Going on placement is very common when you’re at the University of Bath. It’s offered as part of most degrees here! Although it’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience, there are difficult moments you’ll experience which are totally normal!
I’m writing this blog post to offer my advice and tell you the biggest lessons I learned from going on placement. These are all things I really wish I adopted into my mindset before starting work.
In all honesty, my first few months on placement were really difficult, primarily because of personal insecurities which I will talk about later. It all got better within 3 months when I understood the environment I was in and felt more comfortable with my work. It’s not easy to enter a new setting with confidence, but you will feel properly settled as time goes by. I hope my advice and experiences can push you to enter your placement with positivity!
Firstly, no one’s actually judging you! As the newbie and the youngest employee in the company, I was terrified of being judged not only for the quality of work I was producing but also for my personality. I felt very young, and ‘immature’ compared to the rest of my colleagues and thought to myself: I’d rather be known as the ‘shy’ one than the ‘annoying’ one.
So, for the first three months, I was basically mute – I barely spoke to anyone if they didn’t start a conversation with me, and I’d be overthinking everything I said the whole time. My social anxiety definitely sky-rocketed! Well… let me tell you that was the most TOXIC way of thinking as I wasn’t acting like myself.
I realised as time went on, that people were actually impressed with how I was handling the workload, respecting others, and always having a positive attitude. It was the small things about my personality that mattered, and this slowly made me open up as I felt the positivity of my colleagues around me.
My advice is to be your authentic self, even if it takes some time for you to open up. I can promise you that people are not actually questioning every single thing you say, and the more you are yourself, the more you will feel confident in yourself and your abilities.
I briefly mentioned before that I felt very young compared to my colleagues, well that’s because it was true. I was the youngest intern in the company, as I went on placement in my second year of university, rather than the usual third-year placement. This was definitely very intimidating for me as I did not want to seem like a child to the people I would be working with for the next 6 months so I was overthinking all of my actions. But trust me when I say that age is just a number.
I soon realised that everyone has the same purpose of having a good time, one way or another! I went out for beers, dinners and bowling with my colleagues and had such great moments because we all brought different things to the table, whether that was our interests or senses of humour! I believe we underestimate how similar everyone is to one another, and how empathic people can be. I felt very safe and cared for whenever I went out, as everyone was aware that I was quite nervous as the young newbie.
Work with confidence. You got that placement for a reason! You are obviously capable and have the skills necessary to succeed in the role you have. Employers have a gazillion applicants to choose from, so you better feel special to be the chosen one! Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts and opinions on things.
The one piece of feedback I received from my manager after I left, was to use my voice to speak up more as he felt I could’ve given my input a lot more. This is something I still definitely struggle with, especially in group projects, but it’s a matter of feeling confident in yourself and your abilities. It’s better to live with ‘oh wells’ rather than ‘what-ifs'. Otherwise, you will be left with unanswered questions and doubts about yourself.
It’s better to speak up and know you tried your hardest than have regrets. If you don’t speak up, you’ll never know! Experiencing judgment, feeling young and lacking confidence were my three biggest insecurities when entering the world of work, however, I soon realised that they were completely irrelevant.
My main piece of advice is: YOU DO YOU, i.e., be yourself!