When in second year, you are faced with the opportunity to go into the world of work, for an entire year, via work placement.  Advice from a current final year is, TAKE IT!  It was honestly one of the best years of my life and I cannot commend Tourism NI enough for the way they looked after me.

I applied quite late, in comparison to my classmates, but I still got there!  Not that I am endorsing applying late, but just a note to say, don’t panic if you’re not the first to get sorted!

I used the UU careers portal to find available placements – a good tip would be to tick more than one box when it asks you what area of work you are interested in.  I ticked at least eight, so I wouldn’t limit myself and miss out on any possibilities!

Tourism NI advertised for an Industry Development Events Assistant, which included a pretty salary and I thought, why not?  We didn’t focus on event planning modules in my degree, but it is a very useful skill to have when it comes to PR, therefore, when applying for your own placements, just remember that you don’t have to go for something that relates 100% to your degree – there is a level of flexibility, so be creative!

Unlike some of my classmates, I had a pretty straightforward interview, don’t get me wrong, no interview is easy, but it didn’t involve any psychometric tests, or phone interviews, just one competency-based interview.  I’m always a stress head at interviews, but with a couple of (dozen) herbal calming pills and reems of spider diagram notes.  I must have pulled it out of the bag, as I was offered the job a few hours later!

Tourism NI, by far, excelled my expectations.  They were incredibly welcoming, friendly and supportive of my placement journey.  My team was honestly the BEST team in the organisation, apologies to anyone in TNI reading this, but, #sorrynotsorry.

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When you’re trying to capture a candid photo of your team, but you get a wonky photo of a Mexican wave.

My job was based in the public sector, which taught me a lot about politics, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I had very little to knowledge prior to my role.

I assisted my line manager in various events across NI, which were all delivered with the purpose of developing the industry – hence the name, ‘industry development’, it took a while for the penny to drop for me.  The role involved a multitude of skills and qualities, some of which I already had and others I got the chance to develop throughout my placement journey.  I have summarised the key skills and qualities below, as I believe they apply to any placement, or graduate job.  So hopefully, they will help you when applying!

  1. Be organised; stay organised; don’t not be organised

I put this as number one, because it is the key to success!  It wasn’t my strongest skill, when I first started, but, it is now!  I quickly learned that, in order to stay on top of things, I had to stay organised, so I bought a planner and recorded all impromptu requests, phone calls, tasks and messages, so I could create a ‘to do’ list every day.

  1. Be creative

I find it hard to believe that everyone at the top of the employment ladder, coloured within the lines and never thought outside of the box.  I always have been creative and during my placement, I wasn’t afraid to suggest ideas and new ways of doing things.

  1. Be yourself 

On the first day it’s hard to show your true self, because of the jelly-like feeling caused by immense nerves shooting through your body – or, maybe it’s just me!  Over the first few weeks, my personality started to shine through and I connected with so many employees, business partners and most importantly, my line manager.  I’m normally quite a bubbly and talkative person, however, I cannot do public speaking to save my life!  My placement really helped me come out of my shell.  I even made a guest appearance as Mr.Claus – bare in mind, this was very last minute, involved an impromptu costume and was accompanied by a deep Australian accent, I think! ( I tried my best! )  But I did it!

Out of all the events we delivered over my year’s placement – I lost count after the first 2 months, my favourite was the NI Tourism Awards, in Enniskillen Castle.  It was challenging, as we had high profile guests attending, therefore, even sending out the invitations was stressful!  But it was a huge success and very enjoyable.

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Overall, I have to describe my time at Tourism Northern Ireland as ‘Placement Goals’, I couldn’t of had a better year if I tried; despite the long hours and stressful moments I wouldn’t change it for the world! If your looking for an organisation to gain some first hand experience in the public sector then check them out! I’ve included a link to their website in case your tempted to look at job vacancies https://tourismni.com/.

Finally, I just wanted to say that whatever job you end up in just remember to be yourself and have fun!

Kimberley O’Hare is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @Kimberley_Ohare and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberley-o-hare-b3225a153/ 

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