7 things to do before your university work placement

24th June 2022
A man wearing a jacket and jeans holding a brown leather briefcase

Starting a work placement can be scary, whether it’s your first or fifth. Though not a requirement for every course, many uni students find themselves undertaking a year, term or semester working at a company in a placement role.

The idea is that spending time working in your field while studying for your degree will offer you real-life experience that will help develop your subject knowledge and offer you an idea of the realities of the jobs and career paths available to you.

It might seem daunting for some and exciting for others – or, chances are, a mix of both! That’s why we’re here to offer you some advice about what you can do ahead of beginning your placement, to soothe any worries you may have. Read on for seven ways to prepare for your university work placement.

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1. Do your research

Having some background knowledge prior to starting your placement will do wonders for your confidence levels. If you have an idea about the company values, past projects, other employees and who you’ll be working with – plus, what specifically you’ll be working on and how it plays a part in your future career goals – this will help you feel more prepared when approaching the start of your placement.

Doing your research will not only give you a better understanding and a rounded view of the company and your role, but will also enable you to show a keen interest and dedication when the time finally arrives for your first day. Reading reviews to see how other placement students and employees got on will give you a unique insight into your new adventure!

2. Keep an eye on your emails

All of the communications coming from your academic supervisor and placement coordinator will likely be sent directly to your email inbox – so if you don’t already, make sure to check for new messages frequently! These emails will include important information, including any pre-placement reading or tasks that you need to complete.

It’s also essential that your placement company has all the correct contact information for you, so make sure you get back to them sharpish if they reach out to clarify anything. Additionally, if you’re working from home for any duration throughout your placement, you’ll probably need to organise getting any home-working equipment sent to you. Pretty important stuff!

Close up of a man using a laptop

3. Reach out to your company

Speaking of emails, you don’t only have to receive them, you can send them too! Reach out to your placement coordinator to get an idea of what you can expect. For example, ask if you can visit the building for a tour, ask for some more information about the time-off policy and what the dress code is.

What’s more, this can act as your first opportunity to ask more questions about your manager and team. Who will you report to? How many people are in your team? Are there other placement students undertaking a placement over the same period? What’s the general work culture like? Try to get a feel for the company, as well as how your role affects the wider company goals.

4. Keep an open mind

Keeping an open mind when going into your work placement is super important. It’s so easy to put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly first time, especially if it’s your first work placement and experience of working life. Truth is, no one’s perfect and it’s only natural to make mistakes – so just try to be positive when it comes to doing things wrong, and learn from it.

And remember, don’t limit yourself to only learning about the responsibilities and expectations of your specific role. Learn about your team’s positions and the work they do, as this may open your eyes to new career paths and job opportunities that may impact your long-term future goals.

5. Take notes

Investing in your preferred note-taking device ahead of starting your placement means that once there, you can record anything and everything that seems useful for your placement duration, university assignments and future jobs.

This could be taking notes in a notebook, recording videos or voice notes on your phone, or typing things up on your laptop. Jot down any interesting readings, describe case studies and unexpected learnings, and note down top tips from other colleagues. These scribbles are bound to come in handy one day!

A man writes in a journal while a woman uses a laptop in the background

6. Get ready to network

Networking is hugely beneficial in any industry, and is a great tool to help you find other like-minded people in your field. Not only can you find friends who understand things like the job application process and niche struggles of your industry, but you can also connect with industry professionals who may be able to help with your own career progression – now and in the future.

LinkedIn is your best friend when entering the working world, especially as a student or new graduate. After some time at your placement, it’s a natural progression to make these long-lasting connections and make them LinkedIn official. Make sure you’re attending lunches and after-work drinks to create these professional bonds – you never know who can help you, and one day who you might help, too!

7. Have fun!

Lastly, but maybe most importantly, prioritise having fun! Yes, your placement is a job and you’re there to play your part in the company’s success. However, it’s a huge learning opportunity too, and you can get so much more out of it than just information for an assignment.

With new friends, learnings and life experiences, it’s your chance to try new things, work hard and embrace your full potential!

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At Sanctuary Students, we offer more than just a room. We know that uni isn’t always easy, so if you find yourself struggling at any time throughout the year, reach out to a friend, family member, your GP or university lecturer for help. Alternatively, you can contact the free, confidential Student Advice Line from our partner Health Assured on 0800 030 5182 – open day and night, 365 days a year.