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How to get ahead while you’re on placement

3 min, 21 sec read
14:55 PM | 24 January 2012

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We’ve all heard employers tell us how important work experience is with helping you stand out from the graduate crowd. It’s more important though, to make sure you get something out of it. To be honest, clichéd advice like ‘be proactive’ or ‘be enthusiastic’ really isn’t useful to anybody. You want to come away from a placement with something to say in your next interview, preferably not ‘I did all my jobs with a smile on my face’. Hopefully these few tips will help you get ahead on your placement.

Being proactive means something totally different to what you might think 

Of course it might depend on which industry you go into but I remember starting out on the placement trail and just automatically thought I was the proactive type. For me as a student, being proactive meant saying yes to everything I was asked to do and when I’d run out of jobs just asking my boss for something else to do. I found out there’s a whole other level.

Obviously I’m not saying you shouldn’t be saying yes to everything and asking for extra work, but you can put a bit more thought into it. Approaching your boss for more work might end up putting him on the spot, especially if he’s quite busy and doesn’t find a lot of time to think about it.

The best thing you can do, and what will get you noticed around the office, is to speak to the people around your boss first. Find out what kind of work his colleagues think he might be able to delegate to you, he could either be unaware you’re capable of doing it or be reluctant to give up part of his workload. His colleagues will most likely have a more objective view of it and may be more experienced people managers than him.

After this, put a mini pitch together to convince him that you could probably take this or that off his hands. The others in the office will be impressed you’ve thought about it, you’ll get more responsibility and you’ll have made yourself that bit more indispensible to your boss.

What did the last placement student do?

You might be in a situation where either you’re on a long term or short term placement and the company you’re with takes on one student after the other to fill roles. This means that there’s always going to be some degree of benchmarking going on and you’ll inevitably be compared to the students who’ve been there in the past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you’ll have the chance to make your own mark. Especially if you can pick up more responsibility than the last student. 

If you’ve got the initiative to take on some of your boss’s workload, chances are the last student that worked for him wasn’t doing it. So already you’ve got something that’s putting you ahead of the game. Again, ask around the office, make sure you’re aiming to do more than person who was there before you.

Know what’s going on in your industry 

Chances are you’re not going to be as full on work wise as some of your colleagues. Take this chance to swot up on the amazing work that’s going on in the industry – especially if you’re in marketing or advertising. The rate of change is unbelievable and if you’ve got extra time on your hands you’re in an ideal position to be researching.

Put something together once a week that showcases a couple of top pieces of work. Then take that further and explain how you think you could integrate something you’ve seen into one of your own campaigns. Even if it’s a non starter, you’ve given the impression that you understand what’s going on and can contribute independently.   

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