We spoke to Rafa, a third year BSc Human Resource Management student who completed a one-year placement at IBM, on his top tips to make the most of the opportunity of a placement year.
1) Use the help from the University
The guidance I had from the University placements team was instrumental from the get-go. They were always there with advice whenever I needed it, and when I was on placement even scheduled called with my manager at IBM to ensure I was getting the right guidance from IBM and making the most of my time with them. I’d spent a lot of time talking to Roehampton’s former Head of Graduate Employability, Christina Evans, when I was looking for my placement. She insisted – despite having just retired – on being present for my end of placement presentation at IBM. This just shows that she was personally invested in my development as both a student and as a professional.
2) Take responsibility for your work
The most valuable thing I learned throughout my placement is that in a team everyone is just as important as the next person. Responsibility was a word that followed me throughout my time at IBM. If I failed to deliver on my work there would be real consequences for the business, so I had to ensure that I was responsible and reliable to do what I was tasked with.
3) Discover what you enjoy (and maybe what you don’t!)
I really believe that there is no scenario in which a placement can be a bad experience. Even if at the end you realise you didn’t enjoy the placement, that experience is still enriching as you now have an idea of what you DON’T want to do in the future. A placement also opens so many doors for other possible careers. For example, I am really keen on a career in HR. However, after working in other areas of a company throughout my placement, I will now return to IBM as a technology consultant (another major plus of doing a placement – companies will favour you for graduate roles over external applicants).
4) Make the most of the opportunity
If you’re on the fence about whether to take a placement year, I can definitely recommend taking advantage of the opportunity! It’s an amazing way for you to invest in yourself, learn from others, network, and maybe even find a mentor for the future.
Sending off applications can seem daunting, but you’ve got to persevere! It doesn’t matter if you get some rejection emails – all you need is one yes! Use those rejection emails as forms of feedback to improve your CV and applications going forward.