If you're reading this then you are already putting yourself in a very good position; i.e. you're actively looking for tips and insights to help you further your career. Good start! But what options have you considered? Are you looking for a summer placement in the city? Or a longer placement outside the UK working for an SME? You may not know the answer to these questions, but whether you do or you don't, Alastair Lindsay, founder of work experience website RateMyPlacement.co.uk outlines some questions that went through his mind when he decided on his placement year...
This decision may be one of the few that is (pretty much) out of your hands. If your university or course offers a year out, then this may be the best option for you. If you can't do a placement as part of your degree, then the summer internship during a holiday is definitely one of your better bets. If you are keen, like me, then I would definitely recommend doing both. I was in the City working for the Bank of England for my placement year, only a few hundred yards from the investment banks, so I figured why not apply for them too? When I got offered a place at Deutsche Bank for the summer I was already living in London so all I had to do was stay in the house I was renting anyway - jackpot! It was fantastic as in one year I worked for two different companies, doing completely different roles and it meant I had much better idea of what I wanted to do afterwards.
UK vs Abroad
All four of the RateMyPlacement team went along with probably 99% of students and worked in the UK, and we had very little idea that you could work abroad on your placement year. There are plenty of opportunities in outside the UK and it's just a case of finding them! Whatever company you are thinking about look at their overseas offices, or look at other global companies within that industry. You are bound to find an opportunity you never knew existed, and one that might be so different to what you were looking for, the experience is actually better.
Choice 3 = Large Company vs Small Company
Do you want to be one of 100 students, or do you want to know everybody in the company? Do you want to work in a modern office with IT support a phone call away or do you want to work directly with the MD of the business? Working in a small company was something I never considered when searching for jobs hung-over, sitting in my pants in front of a computer. However, now we run a small company of our own, I think it may have be the one aspect of my year I would have changed...
You work alongside the most senior people in the business
Your work has a real impact on the business as a whole
You are given real responsibility
You may have the ability to change the direction of the business
It is a great way to become more entrepreneurial
You will know everyone's impact upon the business
You may be the only placement student
Chances are the wages will not be as high
You may not have the infrastructure and support that a big company offers
If you don't get along with a member of staff, you may not be able to move within the firm
You will have all the perks, and support that big companies offer, this may be everything from gyms to a buddy / mentor scheme
There will probably be a lot of young people around the office, and established networks where you can meet them
You will probably earn a higher wage
This may be the start of a long career with real progression (that's what the employer wants!)
The business may be very high profile and in the news
There may be a lot of kudos attached to working for the company
The work you do may not have a visible impact on the success of the firm
The work may be more repetitive and structured
You may feel anonymous - small cog in a big wheel syndrome
So what now? Well hopefully I have stirred a few questions around your head, questions that you hadn't previously considered. Hindsight presents a fantastic perspective on life and if I was in second year now I would most certainly consider all the options available. I thoroughly enjoyed my placement year but if I could choose again? I would work for an SME, like I do now. I enjoy making things happen and seeing a direct impact on the business, something that sadly eludes you in a large company. As 'our Graham' on BlindDate used to say; "The Choice... is yours!"