Last year I spent 12 months working at Randox Laboratories, Crumlin. I never gave much thought into why I was applying for placement in 2nd year; I just thought of it as something we had to do and understood that it would be beneficial when it came to seeking graduate jobs, as I’d have some experience to show for. But its only when I began the daunting journey of final year, that I realised just how much placement year has benefited me.
These are 5 practical things placement year has taught me:
1. Keep a diary
Before placement, the only diary I had ever faithfully kept was my ‘Little Mermaid’ one aged 8 – to write about my favourite/least favourite family member that day, who I fancied, or how I got on at my Irish dancing competition that weekend. When I got my first proper A4 business diary when I started in Randox, I wondered how I could ever really need or fill it. But as time passed, the diary became as important as the computer I did my work on. Filled with to-do lists, payday dates, meeting times, and reminders; I used it every day and would have been lost without it.
Now, I still keep a diary – although it’s a personal one with much less content, it’s just as important and keeps me right in terms of classes, meetings, appointments; you name it. Being organised is important in final year and this is one way to ensure you are!
2. Check your emails
Before placement, emails definitely were not my thing; with both my university and personal unread inboxes exceeding the hundreds. If someone needed me they could just Whatsapp or Facebook me – right? Wrong. It took me about 2 days of placement to realise that email is everything in the office. (Especially if you’re in Crumlin where there is no signal and it’s the only form of contact… Even lunchtime had to be arranged via email.) Everything is arranged by email, and failure to check emails in work could have resulted in missing a meeting that had been pushed forward or missing a last-minute task that needed to be completed urgently.
The same applies to Uni now; forgetting to check university emails can mean missing events, job meetings or just general updates (#OpheliaClosure), so I try to stay on top of them.
3. Coffee is your friend
Starting work at 8:40 each day and finishing at 5.20 took some time getting used to for a second year used to having class 3 times a week for a few hours. Coffee definitely helped with this, and I rarely sat at my desk without an americano at my side. This habit, whilst not the healthiest, has stayed with me and I rarely go a morning without. It definitely helps for those late-night library sessions!
4. Time is precious
Working full time makes you realise how precious time is – a simple doctor or dentist appointment requires planning and notice. Gone were the days where I could stroll into town at my leisure for a mid-week appointment and have a browse in the shops after! I think the reduction in time you have to yourself whilst working 9 to 5 in the ‘real world’ for a year ultimately helps you organise your time better in final year. Your weekend only part-time job in final year becomes a breeze in comparison and still leaves you with adamant time to socialise study.
5. Wake up early
Getting up before 7 every morning was not my most favoured part of placement, not going to lie… But it got me into a good routine, and even on days off I found myself waking up early because it’s what I was used to. This is in stark contrast to second year Emma, whose idea of early was 11AM… I find that waking up early puts you in a better mood for the day as you haven’t wasted any of it. Lie ins are great at times, but on the most part it’s beneficial to get up earlier as it allows you to get more done in your day – something which is particularly relevant in final year when deadline’s may seem to pile on top of each other.
So that’s it, 5 simple ways placement has helped me transition from second year to final year. Undoubtedly, I learnt a lot more in relation to my course which has helped me throughout my modules so far, but these are some lifestyle habits I gained along the way.
Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mcveigh-611462a4/ or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_