I have now reached the end of my placement year working at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE). It's such a shame to be leaving CRAE as I have really enjoyed my time here in London; I am excited however to return to Bath for the final year of my Education with Psychology course, where I can apply what I have learnt in the world of work to my degree.
The first main takeaway from my placement, and one I hope all placement students will hopefully have learnt, is to have more faith in yourself and in what you can bring to a team or collaborative project. Before my time at CRAE, I would often take a backseat during university group-projects or team-orientated tasks, feeling unsure on what I could contribute. I initially felt this way when I started working at CRAE, especially as I was almost always the youngest or least experienced person in any team meeting. I quickly learnt however that my input was still very-much appreciated, as I was actively encouraged to contribute at CRAE, and my ideas and suggestions were visibly taken onboard and incorporated into upcoming projects.
I feel this is key to why a placement year can be so beneficial – you are often able to have a direct impact upon your field of interest, and can see your own ideas take form in a real-world setting.
By continuing to push myself to contribute at CRAE, I have noticeably grown in confidence, especially when sharing my thoughts or ideas. I’d therefore encourage anyone starting a placement to have faith in themselves and their abilities - push yourself to fully contribute to the projects you work on and attempt to leave a positive mark on your workplace/placement team.
Whilst it is crucial that you believe in yourself, my time at CRAE has also demonstrated the importance of developing ‘soft skills’ whilst on placement. Working every day in an environment where you are given specific responsibilities and must meet team-based obligations is extremely constructive, and helps you to develop skills that will prove crucial for your career going forward. This includes:
- Developing your listening skills - you will often be bombarded with info that you will have to successfully absorb, filter, and quickly act upon, and so it’s important that you learn to actively listen.
- Developing your adaptability - working effectively in a team will require you to adapt your schedules or your approach to a task in order to respond to the needs of the team; learning to successfully juggle your responsibilities and respond appropriately is crucial as you become a more embedded member of any team.
- Developing your time-management – juggling responsibilities and needing to meet the expectations of various members of a team will naturally encourage you to manage your time more effectively, but it is important to make a deliberate effort to plan and schedule your workload.
- Developing your openness to feedback - learning to accept and then internalise constructive criticism will always be important (this is something I have always personally struggled with), but it is especially crucial while on placement, as your placement team are likely to have a wealth of knowledge and experience relevant to your interests/career that you can directly learn from.
I hope what I've discussed above proves useful for anyone due to start a placement soon and that you enjoy your time in the world of work. My time on placement has been an invaluable experience and I feel I have gained so much from my year spent working in such a friendly and supportive team. I strongly believe that it is the case that 'you get back what you put into your placement' – the more you invest yourself and your time into the role, the more rewarding and enriching the experience will be, and the more you will learn.