Godly Shagee is a current BEng Aerospace Engineering with Industry student taking part in a one-year Mechanical Engineering industrial placement at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Here he shares his experience of being on placement and some top tips for getting the most of a placement.
Before starting my placement, I had a rough outline of what I would be working on. We got put in touch with the placement students we would be taking over from quite early on so I was able to gain a lot of insight into working life and the type of projects I could expect to work on by emailing and having catchup calls with them. I was curious to explore and learn what the role of an Engineer was, but specifically a Mechanical Engineer in a large company. As expected, the first couple of days and weeks were mostly reading relevant training material such as standard operating procedures (SOP) on-site and being introduced to the team and projects I would be working on.
From the start, I was involved in several projects and as I went through the placement, I was tasked with increasing responsibility as I found my way around the company and built my network. Within a couple of months, I had a good idea of who to go to for specific queries.
Here are my top tips to ensure you make the most out of your time and experience of your placement.
Plan out your projects
You will get tasked with delivering various projects. This might be to install a new system, machine or create or write up various documentation. In the beginning, it is always good to properly plan out all the tasks that you need to complete to deliver that project. Split down the tasks into individual actions – something you can go off and do. Make sure you keep track of all these in something like Excel or Trello. It is probably best to do this step with your manager or someone familiar with the process so that you fully capture all the necessary tasks and actions. This enables you to see whether you’re on track to achieve your targets or not.
Ask for help when needed
When you’re starting in a company, sometimes it can feel a bit daunting and it can at times, be difficult to ask for help. Don’t worry! As a placement student, everyone expects that you may not have all the experience or skills needed to do the job so it’s ok to ask for help.
You’ll be presented with the opportunity to take part in a range of projects throughout your time on placement. Try to build up as many skills as you can in numerous areas – this can be from project management to using new digital tools such as Microsoft PowerBI. If you see your fellow placement students working on something interesting that you would also like to have a go at, just speak to your manager and ask if it’s ok for you to get involved as well. See if you’re organisation gives access to any online courses and take advantage of all the opportunities given to you. If there are any clubs/side projects you can get involved in in addition to your placement role, join these as well.
Make a daily log of your activities
Not only is a logbook a university requirement for some courses, but it can also be beneficial when you come to apply for graduate jobs. Make a brief note of everything you did on that day. Did you present at any meetings? Did you overcome a particular problem or showcase a new skill to get something done? Make a note of it so that you can quickly recall your activities whilst on placement.
With the many lockdowns and restrictions, you may be faced with working from home – something which I had to do for a few months. Even though this can be difficult, your colleagues and team are only a quick Teams message or call away and even if you are working remotely, everyone is still super happy to help you out, even if it’s in a virtual setting.
Depending on where your placement is, you most likely will be living away from home. Use this to your advantage to learn new skills such as learning how to cook, planning your week (food/work-wise) as well as enjoying your time exploring the local area by going on walks or runs! It’s only a year and time will fly by.
I hope my experience has helped you to gain a bit more of an understanding of what you can expect in a placement. If you have any other queries or comments, feel free to reach out.