When making the decision in my 2nd year on whether or not to go on placement I was tempted to skip onto final year and get my course done and dusted. How wrong I would have been. Making the choice to take on a placement at an organisation was so useful! I learnt quite a lot and had a great time.
I applied to do a placement for many organisations and received only a handful of offers for interviews which (at first) was demoralizing, I put a great deal of work into my CV, cover letters and online applications only to get a minimal response. This reinforced in my mind the idea that placement was a bad idea, I should just get on with final year and get it all over with. However the few interviews I was offered actually weren’t as bad as I thought, I always over think how tough the interviews will be and how much of an idiot I am going to sound by boasting on my accomplishments and skills. The interviews were great practical experience in adjusting to awkward situations where you are given something different and new, I gave it the “what the hell” attitude, if I succeed all the better, if I fail it’s an experience and I’m not losing anything. Eventually (and luckily) I got offered a 6 month placement with a charity called Volunteer Now. I was hoping for a yearlong placement but I liked the sound of what I was going to be doing with the charity and everyone within the organisation was really nice, happy and upbeat.
Beginning the placement was again awkward, but that comes again with any first time experience. I was taken on a walk round the building and I met most of the employees which was intense, there was over 40 people in an open plan office everyone could see each other and my desk was smack bang right in the middle of all these strangers. I couldn’t remember most people’s names and I was getting so much information my mind couldn’t catch up, I had 2 or 3 meetings on my first day (I had never been to a formal work meeting in my life) which I didn’t know what to expect would happen. But after the first week of meetings and introductions to everyone and what roles I was going to complete I started to relax and find it wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t tonnes of pressure put on me and my fellow colleagues were great craic and couldn’t have made me more welcome, they treated me like I was there for years.
The work I was given was interesting, I got to do a mixture of marketing, advertising and PR-ing. The fact that I hadn’t the exact same routine every day kept me looking forward to coming into Volunteer Now each morning. I got to be really creative, I was allowed create leaflets, posters, videos etc and put any ideas down and my colleagues would work with what I had done, they were always positive and encouraging. Any criticism I got was always constructive, I learnt how to make content look more professional, how to make my work look more attractive, how to find the important information and how to juggle many tasks effectively.
There was one main job that really gave me good experience and was completely new to me, training. I was one of the employees to manage social media for the organisation and over time I was asked many questions on how I did certain things with Facebook and Twitter and what Snapchat and Instagram was, then my manager and one of the directors asked me to teach and train the rest of the office on how to use social media, I agreed but worried about it so much. I was freaking out on how I would create a training session for all these professionals and how I would speak in front of everyone. However my colleagues reminded me that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed, all I had to do was talk about what I know and keep it simple. So the day came when I took my first training session and it went quite well, I got up in front of the first group and went through my slides, tweeted, posted and answered questions. My colleagues commended me, they actually found it useful! Quite a few of them took to social media in the following weeks, used my notes and didn’t find social media as scary as it initially seemed.
To conclude and cut to the chase, please take on placement! I can’t recommend it enough and if you get the chance to work with Volunteer Now, take that opportunity! They were a fantastic organisation and I learnt piles from so many talented professionals!! Every day at my placement was a new day and the experiences I got I really do not think I could get anywhere else!!
Niall Byrne is a Final Year student in BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96