the rescue and after numerous phone calls I was able to get the money back. And from what I can remember… the party went down a treat!

 

Tiffany’s Tips

-       Go for it and put yourself out there

-       Sign up for as many extra-curricular activities as possible and throw yourself in to everything

-       Be patient but if someone says they are going to ring you back in 15 minutes about your deposit and they don’t ring within a day start chasing!

 

Graduate Recruitment Events

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

Law Fair Stand

One thing I love about my job is that there are so many different aspects to it – as I previously mentioned in my last blog. This month I have been helping the Graduate Recruitment team and have attended law fairs on their behalf, representing HR. I have had the opportunity to travel to different places and meet people interested and wanting to know more about the firm.

HR first got an email at the end of summer asking for volunteers to help at their recruitment events. I saw one titled ‘Champagne and Chocolate’ in Bristol and jumped at the chance – can you blame me?!  As well as this event I attended the Law Fair at Birmingham University and I helped organise The London Law Fair held at the Law Society.

It was really interesting coming from a different perspective and I learnt a lot. Making a good impression is important for the both the person on the stall and also the person on the other side – it works both ways. I took note of any people who I thought stood out and would be a good candidate to watch out for, however it was frustrating when people pushed their CVs at me – I was there to tell them about the firm not check their application form!

It has taught me in the future how to act and behave at these kind of events as a student rather than an employer. It was so frustrating talking to people who had no idea about who we were and who clearly were just at the stall for the freebies. When I next attend the Bath Careers Fair I will go prepared, taking questions about companies I am interested in with the aim to learn a bit more about the company that isn’t available on their website.

It was exhausting speaking solidly for hours and answering the same questions but it was also really fun. The travel was also a downside as on one occasion I didn’t get in until 11.15pm and then had work the next day.  However overall these were very minor details. I really enjoyed getting to grips with the different role and trainee schemes available and learning in more detail about the place I work. I also got to meet different people within the firm as I worked alongside trainees, associates and partners who I may otherwise not have had contact with.

Tiffany’s Tips

- Research – make sure you read up and prepare for difficult answers so you don’t flounder in front of strangers!

- Email the others helping on the stand and ask for their mobile numbers so you can check when and where you are meeting and so that they can contact you if they are running late

- Take a water bottle and cough sweets – talking for hours at a time really affects your throat and you don’t want to end up croaking!

 

Third of the way through already!

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

CR AWARDS Sir trevor

I am officially four months in to my placement.

I work in a top city law firm as an Employee Relations & CR administrator, in HR. To be honest I didn’t know what I wanted from a placement so applied for this role as it seemed interesting and fitted in with topics that I found interesting with my Sociology degree- gender balance, Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender issues, diversity & inclusion, social inclusion and the environment.  I work in a team of two, which means I get a lot of responsibility, within an overall HR team of approximately 30.

I did not know a thing about corporate responsibility until I joined my Law firm, but I love the work. Corporate responsibility is the responsibility that corporations have to groups and individuals that they affect. In particular the firm I work in has a theme of ‘access’, ensuring that people from all backgrounds regardless of race, gender, belief, age, sexuality are able to work here.

My job varies from day to day but includes:

·         Helping draft benchmarks and surveys - the firm wins many prestigious awards, such as the Times Top 50 Employers for Women (which is a key reason I applied), the Top Employers for Working Families award (which I had to go up and collect) and the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index

·         Helping with the social inclusion programme - the Young Talent Programme (more on that in blogs to follow)

·         Data collection - I have to pull data showing our statistics for gender etc. which can be found on the website

·         Organising events - such as maternity leave ‘Keeping In Touch’ days, the annual CR awards (where I met Sir Trevor McDonald!)

·         Administrative day to day tasks - processing invoices and expense forms, managing emails and the CR inbox, managing the internal intranet and external CR pages, sending out CR blogs

So far I have had a great time. Everyone is very accommodating and knows that I am on placement yet they still treat me as part of the team and I am on an equal playing field.

I have had the chance to attend talks such as the Stonewall conference, where I heard guest speakers Dr Christian Jessen and Will Young! I have had the opportunity to hear Sue Gardener talk about being transgender and the affects this has had on her. I have also had the chance to own projects and organise events such as the Stonewall Train the Trainer day where I had to sort room bookings and liaise with the main contact - and I got flowers for helping to organise it!

I am over a third of the way in and it has flown by. People keep saying ‘it feels like you have been here for ages’ but I think it has gone so quickly!

Tiffany’s tips:

-       always make sure you carry your phone (I got issued a BlackBerry) with you and that it is charged

-       always carry a pen and notepad - as people introduce themselves or suggest changes to your work it’s good to make a note

-       always be willing to ask for more work if you find you are not being stretched

-       keep a log book of what has worked well and not so well, so you can pass on tips not only to your placement company –but also to your replacement

 

Goodbye Sense!

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📥  Social & Policy Sciences

Today was the last day of my placement with Sense. I cant begin to say how grateful I am to Sense for having me this past year, nor express how much I have learnt! I am leaving with a deeper understanding and empathy for disabilities, with more confidence than when I started and a better career focus than before. It has been endlessly beneficial to both my personal development and degree. Thank you Sense!

Placement tips

  • You need be prepared to always jot down notes. Never be the person who doesnt have a pen. Carry a notebook with you even when popping over to someones desk for a quick work-related chat. Ideas come from all sorts of places, and you wont want to miss out on one.
  • In addition to this, it would be my advise to buy some notebooks with spines whereby you cant take the pages out. Then write the date at the top of a new page each day. This way you can keep a running tab of who said what when, along with any meetings you may attend. Mine are also full of words I didnt understand relating to deafblindness, which I could then look up later. These will become your placement bibles in time.
  • Furthermore, keeping an accurate diary whilst on placement is a great idea, not only for any blog competitions you may enter into, but when filling out your placement forms called 'POLOs' it is such a great resource to have everything written down. Amongst the larger projects you help on or lead, there will also be many smaller side tasks you get given which are equally important and beneficial. Write every working day down.
  • When you are taking minutes, jot the persons' initial next to what they have said. This way you will be able to see whose ideas are whose, and it is easier to decipher your notes later. It also means that when you read through your notes, you can identify who knows more about a chosen subject, should you need to contact them in the future.
  • Look for existing materials which you can add into your work. It will reduce some of the stresses of creating publications. When I was helping to write the Volunteer Satisfaction Survey Report I was already aware of a pie chart regarding volunteer roles in the latest version of Talking Sense.
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Money saving tips

  • Make eBay your best friend! I bought so many fantastic £60 dresses for under £10 including postage. Its also great for getting rid of those work clothes you get sick of wearing and making space in your wardrobe for when you move out.
  • Having point/reward cards for supermarkets will be very beneficial throughout an unpaid placement. As the Sense Head Office is opposite a small Tescos, I would use my £5.00 a day lunch allowance here, and scan my clubcard to get the points. Later on these points can then translate into money to spend in store, which could well amount to a full food shop and further.
  • Make use of your local markets too. Chapel Market was right around the corner from the office, and was brilliant for a huge variety of fruit and veg, seafood and more!
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  • AAnother really important money saving option is with your bills. If, like me, you’re sort of totally clueless when it comes to how Gas and Electricity is supplied and bought, it really pays to read up on this. Try to get someone who knows what they are talking about to guide you through the different ways that you can be on a tariff. My father explained to me the ways in which you can calculate whether it is better to be on a tariff with a higher daily standing charge but low unit charge (for each kWh Electricity and Gas you use), or vice versa. As I was out of the house 9-5 every day, and have always watched off my Electricity or heating more for environmental reasons than economic ones, I decided that it was cheaper for me to have a lower daily standing charge and a higher unit charge as I wasn’t using that much. An extension of this advice is to keep updating your meter readings, either through an online account or by telephone. Once I had taken a second reading at my property a few months into my tenancy, my Electricity bills reduced from £36 a month to £6 and I was even reimbursed for the extra amount I had paid. 
  • Check for voucher codes. Ask Italian (pictured below and with 30% off!) and many more often have ones you can download straight from their websites if you dont want to subscribe to voucher websites. GBK (30% off) and others also do some great deals if you subscribe!
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  • You  can also try using other means of transportation, and shopping around for which of those is best for you. The tube in London is almost double that of a bus fare. When travelling back and for Bath I would use National Express. I bought myself a coachcard for £10, which gives you a third off all fares, and the further you book in advance the better. I usually paid £5 one way-much better than train prices! You also get to see much more of the city on the bus than you would leaving via trains, such as the National History Museum, pictured below. tumblr_n83eofGgc41rpqbcvo2_1280

But the most important tip I can give to fellow students is to enjoy yourself. One of the great things my line manager said in my appraisal was that i was enthusiastic, almost to fault, and thrived on learning new things throughout. Despite the light hearted sarcasm, its great that I gave him that impression of myself and my willingness to learn. As students in workplaces there are vast amounts of understanding that we havent arrived at yet, or specialist knowledge we havent learnt yet, but as long as you go in each day with a positive outlook, even with mundane tasks, you will succeed in placement year. Good luck!