Jack Foley is a final year marketing student at Munster Technological University. He is also the Host of The A To B Podcast, which sees him teaming up with various inspiring professionals for curiosity fueled conversations on how they got from A to B in their careers.
1. Get involved as much as possible
First thing on the list. Don’t be shy, use your initiative and get involved as much as possible. If you have a campaign idea or want to help with an upcoming project – say it to your supervisor. If you have a solution to streamline a certain process – say it to your supervisor.
The worst that can happen is them saying no – but they will remember your initiative and they will appreciate your enthusiasm.
2. Do your research
Whether you’re in Sales or IT, do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company and its processes. Just because you’re not directly working on a certain project, does not mean you should just ignore its existence. Think about the bigger picture and the impact that your work has in the long run.
Not only will this help you to find out more about your (placement) company, but it will actually benefit you in the long run – How does this business make/save money? How did they automate that process? How do the other departments function?
You might not get extra points for this one, but trust me – you’ll be a lot richer (with knowledge) if you’re proactive and constantly attempting to understand how each aspect of the business operates.
3. Keep on top of your daily/weekly logs
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes every evening after work to take notes on your progression. Don’t leave it until the Friday evening of every week or Monday morning (yes, like I did for the most part), you’ll have forgotten all of the important (QUALITATIVE) details like how you felt, the issues you were faced with and how you overcame them – these are the details you’re being marked on.
I used the PEE formula (stop laughing) to structure my placement logs – Point, Example, Explain.
4. Always request feedback
You’ve got 15 weeks (maybe even more) to gain as much experience as possible, but what’s the point if you’re not learning from what you’re doing?
You have an opportunity to work in your industry under a highly experienced supervisor, you should be requesting feedback as much as possible.
If the feedback is good – reinforce whatever it is you’re doing. If the feedback isn’t good – correct what you’re doing and request feedback again.
5. Keep productive (not just busy)
Whether they’re short term tasks that need immediate attention or long term projects that can be worked on over time, you should always be working on something.
If you discover that you’re all out of work, great! Fair play, but do let your supervisor know. If your supervisor isn’t available, find work to do – competitor research, organise your office/workspace or start writing into your daily log!
6. Stay organised
This is key, not only for workplace professionalism but also for your own professional (and personal) development.
Whether you use Project Management Software or you have a few sticky notes by your side – stay organised! Personally, I like to draw up a Task List (it’s kind of like the Quest Log in Skyrim actually). I put a line through each task when it’s completed and start planning for the next task at hand.
7. Manage your time
This is one I personally struggled with during my placement. If you reckon you need more time on something, say it. At the end of the day, you’re just a student, take your time and get the job done as best you can.
Again, both for professionalism but also your own development, go to sleep early – get up early. Be on time for work, meetings and “home time” – which is basically powering down your desktop and finishing up for the evening.
Placement is a great opportunity to get experience in the workplace but is also the perfect opportunity for you to nail down your sleeping pattern for your final year and for what comes afterwards!
8. Be grateful
I’m not sure who needs to hear this one but have some gratitude. You might be stuck at home, or that you might have preferred a different company or placement. Whatever it is, try and gain some perspective.
I spent the first two months of my placement, waking up at 7am in January (pitch dark and wet outside) and getting a bus (sometimes a taxi) to the office. So, make the best out of your situation.
Additionally, there are some students who didn’t secure a placement, so work with whatever you’ve been given and remain positive.
9. Take care of yourself
Now this is possibly the most important tip on my list. Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically! Get out and get some fresh air in the morning, during your break or after work in the evening. Eat properly, get some fruit into ya and plenty of water too.
You’ve already gotten this far into third year, and you’ve gotten placement sorted. Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. Don’t put yourself under any unnecessary pressure. Do the best you can and put yourself first. At the end of the day, you’re just a student.
This is coming from the guy who used to burn himself out on a monthly basis, so trust me.
10. What if I didn’t get a placement?
This happens too. Unfortunately, it’s happened to a lot more students this year due to the pandemic, if this is the case for you – shrug it off.
And this kind of fits into my conclusion, although placement is an amazing way to gain experience and put your skills to use, it isn’t everything.
You don’t need placement to gain experience. Go build a website for your uncles Butcher Shop, start a podcast about the Leaving Cert or go contact a charity and offer them help with their social media accounts – experience comes in many forms.
That’s about it, you’re going to have a different experience than me without a doubt. Because of this, I encourage you to share your tips and help out your friends also on placement because you’ll never know when you might need the favour returned.