Students Tips: Making the Most of Your Work Placement

Posted on March 27, 2019 in UK

Once you have achieved the seemingly impossible and gained yourself a publishing work placement – hurray! – you must now ensure you get the most out of the experience. Any student reading this knows how important work experiences are in building a good CV will also know how hard it is to get that work placement. I have roped in a fellow publishing student, and friend, Laura Roberts to share her recent work placement at F+W in Exeter.

How did you get you work experience?

After emailing about a million companies about completing work experience with them and getting nowhere, I asked my tutor about places in the area of Plymouth. She suggested F&W Media to me because she had had past experience working there as well as knowing they take on many students. However, she was unable to find a contact number for them. It was pure luck that Lin Clements, our new lecturer for the module, mentioned F&W in a session. I was able to get the details of Colin, the office manager from her and the rest is history. It was the quickest and easiest placement I ever got.

Did you prepare?

Honestly, not really. I spoke to someone who had already completed a placement there about a year ago. She told me the sort of tasks they had got her to do and how the two weeks were for her, but I did little research before arriving. I already knew they were a craft publisher who published to the U.K and U.S markets because of my lessons with Lin Clements and my tutor.

What did you struggle with while you were there?

My first struggle was to get the courage to pipe up and ask questions or for more work. Call it pride or anxiety, but I don’t like to ask for help with things like this, I find it very hard to admit I don’t know what I’m doing. After a couple of days of having to psyche myself up to ask for help or to tell them I had finished, it got easier. I became more comfortable with who I was working with and was able to chat to them freely. Also, I could hear my mum’s voice in my head telling me to ‘pull it together’ and get it done because at the end of the day they appreciated me asking questions and asking for more work.

Would you do anything differently?

I had a very good experience in my work placement so I’d have to say no, I wouldn’t want to do anything differently.

What were you most nervous about?

The drive from Plymouth to Exeter is just under an hour. Having to drive that every morning and night did worry me because I’d never driven that constantly for two weeks straight. I wasn’t nervous about meeting new people or getting on with them because I’ve become quite confident with people I don’t know. I wasn’t even worried about the work because I was sure that was what I wanted to do when I leave university. The drive was the worst thing about the placement, especially when the snow came this year because it made the roads scary.

Was it what you expected?

It was better than I expected. I’ve always steered towards trade and fiction publishing throughout my degree. However, getting work experience in trade fiction is incredibly competitive and there aren’t many options in the South West to get that work experience which is a shame. I contacted F&W in a desperate need for a work placement but at the end of the two weeks I didn’t want to leave. Yes, I had no clue about crafting and no, I wasn’t enjoying the commute, but sitting in that office and being able to proofread pages and edit back cover copy was what I had always wanted to do. This placement enabled me to realise that I did know what I was doing and was confident in editing. They also allowed me to explore other departments, so I got the most out of my two weeks there. They really enabled me to branch out my skills and learn about how the teams work together.

Did it help you understand the industry more?

Studying a publishing degree means I already know a lot about how the industry works. After four years I can safely say I know the theory of each department pretty well but being about to physically take part has definitely allowed me to gain more experience. It was worth it because I learned new skills as well as made my skills as an editor stronger.

What tips would you offer someone preparing for a work placement?

The most important thing to do is to get stuck in to everything they give you. You may be there without getting paid, but you are there to better yourself and your skills, so why waste the time you’re there for? They will be so impressed with your enthusiasm and hunger to work. While I was at F&W, the commissioning editor told me she was really surprised with how well I fell into the role and how grateful she was for me doing all the extra work. It surprised me to hear that a lot of work placement students don’t put the effort in and won’t go the extra mile for them. Another tip would be to ask questions. If you’re unsure about something they’ve asked you to do or you want to know whether you work is correct, just ask. Again, you are there to help them so they’re not going to get annoyed with you. At the end of the day, it looks like you have good initiative and it could lead to them being really impressed with you.

And last but not least, have fun. Enjoy your time there because if you hate it then it will make the placement so much longer. You’ll realise pretty quickly that it’s not for you but if it goes well then it can help you to go further in your quest for a job or internship. Meeting these people in the industry is always a positive, so make the most of it, smile and do the best you can – you might just get a job offer out of it.

By Amy Potter