Congratulations to those of you that have finished your placements! I decided to write this blog as a guide to what I would do differently if I was applying for placement again and to also give some ideas of things to do this summer to prepare for starting university again and entering final year!
A reflection on my placement
What would I do differently if I was applying for placement again?
Applying for placements was certainly no breeze and if I were to do anything differently, it would simply be to be more open-minded about where I apply and what I am applying for. Of course, it’s important to be selective in the placement you apply for, making sure the company and role are something you resonate with. However, something I’ve learned is that an internship is also about going out of your comfort zone and trying something new. The beauty of placement is that it’s not a full-time job, i.e., you are not 100% committing to it.
Therefore, it’s good to use your placement as an opportunity to try something that you might not have previously considered, or something that you wanted to try but did not want to be entirely committed to forever.
Initially, I was very focused on applying to jobs specifically within international development and policy. However, I ended up doing a marketing and communications role in an NGO, and realised I absolutely loved it! So don’t be afraid to try something that is slightly more loosely linked to your course.
This of course depends on your desired career pathway, and if it is important for you to have experience within a specific industry, then choosing something less directly linked to your degree might not be the option for you.
How has my placement set me up for my degree?
While I did a marketing and communications internship, my placement was for a literacy charity in the UK. Throughout the last two years, my degree has involved me learning about the role of charities and NGOs in wider civil society. Therefore, to be able to work in a charity and contribute to the charity’s overall mission has been extremely eye-opening. I have learnt about the different departments within a charity itself, as well as about their work and outreach with external partners.
Specifically working in a charity dedicated to the literacy and learning of young people and adults in the UK, has given me a wider insight into the UK’s education sector. Education forms a significant part of international development, so learning more about education in the UK has opened a pathway and desire for me to potentially explore UK policy, related to education.
Getting back into the university mindset
Staying on top of university emails
I think while away from university, especially on placement or during the summer, it is easy to feel slightly dissociated from uni. However, many of the university services extend beyond term time. For example, I’m always on the lookout for careers emails, as there are some useful career-related talks on everything from writing CVs to learning more about a specific company.
As well as careers emails, over the summer there will be emails on module selection, dissertation briefings, general communications emails from the university and paid and unpaid opportunities to be involved in (volunteering at open days, student blogging, surveys etc…).
Making the most of university clubs and societies
I’m excited to get back into clubs and societies and meet a variety of people who share similar interests! It’s never too late to join a club or society and it will be the perfect way to rest and recharge in between uni work. Some of the societies can also provide you with some fantastic career exposure.
With the wide range of societies that the Uni of Bath has, there is pretty much something out there for everyone. I’ve also realised this final year will be my last chance to have so many new sports, experiences, and opportunities right at my fingertips. While I may find clubs outside uni, it’s a great idea to take advantage of the fact that everything is already organised by uni students for uni students.
It might not be a bad idea to start thinking about which clubs and societies you want to join already. Of course, there is the societies fair during term-time, but you can always access all the information you need on clubs and societies on the university website itself. I’ve taken my time to go through and join some of the social media pages of the societies I’m interested in so I can easily see updates and meetups that they might be posting.
Start thinking about dissertations
That time has finally come… to start thinking about dissertations!!! There’s absolutely no rush to start thinking of a question/title or even to know exactly what you want to do your dissertation about. But it might be beneficial to take some of the stress and last-minute pressure off choosing a dissertation topic by starting to brainstorm some ideas during the summer.
This summer, I got thinking about modules I’ve enjoyed so far throughout the last two years and themes that I have enjoyed studying. I’ve just noted these down to look at again further down the line when I sit down with my dissertation supervisor. There will be plenty of support from your dissertation supervisors on exactly what the dissertation is and how to write it, but I believe it’s never too early to start thinking about it and maybe even get some extra reading done on any topics of interest.
Start thinking about postgraduate plans
With many graduate schemes being released around September/October time, it’s not a bad idea to familiarise yourself with resources and job postings pages for when the time comes to start applying. With final year being so jam-packed with modules, dissertation, job applications and/or postgraduate course applications, getting ahead of the game while you are more available during the summer is never a bad idea!
To make the application process a bit easier for me when the time comes, I’ve contacted some organisations about whether they have any graduate schemes and when the application for these might open. I’ve put this information on a spreadsheet, just so it’s slightly more organised, and then when it’s time to apply, I’ll know where to apply and when!
But it’s also completely ok to not know what you want to do after graduating. Taking on a job or pursuing a master’s degree might not be the right choice. Something I am also considering is simply taking a brief break from education to travel, and potentially explore more internships. There is certainly no right way to go about it!
Good luck to you all - whether it be coming back to uni, starting a placement, or entering your final year! It’s going to be such an exciting time and I know I am looking forward to the long summer ahead before entering my final year. Please also feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all or just want to chat. 🙂