Tips for choosing a placement

The option of a placement year is often a deal breaker for many students when deciding what course to study at Manchester. A year in industry can provide you with invaluable experience and make you highly employable once you graduate. Below, Zoology student Alex provides an insight into what her placement year has been like and offers some tips for those unsure on where to undertake their placement year…

Here is a picture of me with a sea lion just to prove I quite like animals.

I’m Alex and I am currently on my placement year at Paignton Zoo. I have absolutely loved my role so far, so I guess I’m a good person to give you some tips on how to choose a placement.

At the beginning of second year, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do a placement, and I know loads of people who felt the same. It’s quite daunting thinking you have to be a student for another year.

My initial reluctance didn’t stop me from being instantly convinced when I saw the adverts for the zoo placements – I’ve always loved animals, so working in a zoo sounded pretty perfect for me.

When you’re choosing a placement you should go with your gut. Don’t let anyone push you into doing a placement that you’re not entirely convinced by. Whether it is paid or unpaid, you will make it work if you really want it.

Finances are always an issue when you are a student and paid placements can be very attractive because of this. But I can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t choose something just for the pay cheque; you have to be there for a year of your life! The experience itself will make you much more attractive to future ‘real world’ employers; I mean, you’ve had a proper job for a whole year.

My ‘proper’ job is pretty cool. This is a picture of Dan and Scoops, the baboons I am studying.

Paignton is probably the furthest from home and uni that I could have gone without leaving the country – it’s a good six-hour drive. I do know people who are in Florida, Japan and Nebraska, so I should count my blessings on the distance front, really.

If you are a bit of a home bird like me, the prospect of moving so far away can massively put you off. After being here for two months, I’ve got to say it’s not too much of a problem. I am busy for the majority of the time, so I don’t really have time to think about it. Plus you will definitely meet some amazing people to spend time with wherever you go.

Most placements are 9-5 and to be honest it is refreshing to have a structured week. It isn’t like uni where you can get away with lying in bed in your onesie all day ‘podcasting lectures’ (code for watching the whole of New Girl from season one… again). But let’s not forget that you don’t have to work weekends. How amazing is that? No more Sunday all-nighters cramming for that essay deadline or going to the library the Saturday after the night you drank so much you fell asleep on the toilet in Fifth.

Sunday night library vibes.

Basically, what I am trying to say is when you are looking for a placement you should factor in both location and finances, but they aren’t the be all and end all. You need to pick something that you will enjoy. If this turns out to be unpaid or ‘too far away’ then you should really consider going for it.

Everyone wants experience nowadays, so a placement year looks great on your CV. Although its not just for that— it is great life experience. There are so many amazing opportunities offered. I have a friend working on spider behaviour in Nebraska. When would you get the chance to do that again?

So, anyway, I hope this has helped a little bit, and good luck with it all 🙂

(PS Have a read of my blog about my placement year at the zoo Cheers.)

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