One reason I didn’t choose a placement was because I didn’t really know what a placement was when I first started my university application on UCAS. As an international student, my careers adviser in college didn’t really tell me about the placement opportunity in some universities and due to my lack of knowledge of Bath when I was in Year 13, I completely didn’t know about it. However, when I arrived and realised that some of my friends and course mates had something called “Placement” I finally knew about it. Now, I could’ve just gone to the admissions office to change into a placement course now that I’ve heard about it but I still didn’t choose to do because of my second reason….
My second reason for not taking a placement was mainly due to wanting to finish my undergraduate studies as soon as possible and at as low cost as possible considering I didn’t want to increase the financial strain on my family and I wanted to make sure that we had the savings for my postgraduate studies. Being an international student, the extra fees for placement was quite hefty, and maybe some families would be able to shoulder it, but I personally didn’t want to take on the extra cost; especially since I am being sponsored by a company. Moreover, should I get a placement, I have to also take into account the living cost and the pay may not be what I expected which would have led to having my parents pay more.
My third reason was due to it just not being a part of my plan (and trust me I actually wanted to change my plan since the sound of placement sounded enticing!). Many people told me that by taking a placement I would be more “employable” since I would be able to get the skills and experience needed for the industry. However, my plan was to actually finish my undergraduate quickly so I would be able to enrol and do further studies at postgraduate level. Getting a masters is really important to my family, and myself, which is why I would like to finish undergraduate within 3 years so I can progress to further studies. Now, even though I felt like I lost quite a big opportunity to be competitive in the labour market, I did other things to make sure that my CV has the necessary skills that employers would be looking for.
The first thing I did as soon as I knew that I wouldn’t be going on placement was to find a part time job on campus that would help me gain some transferable skills that you would also gain in a placement. In first year, I managed to gain a part-time job as an ambassador for the Outreach team and as a student ambassador for my department. By working as an ambassador I was able to gain communication, presenting and team working skills in every event I was put on and I would definitely be able to tell this in my cover letter in case the job requirements stated any of these specific skills.
Getting an internship would also allow you to gain some industrial insight and knowledge like a placement would but in a smaller frame. This year due to the pandemic situation I was actually able to gain a remote internship in an NGO and this gave me an idea of what working in an NGO is like and they make sure I am fully involved with the company despite the time difference of 8 hours.
Finally, volunteering on and off campus have also helped me developed some skills such as event planning and flexibility that is essential to an employer and something you would probably have to show in a placement. By volunteering, I was able to adapt to any possible situation as I could suddenly be asked to make a PowerPoint for an event that is happening the next day or check the balance sheet of an event.
All in all, I would say if going on a placement is based on the plan that you have when you joined university then go for it. It’s truly an amazing experience and the closest thing you will have to get a first look at what the industry is actually like. However, if you are not interested in a placement, or can’t afford to take a placement either due to financial reasons or time, there are other ways to make sure you are prepared for future employability.