Like many, I recently completed an industrial placement as part of my degree. It was a great learning experience, and I’m super grateful for the opportunities I had. At the same time, adjusting to being back at university and applying for graduate roles can be daunting.
In this blog, I’ll be covering my top tips for reflecting on your placement and how to articulate this in future applications. So, whether you’re about to start your placement, or have recently returned, I hope there’s something useful here for you!
First a bit about me. My name is Asha, and I’m now a final year Psychology student. I completed my industrial placement year at the GSK headquarters in Brentford and was part of the HR Early Talent Team.
My key responsibilities were to:
- support and run the annual recruitment process
- design and deliver development materials and
- review graduate metrics to improve the programme
Key skills I developed
I personally gained so much from placement, but two skills stand out to me:
- Time management: Working in a full-time 9-5 style placement was very different to my university schedule and lifestyle! It definitely took time for me to adjust and adapt to attending meetings, networking and staying on top of tasks. I kept a task tracker on excel to manage my daily, weekly and monthly goals. This helped me move things around and prioritise appropriately when deadlines changed. Consistently updating my Outlook calendar and setting aside dedicated blocks of time for tasks became a game-changer. This proactive approach ensured that I could stay focused without unexpected meetings or appointments.
- Communication skills: It can be very easy to fall into a pattern of not contributing to team meetings because you feel like the most junior person in the team! I can assure you that more likely than not, your team want to hear from you! Learning how to speak up and get my points across during meetings was a key learning for me. I did this by making sure I was prepared for the meeting by reviewing the agenda and clarifying anything I was unsure of with my manager. I would also prepare a few questions in advance where possible to make sure I was heard and engaged in the conversation.
Of course, there were many more skills like networking, organisation, teamwork, and leadership that I developed throughout the many different experiences on placement.
That’s why my one top tip for placement is to keep track of your achievements and what you’ve learned!
It can be so easy to forget the number of milestones and accomplishments throughout your year and what you gained from them.
Each month, I took some time to reflect on the key projects I had completed, and the most important skills I gained from them – a skills logbook.
It might be worth having a live excel/word document (I used an excel table!) that you continually add to. This can also help you see where you might have a skills gap and help you talk to your manager about what you want to develop and how this can be achieved.
Recording your achievements using active language gets you into a good habit of writing up your experiences in an effective way for future applications.
Articulating your learning for future roles
Once I’d figured out what the key skills were that I’d gained, and examples of how I’d developed them, I started aligning these with my CV, job applications, and sample competency-based interview questions online.
Common questions include:
- tell me about a time when you showed teamwork?
- tell me about a time you have overcome a challenge?
- tell me about a time when you have taken a new approach?
I took a word document and used the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) technique to go through each of my experiences and how it applies.
For example, I used my ‘supporting the recruitment process’ work as a key example of my organisation and time management skills and structured this into a ‘STAR’ style answer. (You can get more guidance on using the STAR model from Careers.)
I was able to secure an internship at a UK law firm following my industrial placement; I definitely think my reflections on skills helped me achieve this.
Don’t underestimate the impact and learning from tasks that you might view as unimportant! Being able to lead a team meeting might seem like a small achievement, but it might be key for your new role.
Overall, my main message is to reflect regularly and consider how your skills might be transferable in the future! Good luck!