I began looking for somewhere to do my placement year quite late in the year …… actually really late (I don’t recommend this). But for me this was actually a blessing in disguise.
I’m not the most organised person in the world and I’ve always been very laid back and easy going and whilst looking for a placement back in second year I was no different because I left everything as I always do to the very last minute.
While everyone was busy preparing and panicking for their numerous interviews I still hadn’t even brought myself to start my CV. Although I was very keen on doing a placement and I just sort of figured, if it happens its happens and if doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. By March and April many of my class mates were running around like headless chickens in search of placement worrying that all the good ones had gone. What did I do? I took it easy like I always do and concentrated on my upcoming assignment deadlines.
It wasn’t until I finished my final test in mid-May when I finally put pen to paper and finished my CV and by this stage everyone I knew was sorted with placement. Did this worry me? I’m not going to lie maybe a little. But I just thought to myself it will be less competition to deal with when I go to my interviews. I had two holidays to enjoy one in Spain and the other in Dublin before I could even consider actually applying for any placement opportunities.
Once I had my two holidays over I put my head down and started looking, I heard back from two companies and was asked to come in for an interview. It’s safe to say I don’t think they could have gone worse for both interviews I was in and out in less than 10 minutes I should have just kept the car running to be honest.
So, another few months rolled by and at this point it was it was late august and the summer was almost over and being the laid back and easy-going person I am I still had not got my placement sorted. I hadn’t yet reapplied for my student loan and if I had, I would have probably given up only of course I hadn’t, because it’s an absolute nightmare to fill out and without fail I always seem to make a mistake somewhere. I was ready to admit defeat give up when I came across Mencap’s job advertisement. Having volunteered with the special Olympics Ireland for two years, a charity similar to Mencap I decided to give it go and apply. To my absolute surprise and just in the nick of time two weeks before I was due to start my final year at Ulster I got offered the placement at Mencap.
I’ve volunteered for charities before but I had never really considered working for one. I was so over to moon to have an organisation that wanted to take me on and help me develop and enhance my skill I didn’t think twice.
Mencap are a learning disability charity that support thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they choose. They work in partnership with people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland to fight to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.
I had many rewarding and roles within the charity one of which was to assist in gathering and developing content for Mencap NI social media. I was also in of charge of researching and writing up the Mencap NI weekly bulletin. Another role was to assist in developing content for the Mencap NI webpages. This was a job I done on a daily basis and it involved me updating and editing blogs, news stories or publishing press releases.
I really learnt a lot from my manager during my time at Mencap and it was great to part of their team. It was amazing to see first-hand the great work they do and the difference they make to people in local communities. I had a great year at Mencap loving every single second, I met lots of amazing people (including Rory McIlroy).
Niamh McNally is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @Niamh_McNally or LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-mcnally-7a7079120/