A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

A STEP INTO THE REAL WORLD

2 0 2 0 – What a year?

Apart from living throughout a pandemic, the second half of 2020 has been extremely positive. I think it has taught us all to be grateful to wake up on a Monday morning and be able to go into an office or visit family & friends.

I have completed my first six months as a Social Media Marketing intern with Elite Electronic Systems. It has been the CRAZIEST. FASTEST. But most REWARDING six months. To sum it up in four words… a huge learning curve.

Taking it back to June 1st, my very first day at Elite, I really didn’t know what to expect. Sitting in an office 8-5 was a completely new experience for me, but one I have now adapted to, and learnt to love.

I had a lot to prove as I was the first Marketing Placement student Elite had taken on. I think this gave me more motivation than ever to show I could do the role and, do it well.

The responsibility I was given from the very start, gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, grasp everything with open arms and just try my best. It is thanks to this responsibility that I am, where I am, today.

I am immensely proud of where I have taken Elite in the last 6 months. From starting up Elite’s social media, to adobe designing, video campaigns, website development, analytical reviews, you name it – I have done it!

Within my first three weeks, I created a LinkedIn account and now roughly 5.5 months on we are sitting at 900 followers – pushing for that 1000 mark at Christmas (you can find our page here). From the timid girl that walked in on the 1st June, I never thought by the middle of the first month I would be in full control of social media, creating posts three times a week and learning about the Electronic Manufacturing World, which was complete brain fog to begin. But here I am, soaking up every second of it.

If you want to see some of the work I have been creating in my first six months, I released a promotional video on Elite’s LinkedIn last week (you will find it here). If you want more of an insight, check our YouTube channel where you will find all our latest videos from 2020.

For those of you currently seeking placement:

I want to tell you that, I was you this time last year, extremely apprehensive for what the next year ahead would bring. As stressful as getting a placement is, especially during a pandemic, I really couldn’t have gone to final year without it. The real life, day to day dilemmas are not something a lecture hall can prepare you for.

With already being over halfway through my placement year, I am excited for the next 6 months ahead, new goals, ambitions and one step closer to my final year studies – eeeekk.

My advice for you;

Get as much experience as you can during these strange times; freelance for that local restaurant who needs support during their closures, utilise free online training courses to build up your CV and network on LinkedIn. Most importantly DON’T GIVE UP!! – The skills you will be gain on your placement year are invaluable.

What I would tell my 2nd year self;

  • They understand that you won’t know everything, if not anything – they have been in the same position
  • Ask questions
  • Step out of your comfort zone
  • Its ok to get things wrong
  • Network
  • Challenge Yourself
  • E N J O Y I T! The year goes so quick.

I want to leave you with this;A year from now you’ll be glad you started today“. For me, after only six months, I can tell you I am very glad I took the leap and pursued a placement year.

P.S.

EXCITING ROLE ALERT FOR PLACMENT STUDENTS 2021-22;

Elite are hiring for next year’s Social Media Marketing Intern, a brilliant opportunity for you all. Check out our website – www.elitees.com and LinkedIn– for more details or feel free to message me!

Wishing you all lots of luck in your placement search.

Courtney McGoldrick is a third year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn, Instagram & Twitter.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

Is Freelancing the Answer? This is My Journey.

On the 27th Of August, I finished my placement year at Invest Northern Ireland. I was a Communications Assistant in the Communications Team and did various work for the team’s different divisions. During the first six months, my work mostly consisted of building, writing stories, and publishing for the internal newsletter, Newsweekly. I also did some work for the PR team writing press releases and Twitter posts. In the final six months of my placement, I was given control over the Innovation Accreditation Twitter account and learned how to manage a corporate social media platform fully. I was delighted for this project to land on my desk because I knew it was a precious experience that could put me in good stead for the future.

My placement was filled with both exciting and challenging times. Covid-19 hit during the seven-month mark of my placement, and I was lucky enough that Invest NI had a plan set in place to allow employees to continue their work from home. This worked out perfectly for me as I was able to visit my boyfriend in Manchester and stay for much more extended periods. I was in Manchester when the travel ban hit, so suddenly, I lived permanently with him and his family during a pandemic. It was a scary time because I didn’t know how long I would be over for and integrate well into the household. Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about as everything went super smoothly!

The end of my placement was fast approaching, and I was worried about what I would do to earn an income to cover my bills. My friends and I signed for a house in Belfast, and the rent was coming out every month, eating away at my overdraft – so I needed to find something quick!

I looked at what my friends were doing, and many of them were working in bars or doing home care. I couldn’t drive, so home care was out. And the thought of drunk people shouting at me was a scary thought, so I had a sit down to look at some options. I thought, why not have a go at freelancing and put the skills I learned at placement to fair use? I spent about twenty minutes looking through freelancing websites and tried one called Upwork, which promised to be the best out there. I joined and applied to every job I seen that I was qualified for. After one week of consistently applying to jobs on Upwork, I won zero. I then took a step back and looked at my second option, a website called Peopleperhour. I set up an account and applied to my first job, which required one 800 word article to be written for £10. Within about half an hour, I heard back from the client that they had accepted my proposal. The excitement this brought me was crazy; although I wasn’t making much money for the time I would spend on the article, the fact I had gained work on my own gave me such a buzz.

Since then, the relationship with the client continued and turned into more orders. They even helped me out with my pricing and gave me some great business advice! I applied to a few more jobs on Peopleperhour, I won some and I lost some. I loved the freedom this website gave me and the opportunities to connect with people all over the country.

The most significant turning point in my journey was when I made a LinkedIn post recommending the website to anyone who was in the same position as me and I did a little shameless self-promo. The response was something I could never have expected. I had people messaging me about my freelancing!!! I couldn’t believe it; I managed to schedule calls with four business owners. This has to be the most daunting thing I have ever done, but I got through it, and each business owner converted into a paying client!

I was now fully working for myself, doing what I love, and helping SME businesses in the process. If there is one thing I have learned during the process, it would be to slip in what you do everywhere you can to everyone you can. A quick example of this is when I was recently chatting during a new instructor’s driving lesson. I dropped in that I was Managing a few social media accounts for SMEs alongside my final year at University. The driving instructor immediately explained how he had needed someone to get his social media off the ground as his school is rapidly growing. I suggested we have a chat about what I could do for him, and we have agreed to schedule a call.

I hope to continue freelancing alongside my degree and sign more clients when I graduate. If you’re thinking of putting the skills you’ve learned during placement or your course into practise and want to dive into working for yourself, then I couldn’t recommend it more – why not go for it? If I can do it, I promise, you can too.

Lauren Simmons is a final year BSc in Communication, Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn

My Work Placement Experience Before and During a Global Pandemic

My Work Placement Experience Before and During a Global Pandemic

I can still remember the days, when applying for a placement position, wondering what the year ahead would hold. I had always worked in retail and hospitality and had no idea what working in an office environment would be like, let alone working in a Marketing and Communications role.

When I received the news, I had been offering a place working for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council I was ecstatic. I began picturing what the year ahead would look like… I for some reason did not think that my year would be interrupted by a global pandemic.

The first few months of the job were fun but also a little nerve racking. But by the time Christmas came I felt like I was finally beginning to find my feet. I was getting along well with colleagues and taking every opportunity there was to expand my knowledge. My main role involved managing the Council’s social media page and website. I got to spend time learning how to create content, in the council’s house style, and how to manage the back end of the website. I already felt like I was going to go back to University with so much more experience than the previous months, when I was applying for jobs.

I also decided to reach out to my manager and asked if I could help in other parts of the department. As I was working with a small team, they were more than happy to train me up to give a helping hand. This is where I then got to the opportunity to learn how to coordinate with professional designers to help design leaflets, banners, and social media icons. The Council provided training courses such as a Proof Reading class, a How to Write a Press Release and a How to Write for Social Media course, which I choose to participate in, to help continue to develop my skills, (I may have also missed being a student a tad).

But once March 23rd hit it felt like I was starting my placement all over again. 

While most of the other departments in the council began to die down, as the world began to close, the Marketing and Communications team at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council were more active than ever (as I’m sure the Communications teams at other Councils were too.) But with a small team of 4 plus me, to handle social media, press, internal and external communications and design. The pressure was on.

One thing I had not realised before working in the council, was that the Marketing and Communications teams are key players in certain organisations, when it comes to emergencies. Especially public organisations. The council’s marketing and Communications team are the main correspondents between the public and the council. 

Like most offices we were told to work from in March (thinking that this was only going to be for a month or two I didn’t mind this much).

But this meant my role was no longer the 9am-5pm job I had been working the previous 7 months. This was because we had to wait for Government announcements to be made. Meaning I could no longer plan the social media posts for the week, they had to go our as the news and decisions came in. It also meant that instead of writing posts for Easter, spring or summer events, and community group classes, I got to share new COVID-19 updates and campaigns to prevent the public making unnecessary journeys. (Exciting, I know!)

The requests for putting items onto the webpage went from 2 or 3 a week to at least three every day. ALOT of these posts where informing the public what building or public area was going to close next. As you can imagine I was no longer getting to be too creative with my tasks.  

However, I was learning what time management really had to look like. (And that lunch time wasn’t always going to be at 12pm..)

Don’t get me wrong working from home wasn’t always terrible. There was some benefits to this; I got to sleep in an extra hour, I saved A LOT of money on travel (I was usually driving 60 miles a day), and I got to have a freshly made lunch instead of a quick microwavable meal and spend some lunch times in the sun and with my dog.

My work from home colleague 🐶

But I still missed the office environment, I missed the craic in the office, people asking how my weekend was and vis versa, and not only being able to talk to said dog.

It was also hard being a student in the workplace, usually if I had questions about my tasks, I could turn to any of my colleagues and ask for help. This wasn’t as easy at home, people had kids to look after and everyone was working different times, although they were a quick phone call away, it was checking to see who was available to call and when.

Despite the negatives though, I was truly lucky to be kept on at a time when many were loosing their jobs. It was an experience that I truly learned from. It was definitely not the experience that I expected, I learnt the importance of a Marketing and Communications team and watch an emergency communications plan come to life. I had finished my placement feeling a lot more confident about the year ahead and the dreaded job hunt after graduation.

Keela Costello is a third year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn

The world works in mysterious ways

As I returned home from my Barcelona placement excursion I secured a job in Dublin. My main incentive was to gain some more experience for my CV and to prepare me for the world of work. 

Before I knew it, my 2nd big city experience of the year commenced.

Initially, Dublin didn’t seem a city I thought I would gel with, but I was so wrong!

I started my new job in an event management company on Camden Street, smack bang in the centre of the Dublin scene. My new workplace was everything I wanted and more, the happiness you get when having delightful work colleagues has such a detrimental impact on your daily wellbeing. I slowly found myself walking into work in the morning with a spring in my step. An eagerness to learn and excitement to see my works pals. I very quickly became one of the team.

Working on some of the coolest events the country had to offer I became very tired but so appreciative of the opportunities I was getting to experience! Seeing the most extravagant corporate employee parties to the madness behind the festival preparation scene. The backstage hustle was one I definitely loved and it gave me such an insight into my future career, and my excitement for it.

Not losing sight of the beauty that is our capital city… I loved the walk to work in the morning, getting to walk the streets of ‘the big smoke.’ Seeing the Molly Malone statue sit nicely whilst sipping on my Butlers coffee, I had never felt more at home. My lifestyle in Dublin seemed to be one that I fitted into perfectly. From the 9-5 working day to the sociable evenings with friends or a run around UCD campus to clear my head, I couldn’t fault it.

Being a stone’s throw from St Stephens Green made for lovely lunch time strolls and being only quick jaunt to Grafton Street was perfect for the occasional lunchtime shopping trip… ok very frequent shopping trip.

Back to the job, my favourite project had to be the “Tesco Finest* Banquet at Electric Picnic”. The Tesco Banquet was a fine dining experience prepared by chefs Derry Clarke and Mark Moriarty. Creating that finest experience at Electric Picnic, with all proceeds going to Pieta House (a charity helping those with mental health illnesses) and Temple St Children’s Hospital.

The set up began and then, all of a sudden it was festival week and we were in a field. The hard work was about to begin. The Marquee shot up, deliveries were arriving, crew men were assembling sets. Photo opportunities started to look the part, the bar was installed and stocked up, trees and décor began to take over what once was a plain old field. And with a wave of a magic wand we had a Banquet fit for the President himself. (It was not this simple and straightforward at the time, it was extremely stressful, but alas).

Showtime was upon us (EEK!). The Banquet began on the Saturday of Electric Picnic weekend so we had one more day to ensure absolute and utter perfection.

Well, before I knew it I was greeting Greg O’Shea (Ahhh!) and friends alongside other special guests into our Tesco finest* dining experience and showing them to their seats. Playing it very professional and cool, of course. The dining commenced on our first sitting and everything after that was a blur, but, it was amazing. The feedback was great and the general feel of the Banquet was beautiful. The Tiny Quartet’s strings accompanied by Niamh Farrell’s vocals sent goose bumps racing up your arms whilst guests sampled a 5 course meal fit for a king.

Just like that, it was over. We had 4 sittings with hundreds of guests and some very happy clients. With a whopper of a sum raised for the charities selected, how could we not be happy?

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Undeniably a stressful, yet incredible, and very fulfilling job to take part in. I very much look forward to see what next year holds! 

As Mark Anthony once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/

HOW PLACEMENT YEAR CHANGED MY MINDSET

Where do I begin…

In second year of uni the time soon came to start deciding and applying for placement year opportunities. I’ll be honest with you, my first thought was no way am I dragging this uni carry on out for an extra year – basically I wanted to go straight to final year, graduate and be done with it. 

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At that point of my university experience I wasn’t enjoying it, I was struggling to think why I even picked this course. I still submitted all my work, attended regularly and got grades ok enough to get me through but I had ZERO motivation, the queen of procrastination and honestly I was doing the bare minimum (apologies to my lecturers reading this).

Although after hearing about all the benefits of doing placement year I decided, sure i’ll apply for a couple and see what happens. One day I came across Translink’s placement advert, I applied, went to the interview – which I thought went awful. Before you know it I was offered the job to my complete shock. At the time I almost felt bad because I knew other people would of done anything to get this post and I still wasn’t overly fussed, as I’ve said I was utterly surprised when I even got chosen for the interview stage. Anyway, my friends and family told me I should go for it because it could help me in the future etc.

Little did I know this kind of mistake would completely change my outlook on university, career, business and of course the world of PR all for the better. I was so shy, unconfident and hated meeting new people so the thought of starting a new job within such a large organisation was daunting to say the least.

In my first few weeks I was still finding my feet, getting used to the 9-5 life and just doing what I was told basically. As time went on I began learning new things about PR and also seeing stuff I aimlessly took down from a lecture slide come into play, I was involved in more campaigns, I was given responsibilities and I loved it. To be honest my idea of a placement student was making coffee’s for all the ‘important’ people.

After a few months my manager asked me how I felt about carrying out my own project which was basically going around primary schools and giving a talk on the benefits of public transport. This involved getting contacts for schools, planning a 30 minute talk that would be interesting to this age group, travelling around NI to deliver these talks. Of course I said ‘yeah no problem sounds great’ even though speaking in front of large groups TERRIFIED me, this was honestly one of my biggest fears.

Anyway I carried on with the project and soon the time came to go out to these schools, fair enough the first few were a bit all over the place and I was sooo nervous but I soon got to grips and I loved it. I couldn’t believe how much I had actually gained from speaking in front of primary school pupils, my confidence grew, I felt that I really had overcome that fear of public speaking and I was actually quite proud of myself for coming out of my comfort zone.

This just goes to show that maybe doing something a bit outside your norm can benefit you so much, from that experience I grew so much and was much more open to meeting new people, working hard and getting the most of my placement year. Saying yes to that placement was the best thing I could’ve done – I made amazing friends, gained confidence, realised why I picked this course in the first place and I’ve came back to uni more motivated than ever to do my best and actually put in the effort.

I’d recommend doing a placement year to anyone who has the opportunity, you just don’t know what good it could do for you. 

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Emma McFadden is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Steel Toe Caps, but make it high fashion.

“So how’d Australia go?” “Sad to be back?” “Everyone seems to have the life of it out there!”

Em, Yes I suppose? When someone asks me how Australia went it’s always a bit of a lopsided question with an answer that just doesn’t do the most chaotic year of my life any justice. Enter, “Awk amazing, wish I was back so bad,” coupled with, “Don’t chat to me I’m so depressed to be home.” Well for all of you who want the dirty details (quite literally filthy at some point owing to my very strange job descriptions) here goes.

After looking for a work placement and putting in very little effort to applying for any of the posts that came my way, I decided to look further afield. 16,000km to be exact. What can I say my heart just wasn’t in your typical Belfast placement.  After a successful skype interview with my soon to be employers Polkadot Communications, booking an Airbnb with Levi who despite his obsessive bottlecap collection turned out to be a gracious host, and nabbing the absolute cheapest flights on Skyskanner, we were off! Both literal and emotional baggage in tow.

I think like most people we were definitely quite green at the start. It’s not that I expected to land in Summer Bay and see ‘Roo’s sunbathing on Bondi Beach with a bottle of Fosters, (turns out it’s not even Australian, do I smell faulty advertising?) but I definitely didn’t expect Sydney to be the bustling metropolitan hive that it is. Me, Ciara and Mary all had high hopes of living the modern day dream of getting a well paid Australian job where we’d finish the day off with an Aperol Spritz in a funky bar while making everyone back home jealous via Insta-stories. Two weeks passed and there we were, like every other Irish female in Sydney standing with a stop-slow bat telling pedestrians to watch their step and inducing road rage. Ah yes, Traffic Control. Don’t believe what you hear, Australia is the LEAST laid back country I have ever been to. The very concept of someone (me) standing in full PPE, hard-hat included, telling pedestrians to watch out for a loose wire fully embodies just how uptight Sydney is when it comes to health and safety. And yes I needed qualifications for this job.

 

 

But about the internship. I truly loved going to Polkadot and couldn’t have asked for better mentors. My true ‘The Devil wears Prada’ moment came when I was asked to create a cheat sheet with bios on Sydneyside journalists and media correspondents for an event. It felt chic I won’t lie.. On the lesser side was boxing up PR packages, compiling media lists, creating clippings to add to client monthly reports, more media lists, writing journalist pitches, MORE MEDIA LISTS and creating blog posts for any socials ran by the company. The day ended at 5.30pm and then on went the high-vis for a night at the site. Glamorous right?

I loved Australia and plan on returning within the next few years, however, I would urge anyone who plans on making the move down under to do so with care. Plan thoroughly, choose comfortable flights with trusted airlines that include a decent amount of baggage. Pack properly, we were freezing when we landed and expected blazing sun 365 days a year. Unless you’re up north this is absolutely not the case. Give yourself time to get your visa and make this a priority over flights. We were lucky with almost immediate approval coming through straight away but I have heard of horror stories with people missing flights because they’re still waiting on that oh-so important document to come through. Grim. Be realistic about your budget when arriving and understand it’ll take at least a month before you start making a wage and consider the cost of living when saving in the lead up to your departure. But most of all, if you’re considering booking that flight even slightly, just do it! It’ll be a whirlwind of experiences from epic beaches to insane sunsets, wildlife galore and amazing sceneries. Nowhere does brunch quite like Sydney and the city’s activity list is endless. Once you get away from the high-rise madness the outback will hypnotise you and make you want to throw your phone off the harbour bridge. They do say once you go bush you never go back. For reputation reasons I’d like to clarify I personally don’t say this, but I swear it is a common saying.

Signing off,

A girl who misses a sunburnt country.

 

Kate Lagan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Affairs student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter- @PredisposedtoPR and Instagram- @klagan19

My experience in the busiest press office in the country

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I signed up for placement year with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I wasn’t even sure what the role of a press officer involved when I walked into placement on the first day. 

Would I just be responsible for making tea and coffee? Or maybe I would be in charge of photocopying and printing for the Corporate Communications department?

The answer is, the year provided me with more exposure, experience and responsibility than I could have possibly imagined.

Getting a placement position in any company can be a long and difficult process, you have the initial application which takes you ages to complete, the interview which you stress about for days and then if all goes well you have the job! But things are a little different when applying for a placement with the PSNI, it’s a long process but trust me it’s worth doing. 

After you pass the interview process you are invited to complete an online assessment which involves you going through mini modules and completing tests at the end. Sounds easy right? Next you have a substance misuse test, doesn’t sound too scary until you see the amount of hair they chop out. But I promise you, no one will notice it’s gone.

The thought of showing up to PSNI HQ on the first day was daunting to say the least. It was the same kind of feeling as the first day before a new school but scarier because these people are actually paying you to do well for them and you’re also getting assessed on your work by your university so no pressure!

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I began my placement in the PSNI Press office at the start of September 2018. As we sat in reception on our first morning and waited to be collected like little children lost in a supermarket, my mind was racing with a mixture of emotions. The anticipation of what was to come, and all the people were about to meet was almost too much too take in at that stage but I was also extremely excited about the challenges this year would throw at me.

I think a first day in any job could feel pretty overwhelming? You’re introduced to so many new people and you’re expected to remember all of their names and job titles and you’re told all about the office and what role you’ll be doing. It can be a lot to deal with, but thankfully for us, everyone we met was lovely.

It took a few days for me to get to grips with my new work environment. Phones were constantly ringing, people were always running in and out and there just always seemed to be something going on. It felt like I would never get to used to the place. 

But the funny thing is, after just a couple of weeks I was doing all the stuff I thought seemed impossible not so long before. My days on placement were filled with taking calls from journalists, local, national and international and trying to write press releases to answer their queries or helping manage media facilities. 

Some queries would be straight forward and a simple telephone call to an officer would have my response approved. However, some queries were slightly more stressful and involved me making numerous calls round numerous departments, each person giving me a different name to try until eventually I got hold of someone who knew what I was talking about. The phrase ‘trying to find a needle in a hay stack’ comes to mind…

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But in the end, you would always get sorted, you would always have the press office team supporting you and you would get a response to the journalist before their deadline (or risk an earful of abuse).

Some days I was travelling all over the country, going to different policing districts and working on different projects for social media. Yet out of all the work I was involved in on placement there was one thing that felt closest to my heart. 

The students in the Corporate Comms department were given the chance to plan, film and edit a series of social media videos based on the NI Sexual Assault Referral Clinic, The Rowan. This project allowed us to learn practical skills such as how to create a social media plan, how to record videos and how to edit them on final cut pro, but we really felt responsible to make this video as informative and understanding as possible because it was such a sensitive and important issue that is too often just brushed under the carpet. We had to pull together as a team, using the expertise of the staff at the Rowan and the PSNI officers to ensure we made it a success. And although it was tough at the time, it’s still one of the things I’m most proud of from my placement year. 

There were days that you would have 20-30 calls on your book to deal with and so efficiency was key, this isn’t the kind of place that you would succeed in if you didn’t cope well under pressure. However, if you thrive when given responsibility and enjoy working in a hugely supportive team then this is definitely a placement worth looking into!

Looking back over my year I had the best experience. I was having daily contact with journalists, meeting them at press facilities, working with some of the most senior officers in the PSNI, and I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t recommend the PSNI corporate communications department enough to someone thinking about applying. 

In my opinion, placement year is one of the best things you can do throughout your time in uni! Putting your skills into practice, being thrown in the deep end, discovering you can do so much more than you ever thought possible is a great way to lead up to final year. Now, at the start of my last year in university I’m back to worrying that everything seems slightly impossible, but if I can successfully get through placement year than I can do this too.

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Shannon Walsh is a final year BSc in Communications Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @997_shannon or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-walsh-8a3b08172/

Placement Year Vs Final Year- Should you stay or should you go?

Having just returned to final year after a year out of education, the month of September had me reminiscing on the previous year I spent on placement and the adjustment I needed to get back into the swing of lectures, coursework and the dreaded dissertation!

As mid-September came around, I was struck by the ‘change curve’ mindset which went as follows:

  • shock and denial that my endless days of summer and freedom to do as much or as little as possible were coming to an end
  • anger at the thought of assignments, early mornings and long days
  • bargaining with myself that I would still have lots of free time if I did assignments as soon as they came in
  • acceptance that this was only one more year of hard work before I’ve finished education forever
  • problem solving in the form of a 2019-2020 diary to plan my life for the next 8 months

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This mindset got me thinking about my second year of university when I was considering whether a placement year was for me. There’s a lot to consider such as the type of placement you want, where you’re willing to go for a placement year, be it Northern Ireland or overseas and finally, the commitment a yearlong placement requires.

I decided I wanted to go ahead with a placement year because of how many post graduate job applications I saw that asked for some type of industry experience or training and while this isn’t the case for every job opportunity, I wanted to challenge myself to try something different and pick up skills that would help me face final year and life after university.

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These are some steps to consider if you think a placement year is for you and what to expect:

  1. Apply Early!

You’ll hear this from all of your lecturers, students before you and everyone around you but you can’t prepare early enough. Each placement you apply for will require a different cover letter tailored to their specific requirements and some have applications to fill out all of which is time consuming. The earlier you start applying and creating your CV and cover letter template the better chance you have of securing the placement you want.

  1. Preparation is KEY

From the very first interview you’re offered, the more preparation you do the better. When I was applying for placements, a few of the interviews took place on the same week, meaning I had to divide my time between two different roles and learning about two different organisations. The more you know about the role you’re applying for and the organisation, the better so starting to research early is important.

  1. Keep Calm

This is most definitely easier said than done but when you’re going for interviews, it’s important to stay calm and try not to panic otherwise all the preparation you’ve done will go to waste. It’s important to remember the organisations you apply to want you to be professional however they know you’re still a student so DON’T WORRY– they don’t expect you to have the same level of knowledge they have. You’re there to learn – remember that and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

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  1. Diary of a Placement Student…

Once you’re offered a placement, buy yourself a good diary or planner because without one, I’m not sure how I would have survived placement year. With many different tasks to do depending on the nature of your placement, it’s unrealistic to remember everything, especially between phone calls and emails, so a diary will be essential to keep track of your day and to ensure your using your time effectively.

  1. Stay professional

The transition from university student to placement student can be difficult at the beginning as you begin to learn things like how to speak to clients and email etiquette- abbreviating your words or sending memes isn’t always appropriate! This is important because you represent your organisation every time you speak to or send an email out to a client so being professional and approachable is a must.

  1. Don’t forget to have a life!

If your placement is a particularly busy or stressful environment, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking work home with you to get ahead the next day, or to overthink a working situation at home but it’s important to remember you can’t just live and breathe work- take time to have a social life or some time to yourself and get the right work/social life balance.

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  1. Make the most of your year

Placement is a unique experience in that it’s essentially a learning curve as well as work experience so take every opportunity you can and experience as many areas as your organisation can offer you as this can help you decide on what industry you’d like to work in and your strengths and weaknesses in a business setting as well as being a great addition onto your CV!

Overall, having just returned from my year out on placement, I would recommenced this because it gives you an insight into the industry you could potentially want to work in as well as preparing you for life after university including writing a CV, job interviews and it enables you to start forming your career path with some experience in mind.

Eimear McGrane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eimearmcgrane/
LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/eimear-mcgrane-54a46a156

Applying for a placement year? Look no further!

My 5 top tips to applying for a placement

This week sees me reaching the halfway mark of my placement year with Morrow Communications – time flies when you’re having fun! It really is hard to think of how it felt to vigorously prepare for interview after interview and to be told (if even) ‘you have been unsuccessful’.

I went in a little hot with my search for a placement. Having built up my experience in PR and event work over the past 5-6 years, I felt confident and looked forward to the process. But if anything, this was a huge wake-up call and somewhat prepared me for the real world!

For anyone out there who is in the process of either applying for a placement or on the fence on whether to do one, I have a few tips that might make the decision/ process a little easier for you.

Here are my top 5 tips for your placement search that you maybe never thought of before – regardless of your industry!

 

  1. If you can do a placement, DO IT!

Being two or so years older than my peers in uni and seeing my friends already on the road to graduation, I always had it in my head not to do a placement. I felt it would hold me back from my aspirations of travelling and thought that I was already too far behind. Realistically, everyone has a different path! But I’m so glad I took the time to think about my decision in a rational way. Here’s just a few of the benefits I have seen so far from doing a placement:

Networking – You have no idea how important this is! It takes just one conversation with someone to spark a relationship, and you have no idea how that person can impact your future! So, get yourself out there. This job has provided me with a platform to meet some well-known clients. It has also allowed me to grow relationships with the media and help me step out of my comfort zone.

Learning on the job – Although the book side of uni is so important, it’s also vital to get ‘on the job’ knowledge of how things operate. Even how professionals within the workplace carry out day-to-day roles. I may only be here a year, but the past 6 months have taught me more than any book or journal ever could.

Confidence I would consider myself to be a pretty confident person. But coming into placement put me in a bit of an uncomfortable position. Office life was new to me. But that didn’t last long! My confidence has come along so well since beginning placement. From speaking with clients to handling myself in a work environment and within meetings. All these things can be taken anywhere with me!

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  1. Preparation is key – but don’t overdo it!

To be honest, I have been lucky in the past in terms of interviews – in that I haven’t had to do many! And those I have done have been quite informal. One thing I did learn is that one interview will be totally different to the next. Learn about the organisation, the way it works and some of the clients they deal with. Keep an eye on the biz within your industry! It’s cool to know the current news. But more so, learn about you! Know yourself inside out, key roles you’ve played, opportunities you have taken. Understand yourself in a way that you will be equipped to answer any question an employer throws your way, making your answer relevant to your experience.

  1. Follow your heart and no one else’s

We live in a world where people want to impress others and not always for their own benefit! You won’t get to repeat your placement year, so make the most of it. Although it can be easy to fall for the best paid placement, the chance to travel or maybe even what your parents/family/friends will say, take a good look at what you are applying for and make sure it will be worth your while. Make sure it is something you will totally benefit from. Look for a challenge. Placement is an opportunity to test you as a student and grow you as a young professional!

  1. Been accepted, but not fully happy?

If you get to an interview and feel like it maybe wasn’t what you expected, don’t be afraid to decline the opportunity if you get offered the place, or to go to the next stage of the process. I found myself in the scenario of getting to the final stages of the application process and not being fully happy. If you have any doubts just listen to your gut. The right one will come along!

  1. What’s for you won’t go by you

Doing around 5-6 interviews took its toll on me and I started to get a little down in the dumps about it! Don’t get yourself down about being unsuccessful. If anything, use it as ammunition to do better the next time! Sometimes it’s more about the type of person the organisation feels will suit them best and not about your performance. If you can ask for feedback, do! This will give you the chance to see where you went wrong. I am a strong believer in everything happens for a reason. So, if you don’t get the placement you initially wanted, it can only mean something better is waiting down the line, believe me!

 

If you are currently going through the process of searching for a placement – good luck! And if you take anything from this piece, let it be ‘what’s for you won’t go by you’ 😊!

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Émer Stinson is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on placement at Morrow Communications. She can be found on Twitter: @StinsonEmer and on Instagram: @emerstinson

Flying the nest

Moving to a new place can be a daunting experience. The bright lights, the constant hustle and bustle, one day hurtling into the next.

Coming from a small town and being thrown into the city lifestyle can ask a lot of a “culchie” as city slickers like to call us non city folk.

For my university placement year , I decided to move to Barcelona. As the baby of my family I was the last one to fly the nest and leave my family behind. I felt like I was ready to go somewhere different, somewhere new. My dad lived in Spain when he was at college and my sister had lived in Spain a few years previously and I wanted to be the next on that list of ex-pats. Nothing would do that I would get my placement in España.

After a long job hunt I finally found a position in Barcelona as a digital marketing assistant in a Video Marketing Company. As a city I had never visited before, it was scary, exciting and ultimately life changing. If the tough 9-6 job hadn’t been included in the placement year deal,  I might still be there…! The prospect of 8 months in Barcelona was surreal, an opportunity of a lifetime, a brand new venture into the big bad world for me. Accommodation sorted, flights booked, job placement ready I was set for the Catalonian capital.

As a person who loves to always be in company, I found it incredibly hard adjusting to not having my friendship group around to have a cuppa tea or go shopping with. I didn’t like spending time on my own AT ALL. Over time though, I gradually grew to enjoy my own company, so when I did make friends in this new city where I knew NOBODY, it made such a difference to my lifestyle and my general mood. I never thought I would be the sort of person who could enjoy my own company but after this experience I definitely appreciate it a lot more.  Even though making friends took me a little while to do, it was worth it in the end. My Barcelona family circle kept me going through my months abroad, whether they reined from Ardboe, England, Canada or Germany, each one made my experience so worthwhile and I now have connections in all corners of the globe!

 

 

Possibly my favourite part of my time in Barcelona was the impromptu exploring. No plans, no destinations, no expectations. Whether it was roaming the streets of the city or going to the train station and getting on the next train to a neighbouring town for the day. These days always seemed to just, fall in place.

Getting lost on the streets of El Born or arriving onto the beach side train station at Tarragona. From sampling “Barcelona’s best churros” to walking in the Roman ruins in a neighbouring town, our spontaneous day trips were always a great success. Constantly reminding us of how lucky we were to be living in this stunning city.

El Bunkers del Carmel, a showstopper and a hidden attraction. Whether watching the sun rise or the sunset, you are in for a truly beautiful natural spectacle. Birds serenading the sun as it set was the perfect evening treat for any visitor or local.

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Putting aside all the fabulous aspects of moving to another city, I can’t forget about the homesickness. I did suffer a lot especially in the first two summer months. But this wasn’t going to let this stop me make the most of my time. It made me try something new. I joined Barcelona Gaels, the Gaelic team in Barcelona. This helped me find a bit of home in my new city. Joining the team was one of my best decisions. Running up Montjuic on a Thursday evening in 20-degree heat is undeniably a tough test, but an experience nonetheless! This team really made me feel welcome. The team spirit, the happiness for your teammates when they scored or even the craic on a team night out kept me going on those missing-home days.

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As I look back now, I am thrilled that I moved. I’m happy that I persevered on the tough days, embraced the good days and can now have such happy memories.

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I could talk for days on my favourite parts of my Barcelona, a city that will forever remind me of some tough days in work but an incredible myriad of memories that I will forever look back on with a happy heart. When I think of the girl I was before Barcelona and the girl I have become they are just worlds apart. With more independence, more appreciation, more perspective and more motivation, I’m glad I took that leap into the unknown and changed my life for the better…Barcelona style!

Barcelona, a Mediterranean city where new meets old, nature meets city and day meets night. Where buildings are art, food is life, work is play and every night is the night to meet up with friends.

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Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/