After a four month break, it’s safe to say that second year has come as something of a shock. Just under two months ago I arrived back in Bath to a new house, the horrible feeling of having to pay bills on top of rent, thirty contact hours a week, new names to learn at extra curricular activities, and the dreaded placement applications!
I’m guessing that as an A Level student, there’s a chance that you’re probably wondering ‘What is this placement, anyway?’ A placement is usually a year-long (but sometimes six month) period of work experience in a company, attended between the second and final years of university. As a pharmacologist, my placement works a little differently to others at Bath.
For most people, a placement is a nice addition to a Bachelors or a Masters degree, and vital experience that will help you to land a job when you finally graduate. For me though, my placement year counts towards my Masters. My course is four years including a placement, but I still get a Masters (or at least, that’s the plan!) whereas my housemates will do four years plus a placement year to get their Masters, meaning that they’ll do five years in total at university. It’s a chance to see a working environment related to your degree, in my case, research in a pharmaceutical company and perhaps solidify your decisions about what you want to do when you graduate.
We’ve been talking about placements for at least six months now, but nothing really needed to be done until recently. In the summer when asked to upload a CV to Moodle (our online learning and file sharing type website), I didn’t think much of it. Then I started getting feedback on the CV, and five drafts later it was finally ready to send for placement applications. If only it were that simple! Since starting lectures again I’ve attended placement workshops, listened to speakers from major pharmaceutical companies, had a careers meeting and a mock interview, and filled in more placement application forms than I care to think about.
Each and every placement is different in terms of application. Some require a lengthy online form, others are more simply a CV and cover letter, but all require your time, effort, research, and most of all, enthusiasm! It’s not easy either – you can’t expect that you’ll get the first placement that you apply for! I’ve had to answer everything from my strengths and weaknesses, to my favourite parts of my course, my greatest achievement, give an example of a time a team I was in didn’t work well, and potentially the hardest of all, ‘What do you predict that a year at X would be like?’
What about when you get through the forms? You’ve spent hours spelling out your mind to a potential employer, and then it goes one of three ways. A) You get an interview (yey!), B) You get rejected, or C) They invite you to take part in an online test. So far, I’ve done three of these tests, all for one company, and they’re rather disheartening. You’ve spent hours and hours compiling the perfect picture of yourself only to realise that you’ve got to complete all these tests before anyone even reads your application. If you fail, they won’t even consider you, and worst of all is that these tests may be maths tests, but they’re just as likely to be those horrible non-verbal reasoning, or worst of all, a personality test.
Truly though, despite time consuming, the application process isn’t all that bad. Speak to any fourth year and they’ll tell you that their placement was worth every hour they spent applying and attending interviews. Of course, I haven’t got that far yet so I can’t tell you first hand, but everyone I know says that they came back from placement feeling much more independent, experienced, and confident in their subject.
Definitely, definitely look for universities that offer a placement in your course. I’ve only heard good things about it so far, and I’m beyond excited to get started on mine! It’s a lot of work, but you get better at everything with practice, so each application process helps the next, and the placement as a whole will be absolutely invaluable when applying for jobs.
In my next post I will write about placement interviews!