Most students are attracted to the integrated work placements now offered by many postgraduate courses, as they are a great chance to get professional experience and to get ahead of the pack when finding a job after graduation. But with a lot of placements out there, how do you select the one that is right for you?
Graduate Isadora Laban studied MA Filmmaking at Met Film School, and thanks to experience gained as part of a work placement on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel, she landed a job at Mixer, one of the largest Film and TV production houses in Brazil. She shares her top tips on choosing a placement and how to make the most of it.
Being a Masters student, it’s expected that you generally know the career direction you want to go in, and your placement is a perfect opportunity to make the right move.
So, you not only need to pick a place that’s going to teach you new things, but you also need something that’s going to give you visibility and make your CV stand out. It’s also where you’re going to make your first professional connections. So, think carefully about what will help you to stand out from the crowd and what sort of work would support your broader career aspirations.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about who you’ll be working with, or what stand-alone projects you’d be working on. It may be worth passing on an opportunity with a great company if you’ll be anonymous there, as a smaller, less-well known firm may offer you a better experience and the chance to do something different from your peers.
Be a Work Nerd
While at your placement, you need to present yourself in the best way possible. No matter your field of work, present yourself in the way that you would like to be perceived. It’s all about looking the part from day one. So, if you want to be a great executive, present yourself as one, and dress to impress.
Your attitude will also say a great deal about you. Don’t be hostile, you’re there to learn, and enjoy the fact that everything is a new experience. The basics matter, so be there on time, take an interest in what’s going on, and don’t be afraid to speak – a good company will value your contributions. Do more than is expected of you, but without interfering in other people’s work, that sort of thing.
Start Building Your Network
Make connections. Make connections. Make connections. This is your new mantra. You never know who you’re going to bump into in the future. Everyone at your placement can be a helpful contact when it comes to securing your next job.
But think beyond your placement too. Go to events related to your field of choice, check LinkedIn regularly, join your colleagues for a drink even if you’re tired – you never know what business proposals might come up from a happy hour.
Be an Opportunity Freak
There’s no such thing as luck. There’s preparation and being available. That is when opportunity will find you. When you choose your placement, you should think of the company that’s going to present you with the biggest variety of opportunities.
Look for something that gives you the chance to take part in important meetings, or offers a varied workload. Ask about how frequently you’ll be out of the office meeting different people, or away representing your company at external events. And take each opportunity seriously. You never know when it might lead to an invite to a future meeting or even a job opportunity down the line.
Don’t forget that while you’re on placement, you are always being paid attention to. No company invests time or money on an intern or masters student without any expectations. Your boss will be keeping a close eye on you – it might not be obvious, but they are thinking: Is this person worth it? Is this person going to be a good fit for the team? Is this a person a good team player? Is this person dedicated? Is this person polite? Does this person present himself/herself well over meetings? Can this person criticize without being arrogant? So make sure to present yourself well, be polite, be on time, be available and most importantly be proactive.
This process can be stressful. Choosing a Masters program is difficult in itself, not to mention the amount of study that you have to do at this level. Identifying a placement, applying for it, working hard and being conscious of somebody watching your every move is not easy. I know, I’ve been there. But given the challenges, it’s really important to enjoy the experience. This work is what you’ve chosen to do for a considerable part of your life – so at least for now, you might as well enjoy it.
And of course, if you find that you really don’t enjoy your placement, rather than getting down because of the experience, treat it as a positive stage that can help you to evaluate your career direction and allow you to make an informed decision on your next career move.
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